Network Infrastructure

Service Control: The Obvious Answer to the OSS/BSS Conundrum

By TMCnet Special Guest
  |  June 17, 2014

Revenues from traditional telco services are eroding rapidly. For example, the rapid disruption of SMS revenue streams by WhatsApp provides a scary preview of what will happen when OTT players enable voice. Service providers will be in trouble if they can’t move to enabling and monetizing new services and service bundles quickly and cost effectively. While revenues are declining, it’s no wonder telco CEO’s say their number one frustration is slow time to market for new services that could increase their competitiveness.

There is a major problem. Today, business support systems for communications service providers are costly, inflexible, monolithic, and time consuming to change. At a time of rapid evolution in both the network and network-born services, this presents a challenge. And it’s one that software providers aren’t helping to solve. If they acknowledge it at all, many vendors hide behind the often-cited assumption of complexity argument with which many readers may be familiar. That is, they claim that while next-generation BSS may appear costly and constrained in terms of delivering fast time to market, such a reality is inevitable given the speed of service change in the industry itself, particularly where new services are ever more complex than their predecessors.

Upon close examination, the complexity argument quickly reveals itself to be a red herring. While some new mobile CSP (News - Alert) services are indeed complex in terms of the partner chain that needs to be settled and the parties that need to be remunerated, the vast majority (possibly as much as 85 percent) are based on straightforward paradigms that require only a simple, or lean IT approach – ironically, one that is often simpler than the legacy BSS system that needs to be replaced.

The question that the CSP faces is what’s the alternative and what to do about it? One emerging school of thought argues that by re-distributing some traditional functions to new locations in the BSS stack, new services can rapidly be enabled and monetized without de-stabilizing any legacy infrastructure. The new approach, which is known as service control, significantly benefits the operator by mitigating the risks commonly associated with IT change and reducing time to market.

To illustrate this, let’s look more closely at a specific scenario. More and more services are based on bundles, and in such cases rating only needs to occur at the point when usage crosses such bundles. This potentially causes a split between bundling and rating where both may become independent modules within a BSS, and each can be optimized separately according to market forces.

In this scenario, counting for the bundle can be managed as a new and separate pre-step prior to billing, within the mediation module. The value of doing this includes complexity reduction, storage reduction, and reduced load on downstream pricing/rating/billing applications as the majority of the usage records will be handled in the pre-processing step, thus fulfilling an offloading function.

So why should a service control architecture be considered? For one thing, the simplification and commoditization of IT architectures are inevitable. Cost reduction is a major driver, as is the need to lower reliance on single, complex software systems. Market forces drive costs down in a modular architecture, as each module is independent and can be individually commoditized. Service control delivers on all these fronts. Given the reality that the vast majority of usage records related to common services require only simple rating, the logic is obvious. Mediation platforms, unlike other applications, are inherently flexible and therefore easy and quick to adjust and able to enable new services when they are placed in the control path.

The force of the argument explains why a growing number of operators are now adopting service control. Examples include lean counting to enable innovative services, the fast enablement of disruptive business models that tap new revenue streams from the OTT providers like sponsored data or toll-free data and rapid service enablement to secure new revenue streams with products like roaming buckets while on vacation. This interest is global; operators from Europe to Asia to North America have already deployed the service control approach.

CRM and product catalogues must become key components holding all data for customers of value. Service providers will almost certainly have a growing reliance on these systems, making them difficult to replace. In such a context, the mediation module becomes the orchestration module that manages the control and information flow between other modules. Changes should be made in this layer instead of configured elsewhere in the network layer, where change is more costly.

We see a growing number of carriers turning to a service control approach to address the increasingly familiar situation where their cost for the network is steadily decreasing while their OSS/BSS opex and capex are fixed and thus form an ever-larger percentage of their total cost base. Change for the better in the form of approaches like service control is, in light of this, something we think is inevitable.

Thomas Vasen is vice president of product management and marketing at DigitalRoute (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi