Telecom Back-Office Systems Meet Managed Services

MSPs could find themselves with an emerging set of opportunities among telecom service providers, ISPs and cable companies: operations support systems and business support systems, which are collectively known as OSS/BSS. Here's why.

OSS/BSS covers such functions as order management, fulfillment, provisioning, billing, and customer relationship management. Network owners are now looking to purchase those back-office and customer-oriented systems as a managed service. Sanjay Mewada, vice president of strategy at NetCracker Technology, a subsidiary of NEC Corp. that provides telecom operations and management software, cited a couple of reasons for this trend.

First, companies from outside the communications sector are introducing new models of network ownership. Those non-traditional owners are outsourcing the task of actually running the network. OSS/BSS functions are embedded in that activity.

“New models are driving a significant amount of interest in managed services,” Mewada said, speaking during a recent webinar on managed services and OSS/BSS.

Second, buying OSS/BSS as a managed service offers a chance to reduce operating expenses. Mewada said capex has been the historical driver for network outsourcing, but noted that opex costs -- customer care, fulfillment, billing and the like -- represent a solid chunk of a service provider’s spend.

So, based on that view, telecom and other network service providers shouldn’t have a problem building a business case for turning over OSS/BSS to an MSP. The challenge, however, is finding companies capable of doing the job, Mewada explained. Companies that have already outsourced OSS/BSS aren’t particularly happy with the results. The majority of respondents to a NetCracker survey expressed dissatisfaction with OSS/BSS as a managed service. Among the top reasons: MSPs lacked sufficient expertise in the field.

Mewada said that skill set is lacking among the managed services vendors focused on the network side.

Another issue to consider, Mewada said, is whether a telecom provider’s internal OSS/BSS capability has reached a level of maturity where it can be successfully outsourced. The implication: simply handing off a mediocre system won’t lead to the desired opex impact. The task for an MSP becomes transforming the customer’s OSS/BSS system and managing it efficiently going forward.

Managed services providers in the OSS/BSS space include Amdocs, Convergys, and Huawei, in addition to NetCracker.

While larger telecom firms may be interested in managed OSS/BSS, smaller players and startups may find software-as-a-service a better fit. Comarch, for example, offers a cloud-based billing offering that the company says targets small- to mid-sized service and network operators. Billing-in-the-cloud includes modules such as customer care and product catalog along with billing. Additional modules cover service provisioning and session control for real-time prepaid services.

OSS/BSS is a niche that’s clearly not for every MSP. But those able to cultivate specific expertise could capitalize on increasing demand for services.

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