Taking the BS out of BSS

Conversations at MWC 2018 with a couple of telecoms vendors reveal a more pragmatic, bespoke approach to doing business.

One manifestation of this is a tendency to move away from telecoms-specific vernacular to the language of the broader tech industry. So we no longer use defensive, them-and-us language like OTTs to describe internet companies and vendors such as Openet and Amdocs seems to be avoiding categorising their offerings along traditional lines such as BSS, in favour of the more customer-centric language of ‘solutions’.

Niall Norton, CEO of Openet, has been banging this drum for a while. He is trying to bring the kind of customer-centricity we associate with companies like Amazon to the telecoms B2B space by introducing greater flexibility to his offerings. The ultimate purpose of this seems to be to enable CSP customers to buy only what they need, when they need it.

In many ways this is counter-intuitive in an industry that has historically aimed for ‘vendor lock-in’, by selling massive end-to-end packages that make the customer umbilically dependent on the vendor indefinitely, for fear or the disruption that starting again with someone else will cause. The dependency creates the opportunity to charge high margin servicing and consulting fees whenever the CSP wants to change or upgrade anything.

But Norton’s bright idea is that by offering more bespoke packages he not only lowers the barriers to entry for making any kind of sale, but the CSP will hopefully end up spending more down the line when the business benefits of what they have already bought prove themselves.

Over at Amdocs the big news there is the recent acquisition of video-on-demand specialist Vubiquity, which only completed a few days before the start of the show. The most intriguing aspect of this piece of M&A was the clear statement of intent by Amdocs to cater to a growing trend in its core market: multiplay.

Operators all over the world are investing heavily in video provision and premium content to add spice and stickiness to their communications bundles. As we found when speaking to Vubiquity CEO Darcy Antonellis (pictured), the thinking behind the move is to put more tools at the disposal of its customers, and also to do so in a modular and flexible way to enable them to get to market faster.

Your average operator isn’t going to go toe-to-toe with Netflix or Amazon when it comes to on-demand video (one possible exception being AT&T if it ever completes its acquisition of Time Warner). But that doesn’t mean they can’t offer some genuinely valuable video services to end users, perhaps focusing more on niche and long-tail offerings and helping with their discovery.

Antonellis is now the GM of Amdocs’ newly-created media division, which further illustrate the strategic importance Amdocs is putting on servicing this area. She is a veteran on the broadcast and video industries and intends to confer some of that expertise onto the operator channel. Again, the emphasis will be on trying to deliver bespoke offerings, tailored to the unique business opportunities identified by each customer.

In keeping with the broader theme of this year’s show, the telecoms industry seems to be finally moving from the hype phase of the cycle towards seriously looking as business cases for the new opportunities we’ve been hearing about for so long. If vendors want operators to become more agile in order to take on the internet giants then their offerings need to match that. On the evidence of Openet and Amdocs at least, that seems to be exactly what they’re doing.

Openet reckons Globe Telecom deal win vindicates its ‘agile’ philosophy

Irish BSS vendor Openet has persuaded Philippines operator Globe Telecom to use its Digital Business Platform for its data services.

With much of the pre-5G talk focusing boosting the capacity and agility of the network, often overlooked is the question of what’s in it for operators and their customers. There are approximately zero mobile subscribers currently complaining that networks aren’t agile enough and Openet CEO Niall Norton has, for a while, been telling anyone who’ll listen that BSS vendors are doing a rubbish job of doing what they’re supposed to do.

“I have said very recently, and very publicly that the relationship many vendors have with operators is broken and needs fixing,” Norton told Telecoms.com. “Long term service contracts, packed full of unnecessary costs and expensive licenses, are tying operators to technology and systems that are no longer fit for purpose.”

As you would expect, Norton reckons Openet is different and the hero product put forward to demonstrate its novel approach to BSS is the Digital Business Platform. One of the ways in which it aims to buck the ‘vendor lock-in’ trend is to offer a more flexible, modular, bespoke approach, which presumably involves forgoing some up-front revenue in favour of a better long-term customer experience.

“New technology is redefining this relationship and putting the operator firmly back in control,” said Norton. “We have a range of new solutions, including the digital service platform that we are deploying for Globe that prove the case for an alternative approach. Our deal with Globe shows Openet walking the walk, not just talking the talk. We’re confident that this is just the beginning as the global operator community realise the significant benefits that a different approach to service delivery and monetisation can bring.

“Users in the Philippines have consistently exhibited intense social media usage and engagement,” said Globe CTIO Gil B. Genio. “In addition, Globe has seen dramatic smartphone adoption, take up of data plans, and exponential growth in mobile data, to the point that we now carry two thirds of consumer mobile internet.

“With this new platform, we can be more creative in developing and monetizing new services and offers, even as we make personalization a key differentiator of our services. Our partnership with Openet will give us the speed and agility that we need to grow our business to compete and win in the new digital market.”

There’s that term ‘agility’ again, but this time applied to the operator/subscriber relationship, rather than the network itself. Openet’s strategy seems sensible enough – after all the SaaS model has been accepted wisdom for years now – but it still begs the question of what operators are going to do with all this lovely agility. Perhaps we should check back in with Globe in a year or so to see what, if any, business benefits it has experienced.