Amdocs and Openet settle baffling, endless patent dispute

After eight years of ensuring expensive holidays for their lawyers, rival telecoms software companies Amdocs and Openet have decided to call it a draw.

An extremely short announcement from Amdocs said “Amdocs and Openet today announced that they have settled a patent infringement dispute in the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  As part of the confidential settlement, Amdocs agreed to license certain patents to Openet.”

Back in 2010 youthful Light Reading hack Ray Le Maistre spoke to (then and still) Openet CEO Niall Norton in a bid to find out what Amdocs’ problem was. Norton, however, seemed to be as baffled as everyone else by this act of unilateral legal aggression and chose to conclude that it was merely a measure of how intimidated Amdocs was by the plucky Irish BSS upstart.

“[Amdocs] is a good company and a ferocious competitor,” said Norton at the time. “It’s good to know they’re thinking about us as much as we’re thinking about them. We’re open-minded about what might happen next. Our lawyers say this could take anything between three and 12 months to sort out.”

That’s what they always say Niall and then, before you know it, eight years have gone past and they’re the only ones with any cash. To be fair the case does seem to be especially arcane. A spot of light Googling revealed one case that was apparently resolved in 2016 and another that came to a conclusion a month or so ago. Both accounts seem like very effective cures for insomnia but we don’t feel any more enlightened about the merits and outcome of this litigatiathon as a result of enduring them.

In essence Amdocs accused Openet of infringing on some of its patents and the fact that Openet is now going to shell out some license fees would seem to vindicate it to some degree. But if we assume Amdocs’ intention was at the very least to force Openet to entirely abandon the technology in question, and maybe even to force it out of business, then the case seems to have been a failure.

How the 5G revolution will impact service providers (and how we use their services)

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Amit Sheps, Product Marketing Manager at Amdocs looks at some of the new things 5G will introduce.

When 4G rollout began, it was referred to as an “evolution” from the capabilities of 3G, ushering in an era of hyper-connectivity that would change our lives. Indeed, it allowed us to stream music and video anywhere, navigate our way around areas unknown, and transformed our shopping experience by allowing us to compare prices locally and across borders.

But clearly, this will pale in comparison with the impending rollout of 5G, and the “revolution” that will accompany it. 5G will take hyper-connectivity to an entirely new level. For example, smart cities will be monitored using thousands of sensors, with wireless HD cameras ensuring citizens’ safety. Meanwhile, autonomous cars will take the stress out of driving. And AR glasses will finally come of age, changing the way we watch sports and do shopping, and providing technicians and other tradesmen with the information they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

There are also predictions about 5G’s influence on medicine. Our health will be monitored remotely, and with the help of AI, illnesses diagnosed even before they occur. In more severe cases, personal health data will be made available to specialists to make diagnoses, recommend treatment – and in some cases – perform medical procedures remotely.

Changing the service paradigm

Naturally, service providers will need to adapt their strategies to support all that 5G has to offer. I believe that as the 5G revolution begins to gather steam, we will start to see the following changes:

Handsets make way for devices: whether you swear by iPhone or Android, most of our connectivity today is tied to a handset, which is responsible for providing connectivity (while some prefer a smart watch or tablet). With 5G, new devices such as AR glasses, wearables, cars and more, will become commonplace, with each requiring its own dedicated connectivity.

Service-embedded connectivity: 5G will accelerate bundling of products or services with embedded connectivity, such as a heart-monitoring wearable, which transmits data to a medical center directly, without the need to be tethered to a handset via Bluetooth, for example.

From volume to value: Most data bundles sold today are based on traffic volume, without regard to network performance. With 5G, some applications will require a minimum level of network performance based on bandwidth and latency, in order to provide an appropriate experience.

Redefining relationships

With the changes above, service providers will need to adapt their approach accordingly. This will mean the establishment of new customer relationships, including:

With subscribers: While on one hand, service providers will have the capability to provide connectivity requirements and content bundling, on the other, monetization opportunities will be limited. For this reason, the focus should shift to monetizing the customer experience by adjusting network performance to subscribers’ needs rather than volumes. An example could be assigning AR consumers high bandwidth and low latency to meet service demands.

With enterprises: The best example of an enterprise 5G use case is Industry 4.0, which enables automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Such deployments will require network performance that is capable of maintaining the enterprise business. As a premium service, this will provide a significant monetization opportunity.

With partners: An important change that will be accelerated by 5G is the capability for an enterprise to launch a product with “tailored” connectivity. A prime example is a heart monitor that sends patient data to the cloud for real-time analysis to detect anomalies. Such services will require network performance that ensures service availability through low latency and ultra-reliability.

The ball is in our court

While such changes will require service providers to make considerable investments, with planning and strategy, it will open numerous opportunities to seize the reins of the 5G revolution – enabling new revenue streams and the ability to create differentiation that will attract more subscribers. But the key is not to wait. The planning has to start now.

 

Learn more by meeting Amdocs at 5G World 2018.

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.

Amdocs drops $224 million on Vubiquity for an extra shot of VOD

Communications software vendor Amdocs has made a strategic move into the video-on-demand market with the acquisition of Vubiquity for $224 million.

Vubiquity has specialized in providing video-on-demand infrastructure and operations for some time, and seems to be well positioned as telcos increasingly look to the multiplay model to add value to their subscribers. Amdocs will have noticed that many of its customers want to get better a video and general content services, so this acquisition will give it a significant string to its bow in that respect.

“This acquisition uniquely positions Amdocs at the centre of increased convergence across the content community and video distributors including major OTT providers,” said Eli Gelman, Amdocs CEO. “Our joint offerings address the media and entertainment industry’s challenge in balancing the incredible growth of content and the many ways to consume content with making programming easier, faster to deliver and ultimately watch, while also delivering profits.”

“Vubiquity has successfully been connecting content owners and distributors across many diverse platforms and evolving business models at the core of its support to the media community,” said Vubiquity CEO Darcy Antonellis.

“Our capabilities, coupled with Amdocs’ global scale and rich set of complementary solutions around monetisation, analytics and personalised customer experience will be truly unique, allowing us to deliver to a larger set of customers while solving key industry challenges. This includes helping video distributors deliver additional profitable offerings, as well as enabling content owners to focus on content creation and maximising licensing revenues.”

Antonellis will stay on as head of Amdocs Media Division and has a formidable reputation within that industry so, as long as Amdocs can conclude the tricky business of integrating a successful entrepreneur into a larger corporate structure they should have a good asset. Having said that $224 million is not a lot for money for a leading VOD player, which indicates that sector might not be the cash cow man y operators are hoping it will be.

 

 

Most people baffled by their phone bills – survey

Some research commissioned by billing vendor Brite:Bill has found that the majority of people find their phone bills hard to understand.

The precise figure is 68% and furthermore 75% are not even interested in the information provided even if they can get their heads around it. The apparent purpose of commissioning the research was to demonstrate that the phone bill and more generally billing communications are a major pain point for subscribers. It should be noted that Brite:Bill, which is owned by Amdocs, specialises in providing billing communications platforms.

“How much a customer likes a product often matters less than how they feel about their experience,” said Alan Coleman, Head of Brite:Bill. “Billing is the least transformed part of the digital experience today, but as a key touch point it must evolve, too. Service providers are under increasing pressure to transform billing from a negative, stressful experience into a useful and interesting one that can bring them a competitive advantage.

“This starts with presenting the information so that it is more relevant, visual, and easy to understand. At the same time, providers have to be more proactive in dealing with billshock and bill frustration – for example, by advising their customers on ways to save money that are relevant to that particular customer’s usage pattern.”

The research, which was conducted by Censuswide Research, surveyed 3,236 consumers across the USA, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil and the UK It focused a fair bit on generational differences, with older people finding their bills more confusing. Apparently younger people are happier to communicate with chatbots and more likely to expect their billing communications to feature proactive efforts on the part of their provider to save them money.

Other interesting data points include the discovery that 29% of respondents have contacted their CSPs because of billing issues and that 44% of churners had experienced a billing problem.

Independent study: Humans vs. machines

How to stop your chatbot from lagging behind

Amdocs commissioned Forrester consulting to conduct a comprehensive global survey to assess how well service providers  are meeting customer expectations from virtual agents, i.e. chatbots.

Are CSPs investing in the right areas?

This survey, which polled thousands of consumers worldwide, as well as c-level executives from dozens of tier-1 service providers, uncovers that there is an enormous gap between the kind of service consumers expect from virtual agents versus the areas in which service providers are investing. 

Why Read this study?

Gain key insights and actionable recommendations on how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to capture the chatbot opportunity, as well as:

  • What are the main attributes that bots need to help service providers win with customers;
  • What are the bot areas in which service providers should invest to deliver a ‘WOW’ experience vs. where they are primarily investing today;
  • What is the role of the bot vs. the live agent, and what is the optimal ‘division of labor’ between them.
Please fill in the short form below to receive a copy of this whitepaper - Fields labelled with * are mandatory.
  • T&Cs

    By downloading this whitepaper you agree to be subject to the Opt-in section of our privacy policy available here and consequently we may share your details with sponsors of the whitepaper and use your information to send you targeted Telecoms.com promotions. You can opt out of these at any time.

 

Are you prepared for the revolution in consumer entertainment?

There’s a seismic shift taking place in entertainment – and its effect on digital service providers is profound. On-demand media consumption will change every facet of your service offering – and sooner than you think.

Leading service providers are already adopting new strategies to capitalize on the on-demand revolution. Download the new S&P analyst report: On-Demand – Video’s Present and Future.

Please fill in the short form below to receive a copy of this whitepaper - Fields labelled with * are mandatory.
  • T&Cs

    By downloading this whitepaper you agree to be subject to the opt-in section of our privacy policy available here and consequently we may share your details with sponsors of the whitepaper and use your information to send you targeted Telecoms.com promotions. You can opt out of these at any time.

AI is starting to get seriously smart, perhaps worryingly so

We’ve seen a couple of AI shout-outs this week with Microsoft targeting telcos’ worryingly poor customer service record and European scientists potentially creating the building blocks for Skynet.

Starting in the Microsoft offices, the team has paired up with Amdocs to provide an intelligent solution to one of the biggest questions which has faced the telco space in years; why are we so poor at customer services?

In the Net Promoter annual report, the team put together a ranking of all the verticals in the US. At the top of the list were physical retail stores, and at the bottom of the list were internet service providers. Cable/Satellite providers were second to last, and cellular providers were 17 out of 23.

Clearly there is something going wrong, and the crack team of Microsoft and Amdocs aim to fix it. How you ask; by introducing chatbots for the telcos, as clearly humans can’t be allowed to have any interaction with their customers.

The SmartBot technology actually comes from Amdocs, but the intelligence is going to be from Microsoft’s artificial intelligence solution, Cortana. This is where the success of the idea will come from. The basic (and advanced) understanding of sentiment, intent, natural language and emotion which we as humans (well most of us anyway) do so easily will need to be replicated in an AI solution for this to be anywhere near a success. This is all Microsoft.

However, Amdocs has contributed something, the machine learning components of the bot. Amdocs claim, although most other AI companies also claim this, it’s intelligence platform can be used to build individual personal experiences for each customer.

But why start in the telco customer service arena? Well, the NPS scores are usually so low even if the technology doesn’t work, it’s not going to cause that much collateral damage…

However, despite there being an army of nay-sayers arguing against AI, Amdocs has said we’re getting more accustomed to the idea. Research from the team has shown:

  • Half of consumers think AI will become crucial to their lives within five years
  • 85% of businesses believe customers services will be performed by bots within five years
  • 37% forget they are conversing with a bot during some of these interactions
  • While 73% want human like traits in their bot to perhaps confuse the distinction further. Politeness was the most popular trait (64%), though a sense of humour was there for a few as well (29%). And we prefer female bots as well (35% vs. 15%)

“Artificial Intelligence has been domesticated and normalised in the minds of many consumers. Where once ‘AI’ meant robots and sci-fi, now it is has become accessible, is in people’s homes, and is helping them to complete everyday tasks,” said Jonathan Kaftzan, Head of Marketing at Amdocs Digital.

The normalization and acceptance of AI from the general public is of course crucial for any of these big ideas to work, but when should the line be drawn? If acceptance gives permission for scientists to push the boundaries, who is mature enough to say we have gone far enough, or will we find out too late…

Leaving Microsoft and Amdocs behind, a team of European scientist has been trying to figure out how to make robots smarter, more independent and self-healing. Hailing from Lausanne, Lisbon and Brussels, the scientists have written a paper called ‘Mergeable nervous systems for robots’ (you can find the full paper here), which puts out an idea which could be the beginning of the end.

The basic idea is to have a swarm of robots, all of which have their own CPUs, but can merge together to achieve more complex or physically taxing tasks. Once the robots merge, one is designated the ‘brain’ which control the rest. These robots can function on their own, but once merged, the power (both physical and intelligence) is increased through the basic idea of scale.

“Here, we present robots whose bodies and control systems can merge to form entirely new robots that retain full sensorimotor control,” the paper reads.

“Our control paradigm enables robots to exhibit properties that go beyond those of any existing machine or of any biological organism: the robots we present can merge to form larger bodies with a single centralized controller, split into separate bodies with independent controllers, and self-heal by removing or replacing malfunctioning body parts. This work takes us closer to robots that can autonomously change their size, form and function.”

Where this perhaps doesn’t become a good idea is the intelligence aspect. Right now robots are controlled by piece of software in the cloud. If things are going wrong, you break the connection, rendering the robot to a piece of metal. In this example, the scientists are proposing putting the intelligence in the machines, which can be scaled as the machines merge.

But it’s not just the intelligence that scales, it’s also the strength, the range of skills and the adaptability of the robots. Sounds neat right, or have we just started the beginning of the end of humanity.