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.