“It’s a Paradigm Shift” – Ecosystem Enablement, Partner Management and OSS/BSS Transformation For the 2020s

October 10, 2022

Written by Alex Lawrence

For those of us following news of OSS/BSS, there was a certain amount of interest in new research – Telco Republic’s inaugural Disrupter Quintant for Next-Generation Telecom Operations and Business Support Systems. Disruption is always interesting – at least from a distance – so 6GWorld had a conversation with Martina Kurth, CEO and Founder of Telco Republic.

Software company Netcracker emerged from the research as a leader on disruption and has been keen to share their personalised report, so Ari Banerjee, SVP of Strategy at Netcracker, also joined the conversation. While the paper itself is useful, some of the underlying trends and concerns point to significant market shifts in the longer term.

The Research

With any new piece of research, the question of why it was created, who funded it and what that can tell us about the findings is absolutely crucial.

“Service providers are looking at the criteria to support their sourcing decisions when they select a vendor,” Kurth explained. “But for the vendors also, it’s important to have an independent source to provide an unbiased position and evaluation.”

As a result, Kurth has led the analysis for Telco Republic based on a business model relying on service providers purchasing the report rather than up-front investments from vendors. 

While benchmarking reports are not new in telecoms by any means, Banerjee was keen to emphasise what is unusual about this research.

“It’s not about the status quo and where companies are now, but how can you push the boundaries? Where is the market going?” He noted. “And I think that’s where 6G comes into play: operators aren’t making investments based on OSS infrastructure today. They need something that is cutting-edge to be able to deal with the business models of today and push the boundaries tomorrow.” 

“We have put a different set of benchmarks for this vendor evaluation, which is based on innovation and disruption capabilities,” Kurth confirmed.

“That includes the innovation strategy, the go-to-market strategy, the partner strategy and so on. So very looking really at all angles of the strategy and how much are companies really investing in R&D. And then we were also looking of course at how well companies could really execute. And the most valuable source was really to speak to each of the vendors’ customers – without the vendor being present, obviously.”

Telcos and the Enterprise Opportunity

That combination of client interviews – ten per vendor – along with detailed surveys from the vendors themselves has given Kurth some valuable insights into the direction of travel for the industry as a whole.

“The common theme is really the transformation from network-based telco operations to software-driven, cloud-based operations, and that is a game changer. It’s a paradigm shift and most of the OSS/BSS is a simply too rigid to support new digital business models, so there is a lot of change going on.

The need to support enterprises is a critical driver for this, according to Banerjee.

“How are operators going to work with other enterprises?” He challenged. “When we talk about the next evolution of income streams, enterprise is looked upon as a much bigger segment and most operators are thinking how they can evolve from being just a connectivity provider to become much more a value-added service provider. 5G plays a very good accelerator if you do it right and if you can really create the right slicing models, the edge services and all these other things.”

Those are service possibilities, it’s true; but that’s only half the story when it comes to creating new revenues. After all, many operators offer a much wider suite of capabilities from a decade ago, but effective monetisation is still elusive. Banerjee concurs.

“Can you play in a partner-centric economy? How do you do partner management? How do you do contracts, agreements, and settlements?” He asked. “A lot of our largest enterprise customers have to be able to work with enterprises and share the same BSS with a multitenant format. It’s like enabling the B2B2X kind of a model.”

Banerjee references Rakuten as a prime example of an enterprise sharing BSS. They have 70 unique industry verticals, with Communications being just one of the verticals. They have loyalty points that traverse all 70 industries, so that a point you accrue with your communication services, you can spend on Lyft; you can get money off your mortgage; or you can get a free month of video-on-demand. .

“So the point is, how can you enable this whole ecosystem? These are the kinds of business model that people will emulate and will move forward in the next few years of B5G, 6G. This is what’s going to drive the next piece of revenue from enterprises.”

Not surprisingly, Netcracker has a specific view on this topic. However, Kurth is keen to point out a broader trend. 

“There are different approaches for how to do it. But we see a common theme that more and more operators are moving either to public or private cloud. They are also investing in a new type of OSS and BSS simply to support the operator’s ambitions.”

In what way does Kurth consider it a different kind of OSS/BSS?

“It’s not vertical by service any more, but it’s more like a horizontal intelligence layer with end-to-end solutions. It’s a very different game. Also obviously that requires a different organisational set-up, so a lot of transformation internally as well, and that requires a transformation partner. So it’s not just about the software, but how to do the transformation.”

Business Enablement – Inside & Outside the Operator

Kurth is emphatic about the types of transformation needed. The technology side, even taking into account legacy systems and platforms, in her view is manageable.

“There is still a lot of legacy around that we have to live with, but it requires a new intelligence layer; much more cognitive-driven, software-driven operations to handle the complexity. That will support a new wave of spending on OSS and BSS over the next five years.”

“In my view, the bottleneck for 5G and 6G is not the technology,” she said. “It’s actually two things: Bringing out new business models to tap into the technology, and then also the ecosystems. These are much more profound questions than just getting the technology right.”

That ecosystem piece will be critical, as Banerjee observed: “The challenge today is operators being able to onboard the ecosystem of potential partners. Let’s be honest, operators have not been very partner-centric in the past.”

“They have organisational problems,” Kurth agreed. Referring to her experience collaborating with a national CSP, she noted that “They don’t have the salespeople. They need to train them simply to speak to these needs related to market ecosystems and digital value chains.”

“How can you onboard partners and enable them to provide their billing, their CRM and essential services?” Banerjee asked. “If I have a B2B2X model and those partners need some charging, some rating, some billing capability, they should not have to invest in anything.

“I can say, ‘Okay, I am using an OSS/BSS platform to do all of these things, but my end customer, which is a small enterprise, they need a CPQ [Configure-Price-Quote system], order management and an invoice manager. Maybe I can get that white label and then provide that to the end users’.”

Banerjee gives the example of DHL, a courier and logistics customer of theirs that manages exactly this kind of ecosystem to manage the transportation of live animals. 

“They have partner services to enable handling of things beyond simply transport. Moving animals means veterinarians, food, water, waste, and whatever. Partner onboarding, and then managing an ecosystem of partners, is critical.

“But these kinds of things are only possible when you have a very non-monolithic platform. Completely the opposite of monolithic. More cloud, more microservices, more container-based, more on-demand.”

The Technology Shift

‘The opposite of monolithic’ is a good description of the future of telecoms networks themselves. With the spread of private networks, IoT enablers, different forms of MVNOs, shared infrastructure and more, we are rapidly moving away from self-contained national networks. A service over a network slice could pass through the physical or logical networks of multiple providers, functioning effectively as an ecosystem just like those to be enabled for third parties.

“That’s exactly where OSS/BSS will play a role, again, to manage all these relationships between the carriers,” Kurth enthused.

“Obviously all the financial streams, but also how to manage all the contractual obligations, and then also revenues towards the customer. So yes, where technologies like network slicing come in complexity will be growing exponentially.”

Banerjee emphasises the nature of the mindset and technology shift for the coming decade:

“There are different ways to go to a one-to-many or in some cases, many-to-many kind of model. I think this is an important part of futureproofing solutions because we are coming from a monolithic environment. We all are, in telecoms, but now we are going to this whole partner platform economy.”

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