The evolution of operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) as must-have components in the era of competitive services over multiple platforms and devices is driving urgency for convergence and compatibility.

Using best practices from both OSS and BSS to address the complex issues of billing for multiple services, pay-per use, metadata mining and more while maintaining a gold standard of quality of service now is top-of-mind, next-gen thinking for service providers and their support community.

And most agree that it had better be smart, and it had better be good.

“Cable has upgraded plant and is keeping pace with content and information. Information is being delivered on iPods and iPads, so cable’s value has undergone a shift and OSS/BSS requirements have changed,” says Sanjay Mewada, vice president/Strategy for Netcracker, an OSS/BSS provider. “BSS is now a big deal and very different than OSS. The trend is to bring them together over time. In the meantime, OSS/BSS must talk to each other.”

The vendor community must do the same, he insists: “The trend is moving to one specific supplier for OSS/BSS, but that is years away. Until then, it’s back and forth between OSS and BSS, which customers are saying is impossible to manage.”

IP Pushes The Process

The emergence of IP networks is pushing OSS and BSS closer together, and mandating the need for an OSS/BSS convergence, experts maintain. Just how, and when, OSS and BSS can play well together is the tricky part.

Comments Lorraine Reynolds, director/Product Management for relationship-management provider Convergys Corp., “In the past, there’s been a distinction between the two. Now, with IP networks you can’t separate them and they need to be tightly integrated. We have to be sure we have the key elements, like service work orders and product catalogs. There’s a definite crossover.”

There’s also a definite change in how service providers such as cable manage OSS/BSS.

“All the services, like video billing systems, have changed, with set-top boxes, modems and interactive boxes needing to be managed. It’s completely blown up the back office,” says Rick Mallon, vice president/Product Management for OSS concern Sigma Systems.

The explosion has sparked a renewed interest and need for OSS/BSS integration, Mallon notes: “We’re seeing lots of pressure and congestion on networks, and it’s an ugly equation for cable, with heavy traffic and no revenue. So how can cable charge more for usage or limit bandwidth hogs are the questions. The all-you-can-eat free lunch has gone by the wayside.”

So are multiple billing systems. Mallon adds, “With three different billing systems, there are 18 integration points. That’s a mess.”

Collaboration Is Key

Cleaning up the mess and forging an OSS/BSS alliance will require collaboration among service providers and their support communities along with an amicable working relationship between OSS/BSS and the network infrastructures, experts say. Not exactly a slam-dunk proposition, but one that is being addressed, albeit with lots of moving parts.

Concludes Ray Bennett, marketing director for Amdocs’ cable and satellite division, “There’s a generation of leadership that understands the imperative convergence of OSS/BSS and network operations, especially in cable. We must also look at how technologies are evolutionizing the OSS/BSS space.”

– Craig Kuhl

The Daily

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