Title: CTO, VP Engineering, Sigma Systems
Broadband Background: Cappellani has more than a dozen years in telecommunications. Prior to joining Sigma, he worked for Accenture, both internally and in the firm’s telecom practices, in roles covering senior-level architecture, engineering and development management.
Last week’s TM Forum event in Dallas had notable cable operator presence. What are the drivers are behind MSOs’ involvement in this body?
The Telemanagement Forum is now the owner of the IPDR (Internet protocol data record) standard. That’s a key standard for record collection and streaming of information both in DOCSIS and in OCAP. That instantly would get the attention of the cable industry. The other driver is that the Forum has identified a need to expand its base and to actively recruit cable operators.
You spoke at a TM Forum panel titled "Cable vs Telco: Who’s Winning and Why?" What’s the verdict?
Cable operators are arguably further ahead in rolling out telephony than telcos are in rolling out IPTV. That’s certainly the case in North America, although in Asia-Pac you might say it’s different.
My message at the panel was that, at the access layer, cable and telco are more alike than different. The reality is they have the same fears about being relegated to just a bit-pipe data provider. They have the same common enemies now, whether Google or the next Web 2.0 application developers. Their real challenge is not how to roll out the access. It’s how to leverage that access at the service level, how to roll out this next generation of services and participate in the value chain.
In this interview a year and a half ago, we spoke about the prerequisites of an "all-play" world and gaining a unified view of the customer. Any updates?
That’s still one component of being able to deliver especially these new on-demand type services. They are all going to need certain sets of enablers, not only the ability to access the capabilities of the network, but also common models about how to identify a subscriber, how to authenticate and authorize a subscriber.
Concepts that have been in OSS historically in the back office, such as service abstraction above technology and the unified subscriber model, those types of things are key requirements for the delivery of services. It’s not just the staging of information; the need for OSS has actually moved closer to the network, to the delivery framework.
In the past, provisioning or activation systems ran in a batch, maybe once a night. Then you had to move to something that was near real-time to support the notion of a subscriber doing something from a self-care perspective. Now that information and access to it is taking the next leap to support decisions being made in the session, or in the call. To go from near real-time to support in the session means different architectures and a change in the way that people think about OSSs.
You joined the TM Forum’s OSS through Java (OSS/J) initiative in October. What’s going on there?
We’re expert members in the OSS/J order management API, which subsumes the service activation API as well. The point is to look at that higher-level process of the integration between BSS and OSS along the lines of the SID (shared information data) model.
One of the things about OSS/J is that the entities and objects it exposes are compatible with the Telemanagement Forum’s SID model. That’s why (the TM Forum) likes OSS/J, why they went out and got it a year and a half ago, because they shared a common vision for the key entities.
The good thing is that this is truly an API that could be used between BSS and OSS systems. If anyone wants to test their product against this API, they can validate against it. The big challenge is that although you already see OSS vendors lining to support it, you don’t see BSS vendors lining up. BSS vendors continue to deal with their own proprietary formats for sending out information.
What other standards and specifications are you paying attention to in the cable arena?
Some areas that are of interest to us are in the Open Cable initiative, the OCAP standards. Like many of the CableLabs standards, they’ve addressed a lot of the interfaces at the network level, or application layer. They could really benefit by trying to expand the scope of their standards to start looking at how they support some of these OSS-type functions.
What have you been doing in the business voice category?
One of the things that we sell is a service management platform, this piece of infrastructure that operators can use to manage and provision services. But we also create solutions, for instance for residential VoIP or commercial VoIP, where we pre-integrate with vendors and also do a pre-integration and configuration with all of the models within our platform.
So you get something that works very nearly right out of the box, and that’s really valuable to some of the smaller customers that we have. The reality is that our Tier 1 customers want their own customized solution. This allows us to get a head start there, too.
On business voice, the first release that’s coming out in the first quarter of next year is targeted at hosted voice offers in the small-to-medium business market. We’ve got over 60 business telephony features. It also gives business customers a more sophisticated type of self care. We call this My Office, a Web portal where office administrators can go and administer MACD (move add change delete) and other functions. We’re also starting to see support for SIP devices, so we have support for that, and for IP phones.