Cable operators long have envisioned the time when a fully converged operations-support platform would supplant legacy operations silos, allowing them to activate and provision any service to any customer on any device through a single activation interface. It’s a great vision, but it needs to be revised to fit today’s realities.
In truth, the emergence of new service and marketing models combined with consolidation of operations at regional and national levels has created a pressing need for an integrated multi-service activation capability at a time when most of the operational silos still are intact. Given the pace of change and the market forces that are driving that change, few if any MSOs have had enough time or resources to complete the job of collapsing everything into one big back office in the cloud.
“It’s now possible to achieve universal service activation operational cohesion without replacing the existing OSS.It’s now possible to achieve universal service activation operational cohesion without replacing the existing OSS.”
The resulting operational headaches have become a major burden to efficiency and speed to market. A triple-play service-activation process where operators have to manually touch four or five operations and back-office systems must give way to the ability to put all the processes essential to service activation in play through one point of contact. With the emergence of mobile, a consolidated, unified service-activation capability becomes even more essential.
And there’s more to the challenge than activation on the four major service categories. Operators need to activate new tiers, usage-based pricing and packaging models, dynamic marketing incentives and value-added applications essential to building ARPU, and to retaining and adding subscribers. If, for example, a marketing department wants to offer a free week of 50 Mbps high-speed data service to anyone who buys three VOD movies in a seven-day period, the complexities tied to coordinating all the moving parts on such an offer shouldn’t get in the way.
Many operators, on top of trying to meet all the new service and marketing requirements, find themselves having to change out their operations support systems (OSS). Smaller MSOs are outgrowing outsourced approaches to service activation, and larger MSOs are outgrowing the functional capabilities of home-grown OSS platforms.
Invariably, new OSS solutions deployed to address these situations largely preserve the silo’d framework, especially on the service-activation side, owing to the heavy fork-lifting required to support a fully integrated operating environment across all network elements.
But things aren’t as bleak as they seem. Indeed, it now is possible to achieve operational cohesion sufficient to all the requirements of universal service activation without replacing the existing OSS infrastructure. However, to do so requires substantial expertise in business logic-based software architecture along with deep experience in cable operations support.
In order to automate the deployment and management of every interactive service across all access networks, the activation platform must address all the different systems associated with each service category, including CMTS and softswitches; VOD managers, conditional access systems and other headend components; Web and email servers; MTAs, set-tops and other user devices; and CSR, provisioning, billing and other back-office processes. The activation platform must interact with these systems instantaneously to help ensure execution on whatever task is at hand: a subscriber order, execution on usage-based policies, presentation and execution of a new offer or something else. And it should be built on a modular architecture that allows operators to add new processes tied to new services and applications on a continual basis.
Knowing these capabilities now are within reach, a growing number of MSOs are deploying universal activation solutions. They know their advantages in an evermore competitive marketplace will only grow as they continue to accelerate introduction of new services and applications.
Stephane Bourque is CEO of Incognito Software in Vancouver, B.C. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.