Features

Features

As financial turmoil rampages across the worlds' markets, Professor Janusz Filipiak, founder and chief executive of OSS/BSS provider Comarch, tells George Malim that he sees great opportunity as carriers seek to streamline their operations and get to grips with new business models, services and the complex new telecoms value chain

Comarch, the Polish IT solutions provider has been developing OSS/BSS systems for telecoms since 1993 and now provides a portfolio of systems and managed services to incumbent, broadband, triple play operators as well as MVNOs/MVNEs and start-ups. With a turnover of €170m, more than 3,000 employees and a customer roster that includes T-Mobile Germany and Austria, Bouygues Telecom France, O2 Germany and Polkomtel and PTC in Poland, the company has enjoyed a 33 per cent increase in turnover during the last five years. As the general economic crisis deepens, founder and chief executive, Professor Janusz Filipiak, thinks vendors will have to chase harder and act more cleverly to win deployments.
"Now all companies have to be mean and lean in the recession" he says. "We are very cost minded and every bit that is not needed is removed. You can't come to carriers with a higher price than your competitors. IT engineers are now a global resource and want the same payment in China or the UK, for example, so we are in the same position as all vendors. We can't compete on price so we can only be more intelligent and more effective than others. In spite of the recession we must now continue to invest in developing new products."
Current financial market woes aside, Comarch is heavily focused on the mobile market and recognises the challenges faced by operators. "In today's world of telecommunications, mobile operators are faced with the challenges resulting from market saturation in the majority of countries" adds Filipiak. "Innovative product offerings and enhanced service levels are indispensable in order to gain new customers and prevent churn. Operators are searching for the Holy Grail of telco that will prevent ARPU from decreasing. As voice is still the ‘killer application', we see data and value added services as a fast growing market. Other trends are still ahead of us such as seeing strong market competition from global corporate customers seeking the best deals from global mobile groups."

Filipiak also sees great potential in currently non-mobile operators. "Keeping in mind that everything eventually goes mobile, we haven't forgotten the great potential of fixed broadband operators, cable TV providers and triple and quad play operators" he says. "We target different segments of the market while not focusing exclusively on a single one."
Pre-paid billing has been one of the major functions carriers have sought during the life of Comarch but, as bundled and flat-rate packages become more popular, Filipiak sees it's emphasis waning. "Today there are not too many content services available but they will come" he says. "Video streaming will put new requirements on bandwidth and devices. It will be very resource consuming and will be charged via pay-per-use. The experience won't be very different to paying for bandwidth or connection time with voice. Pre-paid is a method of payment which is still the most popular for the youngest segments of users, but pre-paid is becoming less related to cheap prices - because those are achievable in post-paid models as well - than to a philosophy of ‘no contract, no obligation'."

Flat-rate offers will be harder to make business sense of. "Flat rate is only viable in a world with unlimited capacity" adds Filipiak. "Flat-rate packages make a difference in the final price of services but the introduction of real flat-rate, where everything is included and mobile access is a commodity like internet or electricity or gas, will lead to a weakening of pre-paid which will favour post-paid."

Filipiak sees the market moving in this direction. "We can see that many players are moving towards a mix of post-paid with a significant amount of free minutes, SMS and MMS in a bundle," he adds. "This offer is really close to an actual flat rate and assures stable revenue for providers as well as strong customer loyalty and a resulting decrease in churn. My mantra in telecoms is that customers now expect everything to be easy."

The emergence of mobile content and the move to data services put obvious pressure on carriers' systems and the telecoms revenue chain has become much more complex. Comarch has long been prepared for this shift, as Filipiak attests: "The revenue chain is more complex and an operator is now not the only one that provides the services delivered. Service ‘sponsoring', third-party service providers, resellers and service dealers introduce the need for multi-party billing and put more pressure on monitoring quality of offerings," he says. "Our solutions also address and deal with the complexity that content and data services bring in wholesale, next generation TV, content distribution, service creation and control. We address these needs through our InterPartner Billing solution. On the OSS side, we provide service level management and service level inventory, our flagship OSS products, which enable service modelling of resources and services provided by different parties along with pro-active quality monitoring and management."

Comarch has grown from its eastern European roots and now has operations in 30 countries and addresses operators of all sizes and types, as Filipiak explains: "The Comarch brand is recognised in the telecoms world," he says. "We've been in the industry for 15 years and time is now working for us. Our biggest customers for specialised OSS solutions are Tier 1 operators. Large operators with 10 million subscribers are customers for our InterPartner Billing and, when it comes to independent operators, we have about 30 per cent of the local market as clients for integrated BSS and OSS/BSS solutions. We also target the largest CATV and broadband operators offering convergent services. Our strategy also addresses global players where we can offer the best value, give good prices, still be flexible and deliver enterprise level services."

In spite of the general economic downturn, Filipiak still sees great opportunities emerging. One area is that of next generation mobile networks and self-optimising networks. "Such concepts will invite carriers to look for solutions outside the long established segments of OSS, such as Inventory Management, configuration Management and Network planning," he says. "It will not be sufficient to cover one area in the future; instead co-operation of the planning and operations areas will be needed where we see an opportunity for us. In addition, carriers are now more oriented towards a loose coupling of functional modules and standard interfaces that make it easier for smaller players, like us."

New means of delivering solutions are also critical. "With our future proof architecture of solutions, we can address modern modularity concepts and tendencies that now exist in the market," adds Filipiak. "The openness and standard interfaces in high level OSS products is the key and customers can choose the best modules for their operations. This provides a possibility to reduce opex by utilising new business models for our customers, network virtualisation, distribution and outsourcing of operations and hosting solutions."

Regardless of the current economic gloom, Filipiak believes a new investment wave must come to the telecoms market. "Investment must happen because there will be greater demand" he says. "Physical travel will be a high cost so there will be more load on existing networks."

Carriers face massive challenges in spite of the increased demand for their network capacity and services. "In the international mobile groups, unification and co-operation issues are still of key importance in order to gain competitive advantage on the global market" he says. "Outsourcing of operations has become very popular but unsurprisingly it has turned out not to be a remedy for everything. Carriers still need to adapt their business processes and way of thinking to this new model. On the other hand, the need to reduce capex is forcing carriers to introduce scenarios of sharing physical resources, such as radio masts."
Filipiak also identifies additional challenges such as churn prevention, automatic client profiling and concentrated web-based marketing campaigns, as issues carriers will need to address.

Winning business from the large carrier groups against this backdrop is, without doubt difficult.

"International groups are certainly challenging customers" admits Filipiak. "National companies differ in software environments, processes and levels of maturity as well as corporate and national culture. They therefore require a flexible approach in implementation strategy and software functionality and look for a common architecture for their network as well as their IT systems. Such carriers pay a lot of attention to building up corporate standards at the services level and business process levels in order to achieve a common view."

Good products, knowledge and proven experience are the ways to win this type of business. "No power point slide solutions can be sold anymore," adds Filipiak. "It takes a lot of time and money but these are the only ways to win contracts with groups."

However, winning such business is never achieved on a static battlefield. Carrier consolidation continues and that can be both a threat and an opportunity for solutions vendors. "On one had, it is difficult because some groups will enforce product choices at the global level, and it may be more difficult for Comarch to gain a global recommendation in a large group since we have to fight for our portion of the market with much stronger players" says Filipiak. "On the other hand, consolidation forces carriers to unify their OSS/BSS landscapes and this is a good opportunity to change long-established solutions for something new and fresh. Heterogeneous environments of global groups with plenty of flavours in different countries require a great level of flexibility that Comarch can provide. We already have positive experience with such projects, for example our experience with T-Mobile, that enables us to be optimistic for the future."
 

"Ultimately, we must live with the situation" adds Filipiak. "We're a service company and it's not our job to comment or expect specific customers to behave in any particular way. The level of consolidation is already very high so we may not see much more, in any case."
It's not only carrier consolidation that presents challenges to vendors, though. Carriers are at different stage of their business and that places a development burden on all vendors as they seek to develop systems applicable to individual carrier needs.

"Comarch builds its solutions for different segments of the telco market," says Filipiak. "We offer both pre-integrated solutions for small business, such as an integrated BSS/OSS solutions for an MVNO, and complex solutions tailored specifically for the needs of large players. We have frameworks and modules of software but we've never sold it without adaptation. In the end, it is always a construction job. You have modules but ultimately you must put them together in different ways."

Comarch has grown organically since its inception in 1993 and has shunned much of the mergers and acquisition activity that has occurred in the OSS/BSS sector in recent years. "Our product portfolio follows unified design principles and is not the result of an acquisition of missing parts," explains Filipiak. "This gives us the possibility to offer seamlessly integrated solutions and products that complete while at the same time not redundant in functionality."

Inevitably, for all rules there are exceptions, and Comarch has recently announced an agreement to acquire 50.15 per cent of Frankfurt listed company SoftM und Beratung AG for a transaction that could exceed €22m. The German software producer and systems integrator employs 420 personnel and supplies more than 4,000 customers.

Filipiak is open to further moves although they will be well considered. "Acquisition, yes but only in a way that we can handle along with continued organic growth. There will be no miracle from us, just steady organic growth."

Filipiak also rejects any notion of selling the company. "The company isn't for sale. My family has a controlling stake and I'm not going to sell now. The company's value is increasing and the scope of the business grows every day."

George Malim is a freelance communications journalist

Keith Willetts uses his considerable experience of the communications industry to fuel a journey into the future and finds a comparatively optimistic landscape - provided regulators and governments recognise their vital role in encouraging investment

So the holiday is over; it's snowing; the power just went off; another retailer just went bankrupt and the media are keeping up their unrelenting glee at how awful the coming year is going to be. So not a great backdrop to an article on what the future might have in store for the communications industry!

But looking at life through such a gloomy lens clouds the reality that the communications industry has fantastic prospects. Recessions are like forest fires - sure, they do a lot of damage, but they also help foster renewal and new plants to thrive. There isn't a business on the planet right now that isn't looking at how to work more efficiently and market more effectively - and that's an incredible opportunity for our industry that enables both these things to occur. Economies could save themselves trillions by much more widespread net-enabled home working, swapping the ever burgeoning physical transport of commuting for communications. TV stations are falling over themselves to launch online replay services to catch those programs you missed while out partying, to play on the record numbers of large screen TV's sold this Christmas; Nokia launches phones with ‘all you can eat' music included; Nintendo is launching an online TV service to exploit the millions of net connected Wii's out there.... The list goes on and on - all drivers for growth of the communications industry.
But not the industry we've known in the past. The high cost base, slow moving and weak innovation communications industry of the past will be consigned to history by this recession. Those companies that have not embarked on moving to a lean, agile and innovative business model, or those companies that have but are deciding they can't afford the costs of change will suffer badly in the coming months. Trying to compete in the second decade of the 21st century with business models, processes and systems suited to the 1990's will simply not wash. In the past, service growth masked the need for fundamental and serious change but that growth runs out of steam with market saturation or recession.

So the old adage of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going' could not be truer in today's communications markets. Winners will be those companies who spot opportunities that the recession creates and transform their business delivery to an ultra low cost; highly automated and integrated approach. Losers will be those players who batten down the hatches, cut investment and hope for better times - they simply won't come.

At its core, the communications business is a transport business. Instead of physical goods, our transport business shifts digital information in ever increasing quantities but at prices that aren't going to keep pace with that growth. So what's new?  PC processors, memory, in fact most consumer goods, survive in a market where the capability goes up continuously while the price comes down. Companies like Intel and Dell have built business models that can thrive on that approach and communications providers can too. Out with multiple networks, one for each service; out with hundreds or even thousands of disjointed and fragmented back office systems that are replicated for each service yet can't communicate with each other or provide even a consolidated bill to a customer. Out with months of battling with different barons who own resources to get a new service launched. In with one, multi-service network infrastructure; in with one highly integrated and automated suite of business processes designed around the customer, not the network.

Market change has been happening gradually for a number of years but the recession will sharply accelerate the need for change and new investment, not slow it down. At the TM Forum, we work with over 700 member companies from 75 countries to develop and deliver industry roadmaps, guidebooks, best practices, training, conferences, benchmarks and industry research on how to make that investment journey as painless and as low risk as possible. The question for CEOs and Boards to consider right now is this: "What is worse - the costs and risks of changing to meet the coming challenges or not changing gears and not being able to compete in a transformed marketplace?"

But service providers can't do this alone. Their markets are not unfettered models of capitalism where investment can flow to fuel opportunities - they are distorted by regulation. Regulators must play their part by making some fundamental changes in how they govern the industry, if we are going to get the kind of innovative, high quality and low cost services that we need. For too long regulators have been preoccupied with stopping rather than enabling - curbing rather than liberating. And while we undoubtedly have a much more open marketplace, we also have an industry that is not investing enough to meet growing market needs because of business uncertainties created by regulation. 

Take, for example, access networks. The growth of demand for access network bandwidth is growing along Moore's law lines - yet regulators and governments continue to bleed the industry dry though spectrum auctions or creating major uncertainties over investment returns for upgrades to fibre.  Despite marketing hype, there isn't a fixed line player in the world investing in fibre access at a rate that is likely to keep up with demand. Innovations like the TV merging with the PC, innovations like HD and 3D TV coming on stream; bandwidth demand will grow at a much faster rate than fibre can be installed.

ADSL has a theoretical maximum speed of about 25M but in practice 8M is much more realistic and many users (like me) have to put up with 0.5M if they are lucky. Just like the early days of mobile, we were prepared to put up with poor service because the gain outweighed the pain. Even if network operators started to invest in major fibre rollouts tomorrow, we are talking five to ten years to complete the task for many countries. What do we think the average home will be using online services for by 2015?  But of course almost no access fibre is rolling out because regulators have been so exercised about opening up access networks they have forgotten that people only invest if there is a return at the end of it.

Nicholas Negroponte once described high priced 3G bandwidth auctions as ‘condemning our children to an information poor society'. I'd include the lack of action by regulators to create a sensible investment climate for infrastructure change as part of that condemnation. Fibre technology has been around for a couple of decades and in the beginning, service providers could not get excited about replacing copper phone lines with fibre ones. But the ability of today's information society to fill networks as exponentially as we fill hard disks, means that there will be no shortage of applications to use that capability (I just saw interactive 3D TV in Japan!).  But where will the networks be to fuel that growth - still on the drawing board unless governments stop using the rear-view mirror as a navigation aid.

The recession raises the stakes for the communications industry - there will be winners but also many losers. Service providers must take huge gambles and invest in renewing their infrastructure, their processes and their systems. Many won't take that risk and in five years' time probably won't be around, but regulators and legislators owe it to the people who pay their wages to do everything they can to encourage that investment and in turn benefit their economies.

Let's look back five years from now and see this recession as the turning point that delivered us a 21st century communication infrastructure and a set of lean and agile 21st century providers and not as the period that set us back a decade by not making the transformational leap we have to perform.

Keith Willetts is Chairman and CEO, TM Forum www.tmforum.org

Lynd Morley searches for light in the economic gloom

As we begin the new year, the term ‘economy', presented in any word association game, would undoubtedly elicit such well-worn  (some might say overworked) responses as ‘credit-crunch', ‘downturn', ‘recession', even ‘depression' - reflections of the continued deeply negative mood in the financial capitals of the world, the various industrial heartlands, and the international media.

Yet there are some positive lights flickering in the almost impenetrable gloom - not just at the end of the tunnel, but  fairly and squarely at the very point of the tunnel we now find ourselves at.  One of those lights is the information and communications technology industry, and while the telecoms market is not immune to present economic tribulation, opportunities do loom, as real time communication becomes more imperative in business, and remains an essential part of our social existence. Certainly, according to Frost & Sullivan's principal analyst, Sharifah Amirah, telecoms is one of the few industries which has a "strong leg to stand on and is likely to gain from the downturn" in the economy.

Amirah is not alone in injecting a slightly more positive note to the discussion - specifically where telecoms is concerned (see also Keith Willetts' comments in this issue of European Communications, on pages 14-16).  He notes that in the face of economic adversity, enterprises will be looking to minimise risk and improve operational efficiency, and this focus on core competencies and reducing operational costs will open doors for IT and telecommunication service providers.

At the same time, rising unemployment rates and falling GDP growth are forcing end users to spend less money on entertainment and digital communication.  In light of this reduced consumer spending, Amirah sees pricing as a short term priority for service providers. In the mid-term, he says, value added services and innovative distribution models will be key to growth.  And while the focus will be very much on surviving the next couple of years, a clear sight of further horizons should still be retained.  

In the longer term three key themes will prevail - mobility, content and bandwidth.
Amirah sees the industry moving towards divestment, consolidation, collaboration and greater investments in research and development. Service providers with strong fundamentals will survive the storm and transform into more streamlined entities. Sharing business risk and securing more immediate returns on investments will offer a basis for both vendors and service providers to capitalise on new opportunities.

In term of the public sector, several governments have already channelled resources towards digital infrastructure as a reboot mechanism for the economy. This would provide a stimulus not only for the ICT industry but will potentially see an improvement of digital public services such as e-health and e-procurement.  

On the whole, for telecoms at least, the outlook is far from gloomy.  Indeed the flickering lights threaten to illuminate the much vaunted but almost universally ignored need to resurrect confidence in the economy in order to begin some return to financial health.

The MPLS & Ethernet World Congress 2009 conference agenda will pay particular attention to Ethernet and MPLS transport standards and mechanisms.  Video transport, services and mobile backhaul will also be covered in detail.

Meanwhile, the traditional debate, will, this year, address access and transport, two of the main issues for both MPLS and Carrier Ethernet infrastructures.  As each year, the panel will propose what the organisers describe as "a fruitful confrontation" between equipment vendors and service providers.

During the event, the third edition of the Carrier Ethernet Workshop will discuss technological and implementation issues in parallel with the traditional MPLS tutorial addressed by the MFA.  The workshop will be addressed by the MEF ambassadors for the standardisation process review.  Other sessions will welcome vendors for business models and solutions descriptions and carriers for deployment reports.

The Congress, organisers Upper Side are happy to point out, owes much of its success to the interoperability platform.  The major manufacturers all participate in this platform showcasing service and product interoperability. 

The European Advanced Networking Test Centre in collaboration with Upper Side will invite industrialists to a multi-vendor MPLS & Ethernet interoperability in January 2009.
The EANTC will evaluate state-of-the-art MPLS & Ethernet architectures and applications in a detailed technical hot-staging.

The test results will be demonstrated in a public showcase during the event.  Service providers will support the preparation of the test plan and participate in the hot-staging and public event.

Participation is open to all vendors of MPLS routers and switches, traffic emulators and analysers, provisioning and fault-management vendors.

During the 2008 event, EANTC and the participating vendors showcased a complete mobile backhaul transport network supporting MEF and IP/MPLS Forum defined services.
The interop platform demonstrated devices' capabilities in constructing mobile backhaul networks and the ability to interoperate with other leading vendors in the industry.
Mobile application vendors (3GPP, 4G, WiMax) attached their equipment to the backhaul network to demonstrate service interoperability and to enable mobile application demonstrations at the public showcases.

MPLS & Ethernet World Congress 2009, 10-13 February, Marriott Rive Gauche, Paris.
www.upperside.fr

With the development of new Carrier Ethernet technology and service definitions - including E-Tree, E-Line and E-Lan - and the growing awareness among business customers of the availability of L2VPN services offering comparatively low-cost P2P and multipoint connectivity, data/Ethernet product managers are in a good position to generate increasing revenues from this attractive suite of new services.

At the same time, however, competition in the Metro Ethernet P2P service marketplace is driving down prices, and there is a question mark over the sustainability of a business focussing purely on business customers and offering only basic interface limited, P2P services.  A new generation of Ethernet Services, provided by ambitious, lean alternative carriers threatens to seriously undermine existing customer relationships. 

The organiser of Ethernet Services Product Evolution, IIR, points out, therefore, that this is hardly the time for hesitation, stressing that the event will enable attendees to gather information and make contacts that will help them develop a strategy to compete in the increasingly competitive market for business and wholesale Ethernet services. 
Whether attendees are targeting business customers looking for data centre connectivity/managed services, internal customers looking for converged access solutions or wholesale customers looking for Ethernet access solutions, IIR claims the event will help them make the right choices in this rapidly evolving business area.
The event is intended to help in a number of areas, including

  • Finding out how Product Managers from service providers in similar and competitive positions are developing Ethernet service portfolios
  • Developing a clear understanding of the dynamics of the legacy, L2 and IPVPN markets and understanding how to maximise the value of each within their portfolios
  • Gaining a detailed understanding of the options for differentiation against competitors' services
  • Developing a comprehensive understanding of the evolution options from simple P2P Ethernet services with dedicated bandwidth to a full range of QoS enabled Ethernet services
Ethernet Service Product Evolution, 2-4 February, Brussels Marriott Hotel, Brussels.
www.iir-events.com

Taking a highly targeted, strategic approach to market entry and operation is the key to success in emerging markets says Simon Vye

For service providers considering entering an emerging market, there are far more challenges than may be first realised; cultural differences and idiosyncrasies are important and need to be taken into account, but it's the political hurdles that may present the biggest challenge.

Before considering the point further, we must establish exactly what we mean by the term "emerging markets". Officially, an emerging market is one with a relatively low per capita income, which, more importantly, has a high potential for economic growth. However, there are different stages of emergence to consider. Economies will start as "developing", offering little in the way of infrastructural, regulatory or political support for foreign investors. As these economies evolve, communications infrastructure is one of the first critical foundations laid which allow business to thrive and the economy to grow.

Hot spots such as China, Vietnam and India are popular emerging markets in Asia, while areas of the Middle East such as United Arab Emirates, and Eastern Europe, such as Hungary or Poland, are also rising in popularity. Analyst house IDC, highlighted Pakistan as the biggest spender on telecommunications services in early 2008 but also predicted that Vietnam would have overtaken that market by the end of the year. However, as a whole, the Asia-Pacific telecommunications market was set to grow 11 per cent in 2008, providing a wealth of opportunity for telecommunications providers around the world.

The global economic landscape is constantly changing. In spite of recent economic turmoil, the opportunities offered by emerging economies provide new avenues for savvy telecoms strategists. The old cliché of the ‘global village' is now firmly established as the status quo and we are living in a truly connected world. Multinational organisations must constantly seek new ways to mitigate the risks, whilst drawing maximum benefits, from entering new markets. Businesses serious about competing on the global stage expect to be able to communicate instantaneously, efficiently and cost-effectively no matter where in the world they, or their customers, may be.

These expectations in turn create opportunities for the telecommunications industry to provide consistent quality and depth of service across geographically dispersed sites. Core services such as Ethernet private lines (EPL), IP-VPN and MPLS networks offer international companies peace of mind that their communications infrastructure is robust, allowing them to concentrate on their core objective of growing the bottom line. New communications capabilities are also allowing organisations to cut business travel costs through video or web conferencing and unified communications strategies, providing new avenues for cost reduction as well as revenue growth.

In order to attract increased foreign investment, governments in many emerging markets have reviewed their protectionist policies, setting up special economic zones (SEZs) and other incentives to attract the multinational leaders to their shores. In May 2008, the Chinese government announced a plan to restructure its telecommunications industry in order to make it more competitive. This move, which aims particularly to create more competition for China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by subscriber base, has received a mixed reaction from both Chinese and global industry players. In general, it should be considered a positive move for a traditionally sheltered market.

In addition, emerging markets often turn to the developed western economies for best practice in industries such as professional and financial services. However, unlike their western counterparts who have to take account of legacy hardware, infrastructure or technique, emerging markets often adopt a big bang approach to their telecommunications and IT infrastructure, leapfrogging the benchmark to set a new global standard.
A perfect example of this is the deployment of fibre to the home (FTTH) in South Korea, providing South Korean consumers with ultra-fast broadband internet access for a fraction of the price of the slower copper-based UK network.

While the benefits of entering new markets are clear; access to workforce, expanded customer base, new business opportunities; companies must be aware of the potential pitfalls which stand in the way of success.

The first issue which organisations are increasingly looking to address, by investing serious capital, is the often gaping cultural divide between the new host market and that of the organisation's home. This challenge is nothing new but it can cause serious problems when ignored or handled clumsily. With Japanese etiquette for example, the observation of hierarchy and relationship-centric business communication is the stuff of international management legend, a host of embarrassing anecdotes and libraries full of guides to ‘doing business in Asia'. However, should organisations apply the same rules and approaches to all Asian markets, such as Vietnam for instance? And what about other emerging markets in Europe or even Africa?

In spite of emerging markets' increasingly proactive approaches to attract foreign investment, from a telecommunications point of view, many markets remain highly restricted. Deregulated markets such as Japan, Hong Kong and Australia are open to new market entrants who are able to compete effectively to the benefit of customers. However, markets such as China and Cambodia are much more restricted, preventing telecoms service providers from acquiring or controlling national operators.

Red tape is often the cause of unexpected frustration for companies new to a market, and can act as a disincentive for doing business. The World Bank estimates that Indian senior managers, for example, spend 15 per cent of their time dealing with regulatory issues, far more than the Chinese. Without extensive research, companies moving into these markets can find their progress blocked by confusing regulations and compliance demands. Compliance is also an issue that can complicate matters significantly. For customers in the banking and financial services industry for example, service providers must be aware of the compliance requirements of the host market, as well as those of the home market. Often, global organisations are governed and regulated according to the standards of more developed markets. In the case of companies operating from the US for example, failure of an overseas branch of an international bank to comply with US legislation can cause legal ramifications and damage to its brand value and reputation.

So, how can a service provider in an emerging market drive top-line growth and improve profitability quickly? The key to success lies in taking a highly targeted, strategic approach to market entry and operation. The growth potential for emerging economies is such that they are often highly competitive environments with companies trying to secure first mover advantage without truly understanding the individual challenges of the market. They may also not fully understand the needs of the potential customer base either within that market, or wishing to enter that market.

As these markets consolidate through competition, the organisations that have developed strong and lasting relationships, as well as a deep understanding of the local market forces, will be the ones to thrive. There are a number of ways to ensure success in emerging markets.

The first is to take the time to really understand your target audience. Many international companies based in Europe are now turning to emerging markets in the Middle East as well as Asia to expand their market presence and develop new revenue streams. These organisations need the same quality network security and performance that they expect in their home markets. They may also wish to take advantage of similar products such as managed hosting and IT services, which may not necessarily be as advanced in certain markets.

Secondly, service providers should implement a simple, flexible network architecture that allows customers to accelerate the roll-out of new services.  Partnership is a crucial element of this approach as laying your own cable may simply not be an option in heavily regulated markets. Telstra International lays approximately one kilometre of new cable each week but also partners extensively with tier 1 carriers in emerging markets to ensure maximum coverage.

When choosing a partner for emerging markets, service providers should look to the local providers that have a strong network footprint in the key growth regions. Their networks should also be based on an advanced MPLS-IP backbone and they should have the capability to offer managed IP services. Often, as the markets slowly open up to deregulation, new carriers created within the country have greater opportunity to take on the previous national incumbents, well before foreign carriers are allowed to enter the market. These providers tend to be more agile than the larger market leaders, allowing them to bring new services to market much faster on behalf of its customers.

In essence, moving into emerging markets is a long term process which requires both careful planning and rapid deployment of services in order to capitalise on the growing economies. In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to choose partners carefully in order to offer multinational customers a tier 1 carrier service across the board, no matter where in the world they may operate.

Simon Vye is CEO Telstra International EMEA.
www.telstra.com

The New Regulatory Framework (NRF) for the telecoms sector that was proposed in November 2007 by the Commission is now entering the last phase of what have been tedious and sometimes acrimonious negotiations. The Council of Ministers examined a number of key regulatory proposals at the end of November and a consensus is now emerging. The EC is expected to adopt the framework in early 2009.

The backdrop of this process has of course been the current financial crisis and, more recently, talks of recession in Europe. So what regulatory measures are likely to emerge from these negotiations and will the new framework be appropriate for recession times?
The Commission's proposals have been significantly watered down by both the Council of Ministers and the EU Parliament. As a result the current ‘consensus' version of the NRF, that will shape regulation in Europe over the next five years, is less ambitious than the initial draft on a number of key points.

As far as spectrum regulation is concerned the ambitious market centric plans initially proposed by the Commission have largely been rejected. The resulting status quo caters for the political and social concerns of member states and will probably be easier to manage in a difficult economic climate but may need to be revisited in a few years time.

The idea of a "super EU regulator", originally proposed by the Commission, is being replaced by the a new entity (tentatively called Group of European Regulators in Telecoms or GERT) that will be an independent body as opposed to a new EU agency. This means less power than envisaged to the Commission and more power to national regulators.

The controversial proposals aimed at giving the power to mandate functional separation of dominant operators to the national regulatory authorities have been kept but are now considered a "last resort" measure to be applied in "extraordinary" circumstances. As a result the burden of proof required for national regulators to select and implement separation is likely to be very high. The economic climate is not conductive to separation plans in the short term as these often involve important one off costs and can trigger in some cases the need for the renegotiation of the operators' debt. The new text is however only a partial victory for a number of incumbent operators as separation could still be mandated in the future.

Access to fibre based new generation networks is likely to be mandated in most cases but the prices charged by incumbents to new entrants will have to reflect the appropriate investment risk in order to preserve investment incentives. The exact methodologies to assess the returns allowed on these new investments have yet to be agreed though so the regulatory visibility is only partial. The explicit recognition of the need to incentivise investment is however good news for operators in a difficult economic environment.
Meanwhile market evidence suggests that many operators and equipment manufacturers in Europe are suffering from the current economic climate. First, the share price of most telecoms firms has tumbled and this has raised fears of aggressive takeovers and further consolidation. Second, both business and residential markets are softening with anecdotal evidence of reduced call volumes and shifts from expensive price plans/packages to cheaper ones when existing contract terms expire. Third, the switch to VoIP based solutions seems to be accelerating and while a number of players will benefit from this trend, the net result will be an overall decline in call revenues for the industry. Fourth, some of the investment intensive strategies that were under consideration are being reviewed and postponed.  For example, a number of investment plans in New Generation Networks are likely to be impacted.

The telecoms sector however went through a significant wave of structural rationalisation and consolidation following the dot com burst and is likely to be more resilient as a result. Also communications services are not as cyclical as some other industries such as luxury goods or retail. Lastly many customers are still under "fixed fee" contracts (fixed or mobile) and revenues will only be impacted when these expire.

While it would be wrong to design a regulatory framework with short term economic considerations in mind (the text will only be made into national laws in 2010/2011 after all) it is clear that some of the concerns of key market players have influenced the text of the current draft New Regulatory Framework.

Benoit Reillier is a Director and European head of the telecommunications and media practice of global economics advisory firm LECG.  The views expressed in this column are his own.
breillier@lecg.com

An explosion in the variety of distribution channels now available to entertainment content owners is ensuring new approaches to security explains Priscilla Awde

While pirates of the high seas are causing some very severe headaches to maritime trade off the horn of Africa, their quieter cousins are engaged in potentially equally devastating attacks against global networks and the traffic they carry. As the arteries on which all commerce depends, defending these networks is as critically important as protecting cargos on the high seas.

The same can be said for the entertainment content on which owners spend and stand to lose millions from piracy, illegal copying and distribution. Securing entertainment programming from abuse is big business. Major studios, content owners and vendors use technology to prevent abuse and prosecute pirates when they find them.

Security is complicated by the rise in broadband fixed and wireless connections; the explosion of digital content; consumer demand for anywhere over any network/device access and a growing predilection for mixing broadcast, internet and IP traffic.
While Digital Rights Management (DRM), controls usage and distribution within households, Conditional Access (CA), secures content transmitted through cable, satellite, broadcast and telecoms networks to households. According to ABI Research, the global market for CA alone is expected to have generated revenues of around $1.4 billion in 2008.

Traditional one-way broadcast networks mostly rely on tried and tested smart cards using strong security algorithms to protect encrypted, standards based DVB video streams. However, explains Cesar Bachelet, senior analyst at Analysys Mason: "In any security breach, smart cards must be replaced, which is very expensive. IPTV operators tend to go for software solutions because they have no legacy systems.
 

"There is a trend towards cross-platform content delivery and major access vendors have solutions for on-line video and internet television. The biggest consequence of the move to digital is the explosion of available content for download."

Switching content between devices has implications for CA and DRM. Operators must be able to enforce pre-defined parameters governing content usage on each device, its storage, duration of use, where, if and by whom it can be accessed or copied. This is increasingly done through handshake routines between CA and DRM systems which allow content to be moved from televisions to other devices and released into the computing domain. "Bridging technologies allow transfer to third party devices with embedded DRM facilities," explains Daniel Thunberg, Senior Director, Market Development, Irdeto. "Content is re-scrambled into another format within set-top boxes and handed over seamlessly along with transfer rights and certificates embedded in the headers."

New software based systems are the next big CA development but, while some believe they make preventing, detecting and shutting down piracy faster and more efficient, others suggest counterfeit copying and distribution are easier.

Not so says Stephen Christian, VP, Marketing for Verimatrix. As a relative newcomer, Verimatrix is: "Riding the wave of internet cryptology, IP technology and applying them to media. Software solutions offer greater ability to track what's going on in set- top boxes and can be downloaded as part of the content distribution mechanism at approximately zero cost and to a variety of devices. We are using the power of chips and the prevalence of broadband to develop software solutions mainly for greenfield IPTV providers but also for all Pay-TV operators. The world of CA is moving to IP which has turned it upside down," continues Christian.

IP transmission brings both opportunities and threats: computer hackers have spent years perfecting their nefarious trade in the computer world and can now deploy their dubious skills against Pay-TV content. Although IP networks may be easier to attack, they can support fast and sophisticated security applications.

While all security solutions are state-of-the-art at launch, most are eventually hacked, making it important to anticipate and assess risks and react fast to renew security.
Intelligent IP networks give CA vendors more opportunities; providing new ways to keep content safe believes Francois Moreau de Saint, CEO, Viaccess. "Lots can be done in networks to manage and secure different devices and manage rights centrally. Operators want to deliver different content over very different devices with different technologies so we must deliver the solutions to manage heterogeneity, to enable conversion features allowing content to be converted between formats so operators can ‘talk' to each device in the language it understands.
 

"Although the world is changing considerably, there is continuity in what's at stake: the whole point of CA is to fight piracy. Now there are more and more distribution channels and more opportunities to deliver more content and therefore more risks. We need to deploy the highest level of security technology and be prepared to take legal action against hackers."
Faster connections make illegal downloads easier and pirates are increasingly hiding behind peer-to-peer and file sharing making them difficult to trace, but the industry has some innovative solutions. Watermarking is a new, effective and increasingly popular tool in CA vendors' tool kits. "Mixing television with the internet frightens many broadcasters and content owners," says Geir Bjorndal, Sales/Marketing director for Conax. "Watermarking inserts an invisible pattern into the video stream and equipment records the unique identity of which set-top box received a copy. This makes illegally distributed content traceable to individual subscribers."

Next generation smart cards detect unusual behaviour and usage patterns (typical in card sharing), making it faster to shut down unauthorised access. CA vendors have developed robust systems for the growing, if nascent, mobile TV market: security embedded in SIM cards can be activated, managed and updated from the network.

New CA systems are enabling new Pay-TV models. In a revenue sharing agreement with content owners, Orange recently launched the five channel subscription based, multi-platform Cinema Series in France. Films, television, traditional and time shifted broadcasting are available on-demand and can be watched on any screen any time. Many big content owners are making their libraries available and internet Pay-TV will become more popular.
As always, flexibility, speed and real time reactions are essential for all communications systems which the trend towards software CA solutions should fulfil. The risks are that however necessary, security may become a stumbling block for seamless and fast content exchange between devices.

Priscilla Awde is a freelance communications writer

Emerging markets, without a doubt, are squarely in the sights of mobile operators looking to gain new subscribers in these tumultuous times.  As many people struggle to afford even the most basic mobile services in these regions, there are significant challenges for operators that seek to tap into this new subscriber base and maintain operating efficiency.  Customer service has traditionally been a major cost deterrent for operators, so to maintain profitability in these emerging markets, operators must look to new and innovative customer service solutions says Mikael Berner

In their search for subscriber growth, operators are looking to the world's emerging markets, such as China, India, Pakistan and Latin America, where some of the statistics are impressive.  For instance, revenue for India's big four telecom companies alone (Bharti, Idea, Reliance and Spice) grew collectively by 50 per cent in 2007 over 2006 to $12.05 billion. Capital spending simultaneously grew at an astonishing rate, underscoring massive infrastructure investments, as operators are eager to expand their networks.

Despite the impressive growth opportunities in these markets, operators are faced with the challenge of keeping average revenue per user (arpu) at a profitable level.  Even as these emerging economies blossom, disposable income remains low for most potential subscribers.  Often, consumers in these developing regions can afford mobile phones only as groups, or during periods when they have employment - sometimes going completely silent on mobile phone usage when jobs are scarce.

In addition to low arpu, other key risk factors have emerged for operators in these volatile regions, increasing churn and causing serious pain points for the operator.  For instance:

  • The handset market consists of many low-end phones;
  • These regions have predominantly pre-paid plans, where customers are simply replacing the SIM card when they have the funds to get a mobile phone again; and,
  • Operators either charge for or don't provide customer care for pre-paid customers in these regions.

Mobile operators are facing a new challenge as they scramble to access these markets and avoid costly blunders.  The operating costs in these areas remain the same as in developed markets, requiring operators to shift their focus from customer service to rapid expansion with the intention of getting service up and running for as many subscribers as quickly as possible. From a business perspective, this situation sounds familiar and indeed hits very close to home.  As an example, the low-cost European airlines are interested in flying as many customers as quickly as possible to predictable, tried and tested destinations - at least those with low airport fees.  They've become infamous for providing as little hassle (and customer service) as they can get away with.  This "no frills" approach by airlines has resulted in perceived poor customer service reputations and ultimately, damaged brand image.

How low can mobile operators go in their quest for profitable expansion into the wireless frontier without good customer service? As more companies vie for market share, the level of competition will likely increase and push the price of telecom services down even further. Costs will need to continue dropping if operations in rural areas are to expand profitably. And, while many low-overhead business models of mobile operators have been highly successful, there are some aspects of mobile service that simply cannot be taken out of the picture.

Operators still face the tremendous challenge of financing customer service.  With the introduction of new technologies and services, inevitable user questions arise that have typically been directed to expensive call centers.  It is crucial that operators provide tools to meet their customers' needs without incurring high support costs.

With the influx of pre-paid plans in new markets, mobile operators have addressed support issues by charging customers on their pre-paid account when they call customer support, instead of providing the service for free as with post-paid customers. Hidden fees such as these are not likely to be popular with subscribers.  And increased competition in emerging markets means that if a customer isn't happy, another wireless provider will be waiting with open arms to take their business.

This cutthroat landscape is hostile to subscriber retention unless a company can achieve the perfect balance of low costs and high customer satisfaction. Some operators have attempted to tackle customer support issues by encouraging subscribers to solve problems themselves. This self-help policy is problematic if companies don't offer customers the tools they need to solve handset issues.

The most promising approach to low-cost service options is device-based solutions.  By bringing the service experience to the handset, operators are able to deliver highly functional experiences on basic handsets at virtually no variable cost.  By resolving issues at the point of experience, operators will improve the customer experience while avoiding the costs of connecting callers to IVRs, agent queues, etc.  With device-based solutions, callers are easily capable of resolving more than 75 per cent of their issues quickly and easily on the device.

Two primary areas operators should focus on when it comes to self-service on the handset are:
1) Remote support services; and,
2) Account management services.
Remote support services are critical to resolve, as the primary reason subscribers defect from their operator is based upon device problems, service issues, or just plain confusion.  It is vital that operators find a way to resolve these issues as proactively as possible, even solving them before the subscriber knows they have an issue.  Account management services consist of much simpler tasks, like topping up or paying a bill. These types of requests occur on such a high frequency that having a solution in place to deal with these requests is imperative if operators are to keep their service delivery costs in line.
In addition to encouraging the use of revenue-saving applications, access to interactive tutorials will also teach the user about their mobile device, thus decreasing the number of calls to customer service. If operators can provide a workable, cost-effective solution to benefit the user, call center traffic will decrease significantly and reduce overall operational costs.

Mobile operators need to answer the challenges found in emerging markets by providing services and handsets at an affordable, competitive price point. Additionally, they must make products and services easy to find and simple to use to build and maintain customer loyalty. As operators provide more value to their customers, they will be more loyal and less likely to switch SIM cards and operators so frequently. The secret to maximising growth opportunities in emerging markets lies in outsmarting the competition by utilising new technologies that strike the elusive balance between low costs and satisfied subscribers.

Mikael Berner is Senior Vice President and GM, Enterprise, Nuance Communications

Much is being made of rival broadband access technologies and their prospects for making radical impacts on the telecoms market place. Phil Irvine and James Bennett explain that their analysis suggests that in a market where broadband to the home is currently dominated by fixed access, wireless can play a role - but only in limited areas. In more mature markets they see the dominance of incumbents' DSL offerings continue and believe these operators will be best placed to meet emerging demand for higher speeds by fibre services. In developing markets, however, the absence or poor state of fixed infrastructure and regulatory policy can make the relative deployment cost of wireless broadband very favourable. They urge prospective investors, suppliers and operators to proceed carefully. Many crucial choices need to be made - such as which territories, services and customers should be targeted?

The introduction of broadband access has been a huge driver of the growth of the telecoms sector. The services enabled by broadband have had a profoundly beneficial impact on people and businesses by changing the way they interact with each other, access information and entertainment, and conduct business. Around the world, demand continues to grow for higher access speeds and wider availability.

The telecoms industry faces significant uncertainty on how best to meet this demand. Key questions for operators and investors are whether fixed broadband access can be displaced by wireless access or emerging technologies, maybe including non-mainstream options such as Broadband over Powerlines (BPL).

These technology choices are characterised by the disruptive potential each could have on the industry structure. Investment in the wrong technology could be catastrophic for investors, operators and economies. On the other hand, getting it right could shake-up the industry.

Which technology will dominate the broadband access market will differ from country to country and where it will be deployed in-country. It will be determined by the state of user demand, technology maturity and economics, geographic coverage and regulatory policies towards infrastructure investment. Our view of which technologies will win out and where is summarised in the table below.

In developing markets, wireless broadband access technologies can play a major role so long as the regulatory environment is designed to encourage their development. In particular, wireless broadband can be seen as a viable solution for serving currently underserved areas. There is also the potential for new access technologies such as BPL to play a role, depending on whether technical limitations can be overcome.

By contrast in more mature markets, given the emerging regulatory focus on ‘access bottlenecks', broadband technologies will be dominated by fixed rather than wireless systems. In this respect there will be limited scope for new infrastructure-based operators to compete effectively and the success of wireless broadband will depend on the utility arising from mobility, not fixed access.

However, many questions remain for suppliers, operators and investors. Which territories and customers you should target? What services will succeed? How should you deploy your network? What partners do you need?

The rise and rise of broadband continues - but will it reach a point where the highest access speeds can only be met by fixed fibre?

Broadband access has been a key growth service for fixed telecoms operators around the world, whose importance is made even more significant by the decline of traditional telephony. Demand in mature markets is characterised by the continuing growth of data rates to access more and faster services. Ten years ago the typical access rate was a dial-up line at 56KB/s; today's typical service in mature markets is 2MB/s to 10MB/s.

These speeds are enabled either through DSL technology or by cable modems from incumbent telecoms and cable TV operators respectively. The technologies have limitations that restrict the type and speed of services that can be delivered across them, for example high definition video. Only fibre can support the high data rates of say 50MB/s and upwards that support these service portfolios. Deployments are already starting to take place, most notably in Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong. In Europe a number of operators have launched Next Generation Networks (NGN), which involves fibre deployments, often to a distribution cabinet rather than the home. There is currently no foreseen role in this for wireless technology.
F

undamental economics favour DSL over wireless broadband - but only where fixed infrastructure exists.

For lower data rates, where wireless broadband speeds can compete with DSL, the underlying economics strongly favour DSL, as shown below. The cost of broadband deployment is dominated by access costs, and accounts for nearly two thirds of all operating costs over the first five years. The economics of deployment also strongly favour existing operators, where the scale efficiencies from widespread assets ownership means the incremental costs are far lower than for a Greenfield new entrant. As such, wireless broadband as an access service is a viable solution only where fixed infrastructure is not deployed.

This lack of opportunity for new technologies and hence new operators to enhance fixed access competition puts a clear focus on the role of regulation. Unfortunately there seems to be no consistency in policy among regulators around the world. Some regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK, have been active in suggesting a series of principles for regulating the ‘access bottleneck'. Others, such as the FCC have applied a policy of ‘forbearance', effectively relieving operators of the obligation for interconnection. The risk is that by setting a favourable investment climate, regulators are allowing operators to develop and possibly abuse a position of dominance.

The absence of DSL in developing markets presents an opportunity for wireless broadband operators especially in rural or underserved areas.

In less mature markets, the market development route might be quite different. The deployment of fixed physical infrastructure is often far less widespread than in more mature markets. Further, the success of mobile services in recent years has attracted traffic from fixed services, further reducing the means for upgrade and further deployment of fixed infrastructure. So, for example in Saudi Arabia, where only 70 per cent of households have fixed access, demand in currently underserved areas is for any form of access. Typical access speeds are accordingly lower and so the demand for higher speeds is quite different from mature markets.

A consistent feature of emerging markets is a regulatory policy aimed at encouraging the development of infrastructure through preventing resale and encouraging access in under-served areas. Unbundled local loop - DSL is therefore often unavailable and market prices for wholesale broadband are held up higher than they might be where a resale market was available. This presents an opportunity for wireless broadband to play a more significant role in urban and suburban areas, particularly where incumbents are slow to respond to the threat of a new entrant. This creates a paradox in regulatory regimes - a perception that infrastructure competition is an essential feature of a competitive market works against regulatory aims of reducing prices and increasing broadband penetration.

Our analysis of the costs of deployment in developing markets, suggests that regulatory impediments to unbundling and the high wholesale DSL cost create an opportunity for wireless broadband. In the long run wireless broadband could dominate, as its presence should inhibit further deployment of fixed infrastructure.

Broadband access is a fundamental service in the telecoms portfolio of all operators. Fixed access will continue to be dominated by incumbents' DSL and fibre services in developed markets; new opportunities will mainly exist for wireless as a nomadic and mobile service. In developing markets, wireless broadband can play a dominant role as an access service - but only in certain areas, subject to there being sufficient demand in those areas - and its prospects are strongly influenced by the role the regulator plays in encouraging the development of infrastructure competition.

Phil Irvine and James Bennett, PA Consulting Group
www.paconsulting.com

In today's financial environment, blended services may be the key to survival for telco operators.  With shareholder and investor audiences becoming increasingly difficult to please, fixed line and mobile operators need to identify new revenue streams - and one way of doing this is by looking within.  Many operators have excellent applications and service environments, but they are split in two - one for their next generation networks and a second, older environment for their legacy networks.  If a link existed that could seamlessly sit between the two and share applications across - or blend services - operators would be able to get the most out of the applications that they currently have says Mike Jones

Service blending is the practice of taking more than one service and combining them to make something new.  Think of making a fruit smoothie - mixing bananas, strawberries, and oranges together isn't something that naturally occurs in the wild, but when blended makes a delicious treat.  Considered separately these fruits are all delicious in their own right, however the blending of these fruits has created a business where there was not one previously - the act of blending is considered a value-add above merely the fruits alone, and therefore can demand a higher price.

Also consider that this business was created with ingredients that were already lying around the kitchen.  There are people who are content with buying the fruits individually, but there will always be some people who are tired of the same old fruit, and will be willing to try something new if for no other reason than to break the monotony.  This smoothie market was created when buyers were presented with something that they had not thought of or seen before.  They expected to eat regular fruit, however when presented with something new, they were delighted with the prospect of experiencing a new sensation.  This new sensation is what attracted their attention and money.

The last point to make with this analogy is that the key to unlocking this market was the tool - the blender!  The tool is the enabler for this new market.  Without the tool, the process of making the smoothie might have proven to be too expensive or ineffectively blended the ingredients.  The right choice of tool is crucial to blending the fruit into a new, delicious, and refreshing beverage that opens new opportunities and revenue streams.
Blending telecommunications services has a great deal in common with blending fruit.  Both need:

  • Ingredients: Preferably ones that are already being used and therefore are readily available
  • Innovation: Thought leaders that can see an opportunity for a new product or service
  • Tool: An efficient enabler that provides the link between the idea and the product or service.

Telcos have the first two items, but are missing the right tool that can easily and cost effectively turn their ideas into reality.

Services are currently deployed as discrete functions within a network, which are akin to the individual fruits in a smoothie.  SMS, voice mail, automated outbound calling, and pre-paid are all examples of discrete functions that are present in most service provider networks today.  These services are discrete due to the complexity of interworking the application with the network, and this complexity is a leading cause of inefficiency in telco networks.
What if these services could be unlocked and offered for free consumption to application developers?  Applications are rarely universally adopted by every subscriber in a network, so there are opportunities to repackage one or more of these discrete functions into a new service that will be consumable by a new user.  For instance, a mobile subscriber may only think of automated dialing as something a telemarketer would use.  However, that same mobile subscriber may view an automated wake-up call service as a useful feature.  This is just one simple example of how the same discrete network function can be blended with, for example, SMS to create a new service using piece parts already in a network.

As the market continues to take shape, existing enhanced services are prime candidates for incremental innovation and arpu enhancements.  By leveraging the existing enhanced services and creating innovation "on top" of them, service providers complement an understood user experience while at the same time, enable an ecosystem to reinforce the first social network application, voice services.     

Innovation comes into play for blending old with new.  Using the smoothie example, consider the fruit smoothie discussed earlier as being the "old" technology.  Now consider a "new" technology, protein powder, which is being used by fitness enthusiasts.  The blending of the "old" and the "new" in this case has enabled the smoothie vendor to start selling protein powder to a different audience, effectively creating a new market of fitness beverages.
This analogy once again carries into the Telco domain when compared to the legacy network and NGN.  There are new services being created for NGN all the time, but how well do these applications work with the mainstay applications in the legacy network?  Based on the fact that most NGN services duplicate the core functions of the legacy network, it's safe to assume that the new and the old interact very little or not at all.  Which will be more profitable?  Repackaging an existing service to address a new market, which is aimed at revenue growth, or duplicating a service to the same market for some nominal cost savings?
An example of service innovation in the telco market is the blending of "new" IT policy enforcement capabilities, such as web browser parental controls, with the "old" pre-paid application.  This policy enforcement could be extended to control who, when, and where phone calls can be made or received.  The blending of these technologies is another clear example of how two disparate technologies can be brought together to create a product that is marketed to people from two separate demographics - voice and IT security. 
The key that unlocked the smoothie market was the blender.  The right tool made the process of making the smoothie quick, efficient and cost effective.  The telcos also need a tool like the blender that will unlock their services for the purpose of creating something new.  This tool will:

  • Protect the telco by ensuring that their services operate independently from the underlying network
  • Prevent vendor lock-in by opening up the core network services as building blocks for new applications
  • Support telco and IT technologies such and IN and web services for the cultivation of multiple ecosystems
  • Create service building blocks from the old and new networks for rapid creation of innovative services
  • Support the reliability and scalabilty required by large scale services
  • Unlock trapped arpu

What service providers must do is protect the value and innovation potential of their legacy network by ensuring that their services can be offered independent of the underlying networks and, more importantly, independent of the vendors enabling those networks. Service providers who choose to open up their applications for mass consumption have the potential to open up new markets. By doing this, telcos can avoid falling into the vendor lock-in trap, and ensure that their investments in new technologies achieve maximum ROI.

Mike Jones, is Sales Engineer with AppTrigger
www.apptrigger.com

The launch of Next Generation Networks (NGN) has brought about a paradigm change in the telecommunications market. NGNs pose a particular challenge for charging and billing systems that are required both to meet customers' desire for simple tariffs and the growing complexity of products. After all, say Thomas Jaekel and Lothar Reith, successful business models depend increasingly on a combination of attractive content and flexible service delivery and charging options

The charging and billing system plays a key role, since it serves as a link between technological innovation and new business models. It must have the capacity to adjust swiftly to changed market conditions, services, products and network platforms. Similarly, it is essential to map flexible pricing models that enable both simple mass-market-oriented services and specialised complex value-added services. Meanwhile, product development cycles are growing drastically shorter.

The charging and billing system must also differentiate between content and services. The NGN operator not only provides a transport service, but increasingly participates in the content creation and distribution value chain. Since the operator controls access to the NGN, it owns the charging relationship, which is based on trust. Moreover, it owns the metering point where chargeable service units can be measured and priced. The most formidable challenge when charging and billing transport and content services is to provide quality-differentiated transport services where the quality depends on the transported content. Examples of such requirements are:

  • Differentiated, specific bandwidth categories on demand as guaranteed service qualities or quality-differentiated transport services provided on demand and charged to the end user or the content provider.
  • Virtualisation of resources to enable wholesale charging and billing to own subsidiaries or business units or to external business partners.

New business models and services
New business models such as the trend to divide market participants into NetCo, ServCo and SalesCo structures for the NGN have been clearly visible for some time now. Current development in European regulation (e. g. the EU Commission's wholesale initiative for the broadband market and Ofcom's current hearing on EALA {Ethernet Active Line Access}) support this direction. Further business model trends are:

Flat rate offerings. However, these often include only a basic offer without value added services such as service numbers or international calls. Non-included products still have to be billed according to use, and billed in conformity with existing legal requirements such as consumer and customer protection regulations.

Offerings financed by advertising, which include both access rights and a transport service for access to content.

Mash-up products using Web 2.0 that are put together flexibly from existing services. This places particularly high demands on the flexibility of billing systems.

The content provider pays - a business model proposed by large network operators whereby content providers are meant to pay network operators for delivering their content in assured quality.

Alongside these, traditional products such as value-added telephone services still have to be billed and charged and upgraded in the usual way in order to fulfil more complex postpaid and above all prepaid requirements as regards charging to the split second, advice of charge, consumption and call history and billing information.

Increased flexibility leads to particular consequences for new business models, customer and partner relations. This enables new types of cooperation along the new value chain, for example with content providers for quality-assured content delivery. It also enables new bundling options across multiple network and content platforms, such as quality delivery-assured content brokering.

Business agility is a central challenge
For speedy implementation of these new business models, business agility plays a dominant role. The NGN charging and billing system must be convergent and support real time charging for prepaid services, as well as offline charging for postpaid billing.
So far, conventional billing systems have been optimized so that offline charging supports postpaid billing. Online charging for real time balance management of a prepaid account has been implemented primarily on proprietary IN platforms. This fragmentation in dedicated systems for offline and online charging is a root cause of poor business agility. As a prerequisite for the necessary business agility NGN charging and billing systems must support multiple business models simultaneously, including for retail and for wholesale, covering both content and transport service delivery in an integrated, quality-differentiated way.

Yet for charging and billing system producers, the need to take a holistic view initially means greater complexity. Relevant existing bodies and new standards such as TMF, ITIL, GBA 3GPP, IMS and ETSI TISPAN are developing very dynamically and must necessarily be taken into account. The process-related standards are already taking holistic end-to-end approach with great success. Relevant standardisation bodies such as the Global Billing Association (GBA), which has now merged with TMF, are following this trend. In this case it was possible to design and further develop the billing chain in TMF's overall NGOSS environment, taking the environment processes into account.

Requirements for charging systems
The demand for business agility and for holistic unification results in a number of key requirements for successful solutions. The functions of a NGN charging and billing solution may be broken down into preceding (upstream) charging functions, central charging and billing functions and downstream charging and billing functions. Convergent solutions may be classified as either pre-delivery upstream real time charging or holistic post-delivery (upstream, central and downstream) real time charging and billing solutions.
Preceding (upstream) charging and billing functions include:

  • Real-time billing management as a starting point of the real time billing chain with interfaces to network elements of the service delivery platform, quota management with advice of charge, mediation to provide charging data to rating bodies and a real-time rating component for real-time calculation of unit costs
  • Real-time accounts receivable management that provides information in real time mode on account status/credit
  • Usage data mediation as a starting point of the offline process chain with interfaces to the network platform, raw data capture (CDR), normalisation and enhancement
  • Service instance rating and discounting management for the purpose of combined tariff and discount plan management for real time and offline rating (high impact on time to market).

The customer/partner billing component (communication bus, customer/partner database, etc.) is meant to ensure the use of central functions of the billing platform and therefore end-to-end billing management. Such central functions enable the unification of customer and partner billing with upstream and downstream charging and billing for both retail and wholesale business models.

The downstream charging and billing functions include the following components, which have been grouped as ‘billing domain' in 3GPP/IMS standards:

  • Invoice calculation and aggregation: Periodic or on demand invoice calculation on the basis of priced, accumulated use data, one-time or recurring fixed invoice items.
  • Invoice formatting: Transfers the calculated invoice items to suitable billing formats
  • Accounts receivable management: Administration of account credits, providing account information and producing reports (on outstanding debts, for instance)
  • Payment collection and dunning: Collection of payments from various incoming payment systems (banks, etc.) and issue of reminders of (or at least initialises) outstanding payments
  • Operation monitoring: Assuring billing quality by monitoring operating parameters (KPI) and revenue control reports.
Along with function-oriented criteria, key technical and commercial criteria are critical for realising successful billing solutions. Thus billing solutions should be capable of realising components that are diversified as regards availabilities and physical distribution.
In the case of components for which requirements as regards response time behaviour, system availability and consequences of breakdown tend not to be critical, centralised locations such as in IT computing centres with standard availabilities suffice.
Breakdowns of real time components such as offline rating, payment gateways and postpaid billing mediation have noticeably adverse effects on service in the event of medium-term breakdown (annoyed customers, loss of income, etc.). Therefore, critical components should be realised fully redundantly and at service delivery platform locations.

Innovation prospects
There is a steady flow of innovations in the field of charging and billing systems, leading to more flexibility, scalability and increased business agility. Examples are convergent billing systems, which support both prepaid and post-paid in one system. Other examples cover the convergence of previously disparate domains, such as fixed and mobile. In the future, more innovation can be expected, making it possible to charge for quality-differentiated service delivery of content access and transport services in a way that users can understand. Flexibly composed value networks may arrive, exceeding today's functionality, for wholesale, retail and partner billing. Charging for quality-differentiated delivery of content access and transport services must also support roaming in foreign networks without having to force-route all traffic via the home network. Convergence of SLA penalty management with billing is another area where innovations may arrive.

In general, one can expect NGN charging and billing systems to operate independently of the direction of monetary flow. This could support business agility for new business models such as advertising-financed and quality-assured content access and transport service delivery.

Thomas Jaekel is a Senior Consultant at Detecon International GmbH, where he is responsible for consulting services focusing mainly on billing and NGOSS.  He can be contacted via: Thomas.Jaekel@detecon.com

Lothar Reith is a Senior Consultant at Detecon International GmbH. He focuses mainly on NGN business models, NGN network architecture and NGN charging architecture, and can be contacted via: Lothar.Reith@detecon.com

Financial transactions are increasingly being conducted on the go. Bohdan Zabawskyj looks at why subscribers, dealers, operators, banks and money transfer agencies are embracing mobile money service opportunities

Money, m-transactions, micro-payments, mobile banking and mobile commerce - no matter how you refer to it, mobile money services are on the rise. They provide an unparalleled level of flexibility and convenience to a growing number of subscribers worldwide, in both emerging and developed markets. In the years to come, financial transactions, which are typically made today using ordinary financial instruments such as banks, ATM cards and cheques, will dwindle in popularity as subscribers take advantage of the convenience of mobile money.

Financial transactions are increasingly being conducted on the go. Subscribers are learning to transfer funds to a friend's mobile account, withdraw funds from a bank account or receive a remittance from an overseas relative, using a number of mobile devices. Increasingly, individuals with mobile money on their phones can both monitor their finances and purchase anything from taxi services to a candy bar at the corner convenience store.

In developed markets, bank account holders appreciate the immediacy and convenience of using their mobile device as their wallet. In emerging markets, mobile money forms the vital missing commercial link between ‘unbanked' individuals, companies and the societies they live in.

Emerging markets are benefiting most from the adoption of mobile money, especially those in which financial infrastructure is not readily accessible. The ability to transfer funds via a mobile phone in ‘under-banked' regions means that people can avoid many hours of travel between remote villages in order to pay bills or collect wages. Also, workers in many countries use their mobile phone to stay in touch with the current market price for their goods and therefore the phone is also a tool that facilitates profitable commerce and allows them to immediately capitalize on the latest prices.

Mobile money services will be driven primarily by the operators, who can charge service fees to complement existing SMS and voice revenues while simultaneously increasing customer loyalty and the number of transactions on the network.

Within the emerging markets, there are ample opportunities for operators to make the most out of mobile money services and this suggests that the mobile money phenomenon is here to stay. According to the GSM Association, fewer than 1 billion of the 6.5 billion people worldwide have bank accounts. At the same time, nearly 85 per cent of the next billion mobile subscribers are expected to come from areas such as Africa, Latin America and East Asia.

Short message service (SMS) and unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) are expected to remain the technologies of choice when dealing with mobile payments in emerging markets until 2011. This is largely because these technologies are ubiquitous and well-proven in even the most basic mobile devices and networks, and because SMS is the intuitive messaging vehicle of choice. For now, keeping handsets and access mechanisms simple and affordable is paramount in driving the uptake of mobile money services, until improved handsets are expected to support more complex, alternative Internet-centric capabilities for fund-transfers.

Mobile money services currently implemented in emerging markets are available in four major service types consisting of international remittances, airtime reselling, mobile wallet and roaming recharge.

International remittances are transfers of money by foreign workers to their home countries. They are generally international person-to-person fund transfers of a relatively low value, normally sub-US$200. Generally, the greatest flow of remittance traffic is from the developed countries to adjacent developing regions, for example, from the Middle East to Bangladesh and Pakistan or from the US to Central or South America.

Airtime reselling extends the dealer network of the operator to smaller population centres by allowing any subscriber to become an airtime reseller and effectively act as an agent for the operator. An airtime reseller purchases airtime from the operator distribution network at a discounted price via SMS on the mobile device. It is then sold, once again via SMS, to end subscribers at the full price - with the agent keeping the mark-up and thereby earning an income. In addition to creating an entrepreneurial framework, the operator benefits from reduced overhead and distribution costs, as well as the elimination of the theft and fraud write-offs associated with distributing physical airtime vouchers.

A mobile wallet provides the equivalent of a bank account to the "unbanked", and allows cash deposits and withdrawals. The mobile wallet is accessed via the mobile network and enables the subscriber to check the status of the account, make micropayments to a given merchant for goods or services, and even receive his or her weekly wages via the mobile wallet. In the future, mobile wallets will increase in capability as emerging markets develop more formal linkages with financial institutions.

Roaming recharge offers mobile top-ups and transfers of minutes between subscribers of an alliance of operators. Subscriber benefits include the convenience of topping up while roaming as well as the ability to conveniently transfer funds between subscribers of different operators. Roaming recharge services enable increased roaming revenues for prepaid subscribers as well as incidental revenues from any applied service charges.
Developed markets, such as those in Western Europe and North America, are also a valuable source of revenue through mobile money services. Mobile revenue from international money transfers in North America is expected to grow from $27 million in 2008 to $1.4 billion by 2012, whereas revenues from national transfers will only reach $17.5 million in the same time frame.

Although the mobile remittance industry is growing, the primary focus thus far on mobile money services in mature markets has been associated with an increasing need for real-time access to account information - coined ‘nano-economics'. In the case of these developed, mature markets, mobile banking services offer subscribers real-time access to account balances, the ability to transfer funds and make payments, or validate transactions. Security issues and standards are the largest inhibitors of mobile banking adoption, but these challenges are being overcome over time with the improved ratification and adoption of mobile security standards and tools.

Another form of mobile money is the area of payments using Near Field Communications (NFC). When the phone is placed close, say within less than 4cm, to a point of sale terminal supporting the same technology, the subscriber is allowed to make purchases using a PIN code from money stored on the SIM card. Many operators are working on enabling NFC technologies, and commercial GSM handsets supporting NFC are expected to hit the market this year. Revenue generation would likely follow the bank card model, with the operator getting a share of the transaction fee due to the key role it plays.

Collectively, the forecasted increase in mobile money Services, such as the increase in global mobile banking transactions from 2.7 billion transactions in 2007 to 37 billion by 2011, will contribute close to $8 billion in incremental revenue to mobile operators by 2012.
Subscribers, dealers, operators, banks and money transfer agencies are embracing mobile money service opportunities and creating value in the process. Even if analyst predictions are generous, the global economy is creating ample mobile money opportunities which cannot be ignored, and which will benefit subscribers and their mobile operators alike.

Bohdan Zabawskyj is CTO, Redknee
www.redknee.com

With each day, the complexity of telecommunication operators' market offerings grows in scope. It is therefore vital to present the individual offers to end customers in an attractive, simple and understandable manner. Together with meeting target profits and other financial measures, this is the principal goal of Marketing Departments for all communication service providers.

Within the OSS/BSS environment, forming clear and understandable Market Offerings is equally important for business as the factors described above. There is a huge difference between maintaining all key information about Market Offerings through various GUIs and different applications, and having it instantly at your fingertips in an organized manner. The latter option saves time and reduces the probability of human error, which makes a significant difference in both the length of time-to-market and the accuracy of the offering, ordering and charging processes experienced by the end customer.

What is a Market Offering?

Market Offerings have the following principal aspects that are usually defined during the offer design process:

  • General idea (defining the scope of the offer)
  • Target market segment
  • Selection of applicable sales channels
  • Definition of services and their packaging
  • Definition of pricing
  • Definition of ordering specifics
  • Definition of the order fulfilment process
  • Marketing Communication (from the first advertising campaign to communication at points of sale or scripts prepared for call centre agents)

It is apparent that Market Offerings aren't static objects at all; on the contrary, they are very dynamic entities and most of a communication provider's OSS/BSS departments have some stake in its success.

This leads directly to the key question: "Which environment can support a Market Offering and enable unified and cooperative access to it by appropriate teams during the proper phases of its lifecycle?"

The environment that addresses all of the above-mentioned aspects must be materialized in the form of some information system or application, if it is to be put into real existence.

Putting Clarity into Practice

The closest match to the requirements described above is an OSS/BSS building block called Product Catalogue.  

Product Catalogue is usually represented by the following three aspects:

  • A unified GUI that enables all key operations for managing a Market Offering during its lifecycle
  • Back-end business logic and a configuration repository
  • Integration with key OSS/BSS systems

Product Catalogue supports, with one exception, all aspects of the total Market Offering:

General idea - This enables the capture of the general idea, the keystone of the arch to be built.

Target market segment - This enables rule based definitions for the target market segment that shall be addressed by the Market Offering. It should enable changes or further specifications to this segment in conjunction with the information system that is used for market segmentation purposes.

Selection of applicable sales channels - Together with the Ordering system or systems, Product Catalogue should enable the specification of eligible sales channels for the Market Offering.

Other eligibility rules - In regards to the first two forms of eligibility (segmentation and affinity to the channel) additional rules should ideally be definable.

Definition of services and their packaging - As the name ‘Product Catalogue' suggests, products, which are productized services in principle, are the central elements of it. Products are packaged or bundled using Product Catalogue together with other parts of the usual Market Offering, such as Allowances (free units, etc.), Friends & Family or Closed User Group settings, VPN settings (for corporate segment), etc.

Definition of pricing - Another key function of Product Catalogue is defining price models related to the Market Offering in general or to its parts. Price models can be quite complex and require well-defined/productised underlying services, if they should be applied with a certain level of simplicity and convenience.

Definition of ordering specifics - In the individual screens of an Ordering application's GUI, Offer/Order Templates are usually defined using an ‘Ordering Catalogue', which may or may not be part of the overall Product Catalogue. There are pros and cons to having an integrated or separated Ordering Catalogue, but this is out of the scope of this article because the basic offer structure and its parameters with applicable/default values should come from Product Catalogue by design.

Definition of order fulfilment process - Similar to Ordering, Product Catalogue isn't usually the place where detailed Order Fulfilment and the subsequent Provisioning processes are defined. There is a variety of specialized systems for this on the market, each having its own unique configuration, and so it is impossible to cover all options by a single Product Catalogue application. On the other hand, Product Catalogue should enable the storage of some key ‘hints' that provide these systems a general method of determining what shall be done when the Market Offering is ordered. This should be materialized in the form of ICT environment configuration.  

Marketing Communication - Only this function is clearly out of the scope of Product Catalogue. So far, there are enough specialized Campaign Management tools and applications on the market; designed from bottom-to-top specifically to support MARCOM operations. 

An Aspect of Integration

Functions supported by an ideal Product Catalogue also define OSS/BSS systems that should be integrated with it, namely: Market Segmentation System (could be some BI or Analytical CRM), Ordering, Order Fulfilment, Provisioning, Charging & Billing and CRM. All these systems should either provide some data to Product Catalogue or use it as the master source of the data related to Market Offerings.

The necessity of integration in general is unquestionable; the only remaining issue is determining how the integration will be done and what will be the overall cost. Deciding which type of integration will take place depends on a number of factors, discussed below.    

The Principle Dilemma

There are three principal options for positioning Product Catalogue within the OSS/BSS environment. Product Catalogue can be deployed:

  • As a standalone application
  • As part of a CRM system
  • As part of a Charging & Billing system

Product Catalogue as a Standalone Application

This option appears tempting at first because: "Who can have better Product Catalogue than a company exclusively specializing in its development?" However, many unseen factors tend to surface later on regardless of the shining chain of GUI screens that are often presented.

Does the telecommunications operator really have intelligent Charging & Billing processes in place or smart customizations built on top of it? If a standalone Product Catalogue is deployed, the operator can forget about utilizing these special differentiating features unless they are willing to start never-ending investment into customizations without clear TCO[1] or ROI[2]. It would also be unusual for a Charging & Billing vendor to be willing to provide detailed information about defining price models and the other mechanisms to a 3rd party vendor, as they are often the key selling points of their Charging & Billing product.

Another disadvantage of this approach is that there is not one fixed point of integration for a standalone Product Catalogue.  No vendor of the surrounding OSS/BSS systems would guarantee compatibility with it. Once again, a never-ending integration project is a risky disadvantage of this choice.

In the end, it can be said that a standalone Product Catalogue would be a state-of-the-art application that will not provide the telecommunications operator with anything useful without extensive integration. Even assuming that this integration does succeed and results in a few months of perfect operation, shortly afterward a new set of features - vital for the telecommunication service provider's survival on the market - will certainly require implementation. This will probably affect either the Charging & Billing side (the most common case) and/or the CRM & Ordering side. It could also be that the most charming features of a standalone Product Catalogue will not be possible to use because of a lack of support by the surrounding OSS/BSS systems.

Product Catalogue as part of a CRM system

This is without a doubt a better option than the first choice because at least one side of the integration is guaranteed-if Ordering is part of the overall CRM system, then two sides are in the safe zone.

The only disadvantage of such an approach is that the pricing logic richness of a CRM system's Product Catalogue is quite low, if any. Subsequently, there is no principal gain in implementing a unified Product Catalogue as long as the definition of the price model and some additional key settings remain on the Charging & Billing system side. Such a setup is quite far from the ‘Unified Environment' described at the beginning of this article.

Product Catalogue as part of a Charging & Billing system

Service/Product bundling is usually tightly coupled with price model definition logic and the level of flexibility is in many cases, if not all, one of the cornerstones of the telecommunication operator's differentiating market offer.

Complex price modelling is the "holy grail" of profitability in every price-sensitive market. Even when there is an inexpensive almost flat rate applied to basic communication services (e.g. as in Austria), there is also the richness of value-added services (some of which can be priced using quite challenging logic), which raises the profit of telecommunications operators.

Another point of view is related to the effort necessary to implement complex Market Offerings.  Implementation on the side of Charging & Billing is quite often the most challenging when compared to Ordering or CRM, for example. Order Fulfilment can also be quite a challenge, especially when considering the example of introducing complex, fixed-mobile convergent packages for the corporate segment; however, Product Catalogue itself has no major effect on its simplification. We can say that out-of-the box compatibility between Product Catalogue and Charging & Billing significantly decreases the OPEX of a service provider as well as markedly shortens time-to-market for the introduction of new Market Offerings and the modification of existing ones.

It should be said that most of the top Charging & Billing systems provide Product Catalogue either as part of their latest releases or as an optional extension. Independent of words like ‘Unified' or ‘Enterprise' and others like this, the covered functional areas are quite similar and show a difference only in the degree of support for the above-mentioned individual aspects of the Market Offering. This level of support naturally increases with each new release of the component, and so changing the Billing system due to a better Product Catalogue component is an investment with quite uncertain returns. This is because the overall functional richness and the most important level of flexibility in the areas of pricing and convergence are really the key features of Charging & Billing systems nowadays.

Product Catalogue as a financial asset in the general OSS/BSS environment

Each of the three possible approaches described above would very likely lead to different results for CAPEX and OPEX.  Independently of the selection undertaken, the implementation of Product Catalogue should be justifiable by a clear gain on the service provider's side.

Business Benefits Coming from the Introduction of Product Catalogue

There is variety of direct and indirect benefits linked to implementation of Product Catalogue into the OSS/BSS environment. All of them are related to three qualities that accompany any successful introduction of Product Catalogue - clarity, accessibility and systematization.

Clarity

Managing Market Offering lifecycles is supported by Product Catalogue's design. This brings to all involved parties within the telecommunication operator a better understanding of related subjects, the level of their involvement and their role within the process. This decreases the level of confusion, which is experienced again and again regardless of how well-described the processes exist in paper form.

Accessibility

All Market Offerings are accessible and visible within a single environment, including the history of their changes and the Market Offering's sub-elements. Anyone, according to their access rights, can view the sections of Product Catalogue applicable to their role.

There is no risk of discrepancies between Market Offering related data in various systems provided that the Product Catalogue repository is the master data source as stated above. Accessibility to correct data is an important aspect of information accessibility in general.

Systematization

Product Catalogue not only enforces a certain level of systematization of Market Offering creation and maintenance processes, but also stores and presents all related business entities in a systematic manner, by default taking their integrity enforced by business logic into account.

Measurable benefits

All three qualities - clarity, accessibility and systematization - can be translated into two key terms - time and money. A successful implementation of Product Catalogue brings significant savings on the telecommunication operator's side as well as guarantees a considerable shortening of time-to-market for introducing new Market Offerings. If these two goals are not accomplished by implementing Product Catalogue, such a project must be considered a failure.

SITRONICS Telecom Solutions is a leading vendor of convergent charging and billing solutions in Central & Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS with a growing footprint in Africa and Asia.  www.sitronicsts.com

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