Anand Gonuguntla, CEO of Centina Systems, discusses how operators can improve visibility and offer a more differentiated service, particularly with regard to Ethernet. As European operators face increasing competition for Ethernet services and other next-gen transport options, what requirements are facing OSS staff in terms of supporting differentiated services?

Anand Gonuguntla: Ethernet’s shared bandwidth infrastructure drives a requirement for QoS and a superb customer experience.

That means that OSS staff is tasked with ensuring that the shared infrastructure approach doesn’t result in congestion that could negatively impact the customer experience.

When an operator oversubscribes a link and over-allocates bandwidth, it follows that they find themselves with a critical need to monitor and shape the traffic appropriately to avoid customer dissatisfaction and churn.

It is important to deliver the service that the customer paid for – and that requires more stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) in order to compete effectively.

How can they use service assurance to drive a better customer experience?

In an increasingly competitive environment, the question becomes how operators can grow market share without cutting prices towards a “race to zero”.

As mentioned, operators must provide guaranteed SLAs, but fulfilling those requires a robust service assurance approach that goes beyond what has been required in the past.

Ideally, an operator must monitor the end-to-end network and service environment for Ethernet in real time, including watching metrics on jitter, round-trip delay, latency, throughput and so on.

The ability to see the current status of the network at-a-glance, combined with the ability to set escalating thresholds as network congestion or utilization grows will allow carriers to be proactive.

For instance, progressive alarming when customer traffic hits certain thresholds can help an operator leap into action to prevent the customer experience from degrading to the point of dissatisfaction or falling out of compliance with SLAs.

Where does service-specific visibility into the customer experience come into play in the differentiation effort?

An Ethernet assurance solution that can granularly dig into the service and all of its layers simplifies monitoring because it collects and presents metrics across elements and across networks, end-to-end.

The result is a holistic, hierarchical view of Ethernet services riding across different technologies.

Further, it allows for the creation of customized KPIs/KQIs to proactively detect and report potential problems and understand the customer impact, as well as generate monthly customer SLA reports.

These can be critical to improving performance and customer satisfaction, and winning market share in an increasingly competitive market.

How else can an operator rely on network performance management tools to create a differentiated offering?

While carriers themselves appreciate visibility into the performance of their own Ethernet services, another dimension to leveraging assurance platforms is the ability to roll out a portal for the end customer to gain visibility into their service performance.

By providing customer portals, an operator will reduce customer support calls, bolster customer satisfaction and provide real-time visibility into SLA compliance and the overall health of the service, even on a shared link.

Another value-add that can be enabled via service assurance is advanced reporting.

Advanced and scheduled reports that provide information from the assurance platform along with data from external systems offer powerful and consolidated views across the network and OSS infrastructure.

Just as with the portals, the ability to customize reports for a range of stakeholders within the end business can be a real differentiator.

Finally, enhanced SLA management, conformance and reporting to meet the needs of next-generation services and increasing competition will be increasingly in demand.

Customers will demand the ability to map operational performance to customer services, to clearly show the impact of network degradation and process faults on the agreed SLAs which form the baseline of many corporate and retail contracts.

In which service areas do you see the most competition and need for next-generation management approaches as we head into 2013?

The most stunning change we see in carrier requirements for service assurance and network and performance management is a never-before-seen need for scalability.

It's an era of Big Data, and operators are facing a disruptive explosion of five to 10 times the number of supported devices than they once had, escalating volumes of data and video traffic, and ever more complex network infrastructure which include Ethernet and LTE as top-of-mind investments.

Going forward into 2013 and beyond, we will see big infrastructure extensions.

Mobile operators globally are launching LTE but also leveraging small cells, while cable operators are embracing WiFi on a widespread basis to extend.

Fixed operators have more and more fiber in the ground, while still maintaining plenty of copper.

The result for carriers of all sizes is a growing, disjointed mountain of service-related information in need of visibility.

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