CSPs Must Take Advantage of Cloud Capabilities in BSS
In order for communication service providers (CSPs) to thrive in the digital economy, existing revenue and cost models need to shift a gear toward sustainable growth. Cloud promises agility, flexibility, elasticity, resiliency, availability, and efficiency. The corresponding by-products are vital to target new revenues in B2C, B2B, and B2B2X markets by winning the customer experience (CX) contest, improving employee and partner experiences, deriving data-driven insights, getting new services to market at speed, in context, and with relevance.
These are the top-priority drivers for CSPs sharply ramping up their consideration, evaluation, and deployment in the cloud. Private cloud is the logical first step, as some CSPs are trepid about entrusting the “crown jewels” – i.e., their charging and billing systems – to a third party public cloud provider such as hyper-scalers Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
The business case for cloud-based BSS is compelling as CSPs can realize significant CapEx and OpEx savings by taking advantage of the economies of scale that cloud offers. As they expand their cloud adoption plans, CSPs are discovering that transitioning their BSS (business support systems) – or at least some elements of their BSS – from on-premise data centers and private clouds to third-party public cloud hosting facilities can present challenges.
The promise of cloud is real, the journey to cloud differs depending on the starting point (legacy, customization, and integration), the appetite for transformation and ability to measure progress across iterations in the pursuit of continuous improvement. The goal is better service delivery and better experiences for customers, partners, and employees in order to deliver a return on investment in rapidly advancing network technologies.
Introduction: Cloud BSS is Essential to Delivering Profitable Services
For CSPs, migrating BSS to cloud is key to delivering profitable services and optimizing the customer experience (CX), providing the relevant service to customers and users upon their demand with precision. Cloud enables software agnosticism, decomposed software, application resiliency, state optimization, orchestration and automation. This, in turn, enables better customer experience across emerging digital and 5G ecosystems, although expanding the role of the cloud requires meeting new challenges related to complexity, particularly in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. These challenges include fulfilling cloud challenges such as streamlining cloud administration and assuring cloud security holistically.
However, the reality is BSS is cash register of the business, often tightly integrated into brittle technology integrations developed over many years. As such, this requires CSPs to prioritize evolving their existing digital BSS platforms with a step-wise approach that manages the complex digital and 5G-IoT value chains and enable new profitable business models. Through accelerated automation, augmented information models, and open interface frameworks, CSPs prepare their BSS implementations to supervise the massive scaling of open interface applications and cultivate money-making digital value ecosystems.
As a result, CSPs must select a trusted advisor to ensure their BSS platform cloud implementation plays the integral role in delivering profitable new services and powering innovation throughout digital ecosystems.
Major BSS Cloud Trends: Telecom Networks and COVID-19
CSPs are hitting their stride in rolling out 5G services despite COVID-19 disruptions and uncertainties delaying deployments and coverage expansion in some key markets. For many CSPs, 5G is their foremost budget priority due primarily to the high cost of obtaining 5G licenses. For example, as of December 2020, 140 CSPs have launched commercial 5G networks in 59 countries/territories according to the GSA. Some 320 million 5G subscribers are forecasted in the U.S. alone by the end of 2025. To justify their massive 5G investments, I expect CSPs must align their BSS cloud strategy with their 5G network rollout strategy to ensure positive return on investment. CSPs must assign the highest business priority in planning their digital BSS journey to the cloud.
As 5G service rollouts gain momentum while the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, there is one thing that’s certain: CSP customers will demand an exceptional customer experience that meets their unique requirements. I anticipate 5G will play a pivotal role in evolving networks to support new capabilities, such as network-as-a-service (NaaS), required to transform the network into an experience-driven platform and away from its decades long connectivity-centric business model. Moreover, in response to the pandemic CSPs are rapidly adapting to the rapidly-evolving demands of their customers, including fast-tracked business buildout of remote workforces and escalating consumer demand for video streaming and distance learning applications.
As such, the BSS in the cloud is essential to assure CSPs the best opportunity to progress their overall digital transformation strategy including sustaining the cost-justification of expensive 5G deployments, advancing their network evolution, broadening their influence in powering digital value chains, and fully adapting to COVID-19 permutations. I see cloud-based BSS as essential in providing the foundational cloud-native, on-demand service delivery platform to meet all these top-priority challenges.
Key takeaway: It is imperative for CSPs to prioritize aligning their BSS cloud adoption strategy with their overall digital transformation strategy, including 5G-IoT builds. I view the combination of BSS and 5G portfolio capabilities and network and IT expertise to be critical in meeting the most daunting challenges of BSS in the cloud for the 5G era. This includes network and IT expertise, extensive agile software development experience in DevOps, and particularly essential in continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) practices, so as to provide the systems verification and operations knowledge required to ease BSS migration toward cloud as well as collaborative development of cloud-native applications. Equally important is the ability to engage with, collaborate with, and exercise influence across open ecosystem models, including telco, IT, and IoT alliances, easing partner management and on-boarding of third-party applications in BSS on cloud environments
From my perspective, 5G portfolio assets and exceptional market position could be a winning combination here — e.g., Ericsson announced in Q4, 2020 report that it is “a leader in 5G with 127 commercial contracts and 79 operating networks around the world” and this puts it in the optimal position to monetize new services across 5G deployments. Since 5G is purpose-developed to efficiently and flexibly serve a multitude of use cases and use places with ultra-fast connectivity and minimized latency, Ericsson’s Digital BSS benefits from the company’s 5G prowess in powering new service offerings across B2C, B2B, and B2B2X contexts.
CSPs Must Compete in Challenging Markets
As noted, the COVID-19 crisis ushered in an unprecedented and explosive shift toward work-from-home (WFH) models as well as home-based connectivity applications such as eLearning (distance learning) and remote health & wellness (telemedicine). Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, screen time has dramatically expanded. For instance, over 50 percent of people worldwide say they are watching more streaming services, and almost 45 percent are spending more time on social media and messaging apps.
CSPs, for the most part, are meeting the challenge of expanding and scaling broadband connectivity to support these new society-wide demands. Now I also believe CSPs require BSS platforms on cloud in order to sustain WFH and broader remote and high-bandwidth/low-latency connectivity services into the foreseeable future. The new BSS on cloud capabilities include elastic scaling to deliver a wider range of applications that can require significant bandwidth surges to meet unscheduled events such as public safety and public health emergencies, as well as scheduled popular events like professional sports matches, multi-view eSports streaming, and major concerts.
Already I see CSPs need to accelerate their BSS capabilities to address the 5G consumer use cases that are quickly proving viable with tangible profit potential and warrant monetization priority. Nascent 5G use cases require cloud so BSS capabilities can assure real-time contextualization of new services are charged and billed precisely. These new services include:
- CSPs rapidly transitioning consumer WFH services to bundled business service plans. This allows consumers to realize discounts and savings on their existing services, creating new opportunity to upsell new capabilities while enabling businesses to extend uniform security and QoS policies across the entirety of their WFH staff.
- Offering premium 5G services to high-bandwidth demanding consumers, enabling built-in ability to immediately deliver unique 5G services and applications according to customer preferences, as well as augmenting existing premium plans that already offer added roaming, customer-driven loyalty rewards, and multi-device add-ons.
- Quickly expanding 5G rich applications, such as augmented reality (AR) shopping, virtual reality (VR) cloud-gaming, and general VR/AR applications.
Additionally, CSPs need BSS cloud-based applications to successfully manage and monetize the customer journey for 5G-specific innovations that I believe will become commercially available in 2021. These innovations include superlative multiplayer VR/AR experiences, enhanced 4K live streaming, AI-driven live sports, and a greater variety of premium cloud gaming packages. Ericsson recently investigated three of these up and coming 5G consumer use cases: AR/VR immersive gaming, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) for private homes and 3D Video-on-Demand (VoD) in the context of their implications for BSS in “Getting creative with 5G business models.”
Equally crucial, BSS on cloud is essential for monetizing new 5G-enabled B2B, B2C, and B2B2X services. CSPs must have resilient and flexible BSS platform capabilities to fully capitalize on new 5G enterprise opportunities, especially in targeting industry verticals. This requires evolving the BSS beyond managing traditional CSP relationships with their partner, supplier, and customer stakeholders by handling order management, supervising agreements, and other revenue management processes.
Through cloud, CSPs are prepared to meet the challenges of 5G-IoT ecosystems in BSS, including dynamically supporting a wider range of stakeholder interests, such as fulfilling the distinct service requirements of industry verticals, the secure on-boarding of IoT and eSIM devices, industry-specific IoT platforms, and third-party integrators that specialize in specific verticals like asset management.
Key Takeaway: Cloud is integral to swiftly expanding CSP influence across digital value chains and the 5G-IoT ecosystem. Through BSS implementations on cloud, CSPs can further leverage their artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) assets to derive data-driven insights that improve network-wide performance which is critical to scaling and monetizing new digital and 5G services for both consumers and enterprises.
AI/ML engines automate intent-based networking capabilities such as forecasting peak utilization, resource optimization, fine-tuning network parameters elastically, and applying predictive analytics to better anticipate customer demands, isolate security breaches, minimize fraud, preventing network congestion, etc. With AI/ML, CSPs bolster their ability to measure their BSS cloud journey progress across iterations in fulfilling their overall objectives.
Elasticity and resiliency are required to power CSP ability to compete in challenging markets including, in particular, new WFH models, burgeoning personalized 5G consumer services, and enterprise B2C, B2B, B2B2X models, while AI/ML assets are key to efficiently monetizing and securing always-on networks in 5G and digital environments.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In sum, accelerating cloud adoption for BSS is essential for CSPs to attain and maintain profitable services. CSPs can ill-afford to lose their influence across digital value chains and their top priority investments in the 5G-IoT ecosystem. Through cloud, CSPs deliver the virtualized, on-demand service delivery platform to ensure the creation of new, profitable services and sustaining innovation through collaboration with ecosystem partners and developers.
BSS needs to evolve into an on-demand platform that provides the tools and assets essential to winning CX battles, augmenting partner and employee experience, and profitably monetizing new digital and 5G services. In recent conversations with Ericsson’s Head of Digital BSS Product and Solution line, Jason Keane, he summarized the route forward succinctly: “Years of legacy, customization and complexity in BSS puts it at risk of being a bottleneck, it needs to be bolstered with agility, resiliency and elasticity to cater for the services explosion that 5G, IoT, and edge is beginning to enable. As well as catering for consumer markets, there needs to be an intensified focus on accelerating the deployment of new services targeted at industry verticals to capitalize on enterprise opportunities. Laying strong foundations is key, and usability must not be overlooked. Cloud is integral to the continued evolution of BSS to support the scale and breadth of the coming opportunities. Cloud-enabled software and containerization are the first steps, we see our customers realize more and more benefits as cloud native architectures and components proceed to replace and outnumber their legacy equivalents.”
Despite the technical and business-related challenges, CSPs must not lose focus on delivering the optimal CX to their customers, winning hearts and minds across the consumer and business realms. Fundamentally customers want to feel seen, known, and appreciated by the CSPs they choose in fulfilling their digital experience and emerging 5G-IoT demands.
In order for CSPs to successfully execute their BSS journey to cloud, regardless of their progress to date, CSPs need to give top consideration to cloud and its role in adapting BSS to COVID-19 exigencies and the post pandemic reality as the world shifts to new business models enabled by 5G and IoT.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
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Image Credit: Ericsson
The original version of this article was first published on Futurum Research.
Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.