- Who? A major telecommunications provider in the Caribbean, serving more than 1.8 million customers, offering a variety of services for voice, data, broadband, wireless and TV to residents and businesses.
- What? The company’s convergence strategy, including quad play, was crippled by a lack of operational efficiency and business agility, due to siloed systems supporting service fulfillment for different services. This was impacting its ability to compete.
- How? Moving from siloed systems to a single platform for service activation, using a single platform solution to support fulfillment for all services, certified by TM Forum as conforming to Frameworx.
- Results: Activation errors fell by more than 50 percent, the number of complaints from customers by 20 percent, and repeat calls from customers by 50 percent. Also, 60 percent drop in provisioning errors. Greatly reduced operational support costs, new services to market three times faster than the average time previously.
This major telecommunications provider in the Caribbean has annual revenues of $1.2 billion and 3,900 employees. It has over 1.5 million mobile customers and more than 510,000 fixed network subscribers, including 315,000 users of data services.
The company has grown and introduced many different services and technologies over the years, including fixed telephony, mobile and LTE, IPTV, broadband (digital subscriber line technologies – xDSL) and gigabit passive optical networks (GPON). Consequently, the support systems for service fulfillment were a combination of multi-vendor and home-grown, and siloed. Eventually this led to a lack of operational efficiency and business agility which were making it impossible for the operator to deliver its convergence strategy.
Big business problems
The most serious problems included:
● high operational cost of maintaining both home-grown and various vendors’ activation solutions for the different technologies, which could involve up to five different systems for each service or network technology;
● dependence on a few key individuals experienced in managing the old systems;
● extreme difficulty getting real-time metrics to manage the business due to frequent discrepancies between back-end systems and the network; and
● adapting the old systems to support new services was too slow, impacting the company’s ability to implement its marketing strategy and compete in the market.
In addition, the activation systems generated a transaction error rate of up to 7 percent daily for provisioning, which affected customers’ quality of service and experience. This generated a high volume of post-sales calls and truck rolls, forcing the service provider to put in place a large, dedicated group of Operation and IT personnel to manageprovisioning fallouts.
The problems were magnified by the lack of comprehensive management tools to handle the complex ecosystem from a single platform. In turn, the absence of a scalable management platform meant the processes involved were complicated, and time-consuming, impractical and expensive to run.
Into action, timing is key
The service provider chose Intraway as its partner to address these issues, including its Real‐Time Universal Service Activator (RTUSA) platform. Intraway recommended an agile delivery methodology, using a fluid, end-to-end process.
One of the main benefits of agile working is to proceed in a series of prioritized, phased deployments so that the service provider can gain business benefits as quickly as possible – overall, projects to consolidate operating system software (OSS) can take years and without this agile approach, benefits would not be realized until the end of the project.
Conformance with TM Forum’s standardized approach was a major differentiator in the definition, design and implementation phases of the project: Intraway RTUSA (15.2) was certified in April 2015 as being conformant with the Business Process Framework and Information Framework (both Version 14.0) – two key elements of the Forum’s Frameworx suite of blueprints, tools and best practices.
The Intraway RTUSA platform provides real‐time, catalog‐driven service fulfillment and resource provisioning in multivendor and multiservice networks. Its architecture enabled the service provider to replace several siloed service activators, which reduced operating expenditure by up to 50 percent. The savings were gained by cutting the number of maintenance and support contracts, and simplifying the deployment and operation of multi-play services.
The service provider and Intraway worked in tight collaboration to meet deadlines and achieve common goals.
Other benefits of agile deployment include:
● earlier return on investment for each feature once it is developed to reduce the need for large capital investments; and
● faster feedback from users about each new feature or function as it is released to production.
The project included the implementation phases to speed deployment times for xDSL, GPON and mobile services. Effective communication with the customer in the definition stage of the project reduced reworks and enabled the setting of common goals for the project. TM Forum frameworks helped facilitate that communication, speeding decisions on a new architecture, integration guidelines and the process needed to support future services and increase their operational efficiency.
The data modeling conforms with the Information Framework regarding product catalog, network inventory and customer management. Stateless and stateful concepts have been used to reduce networking overhead, which has a critical role in real-time provisioning and activation.
Stateful refers to when the provisioning platform tracks the status of a customer on the network so unnecessary operations can be avoided: for example, when a service suspension order arrives, the system knows that customer is suspended and that there is no need to impact the network. Stateless does not track the customer’s status, but supports tracking of network status.
TM Forum’s frameworks also provide a set of concepts to ease integration with existing systems such as business support software (BSS), product catalog and inventory systems. Intraway used them to design and implement a transactions mediation system as a decoupled module, which functions as an adaptor between the BSS and the RTUSA platform.
The mediator can synchronize customer-facing data by centralizing data through the RTUSA platform’s data modeling. This flexible modeling enables the translation of the BSS’ product catalog to the RTUSA platform catalog, accelerating time to market for new product and services.
The use of standards allowed additional time for customization to meet specific business needs, such as in user interfaces and reporting. The Business Process Framework made it easier to identify separate processes or functionalities and implement them. Again this speeded up the definition phases, which was key to quicker return of investment for the operator.
The process for each phase was organized to provide deliverables that could be tracked and an easy implementation flow.
More efficient operations
The platform was deployed in May 2015. The project reduced lead times for new services, deployment time, operational costs, risks and operating expenditure by enabling rapid service design, network technology introduction and design time in the configuration environment.
RTUSA enhanced the incorporation of new services in an environment of multiple vendor network elements, models and their protocols. Pulling service activation for mobile and fixed services onto one platform made it possible to manage a unified product/service catalog and to create integrated business rules.
The number of reworks and recurrent incidents reported by customers has fallen using an RTUSA mechanism to verify the quality of installation and service repair work at the customers’ premises and generate the record of each work order.
New services and business models
The new platform provides functions that accelerate the time-to-market for new services:
● It exposes a single web service interface to customer order management, simplifying integration and reducing implementation time.
● If a new service requires the integration of new network elements, the connector framework assures integration in fewer than three weeks.
● The time needed for the sales phase and statement of work negotiations is reduced by at least three months.
● Implementation times are shortened by optimizing integration with different systems.
Network information can be monetized in real time through feature-rich APIs, which can be used by internal business and operation systems, but importantly, also by external applications, fostering service innovation.
For example, network topology status is exposed to internal and external systems in real time by a REST API. This immediate data response can prevent network failure, as the network can be modified and restored on demand. The Real Time Monitoring System provides a complete network status dashboard to optimize risk management decisions as well as a set of support operations that can be executed on demand to modify resources.
Enabling blocking within self-service is another way to monetize by reducing expensive calls to the call center, using an easily configurable API. So, for example, a customer can block their subscription if they lose their mobile phone via the self-service portal.
Many APIs, like the one described above, can be configured as support operations and expose them in systems to facilitate business processes for the end customer with one click.
Quantifiable business benefits
Deploying the single platform resulted in greater operational simplicity overall and:
● activation errors fell by more than 50 percent
● subscribers’ complaints decreased by 20 percent and recurring calls from customers by 50 percent
● more than three times faster to market with new services
● reduced the number of systems; including two in-house systems (ADA for automatic DSL activation and OSADIA for service order management and resource provisioning for xDSL/GPON for GSM and LTE technologies
● fewer inconsistencies in data due to having a single platform instead of numerous siloed systems
● updated inventory
● support for service self-management (captive portal and interactive voice response)
● more than 60 percent reduction in error rate compared with the old provisioning system – in April 2014, before RTUSA went live, the error rate averaged out at 8 percent, which fell to and stayed at around 1 percent with the new system, without any peaks, greatly reducing the cost of operational support
● as shown in Figure 1, overall provisioning time was reduced by more than 75 percent, and a more than four-fold improvement in provisioning time, as shown in Figure 1 below, which shows improvements for GSM and LTE.
The deployment is now complete and operator’s next goal is to support new services: SDN & NFV have top priority, in line with global trends. Lab-based proofs of concept have been created to meet customer expectations in future.