Wholesale telcos and their retail customers are collaborating to simplify the provisioning and fulfilment of wholesale broadband services.
Telcos drive wholesale service standards to cut complexity
Leading wholesale broadband providers and their ISP customers are using TM Forum standards to rewrite wholesale service delivery. Their aim is to harness standardization and automation to drive down costs, while improving B2B and B2C customer experience amid greater competition in fiber access markets.
Today, former incumber operators typically use a monolithic legacy system to deliver an opaque and cumbersome wholesale broadband access service.
In Germany for example, Deutsche Telekom has been using a system with proprietary interfaces called WITA (wholesale IT architecture).
“A new customer or wholesale partner has to implement the whole stack of functionality at once and has to complete a very comprehensive conformity testing before starting the business. This takes a lot of time and effort until the first product can be processed,” according to Karsten Thon, Wholesale Business Architect, Program-Management Wholesale Interfaces, Deutsche Telekom.
The operator’s new approach to wholesale broadband access service delivery, based on REST-APIs “will divide the big preorder/order-elephant into different parts,” says Thon. As a result, wholesale providers will be able to develop, change, test and use standardized Open APIs for separate services such as address validation, site validation, or product offer qualification. (REST APIs are commonly used to connect components and applications within a microservices architecture because they conform to most programming languages and support different data formats, which makes them flexible.)
“It’s much easier and faster to onboard new wholesale partners with a (minimal viable product) MVP-approach starting with the address validation and completing the whole API-framework step by step,” explains Thon.
CityFibre is also moving away from its former XML-based system. It sees the adoption of TM Forum standards as an important opportunity to simplify and speed up the delivery of a consistent customer experience.
“Adopting a modern standard is vital to ensure our ISP partners’ onboarding experience is as easy and efficient as possible,,” says Timothy Bird, Principal Enterprise Architect, CityFibre. “Many of our partners interact with multiple UK network providers. By choosing to standardize we help them avoid having three different integrations with three different wholesale brands.”
A standardized, modular approach to wholesale delivery doesn’t only simplify back-end integration. It also gives ISP customers greater visibility of the different steps in wholesale service delivery, which they can use to improve their own customers’ end-user experience.
Vodafone, for example, relies on wholesale broadband to provide bundled mobile, broadband and/or TV services across its European markets. However, because its wholesale providers offer different legacy experiences “we would like to use this opportunity to refresh our collective understanding alongside the ISP community to create the best broadband fulfilment and assurance experience for our own customers,” explains Steve Harrop, Principal Integration Architect at Vodafone Group.
“If we have agreement on a comprehensive set of interactions from different operators … then we've done the design once. So, we can create a customer experience once and roll out that experience across [multiple] markets rather than individual integration efforts with each of the ISPs in each of the markets that we operate in,” explains Harrop.
“Our customers will benefit because they will get service faster and better,” adds Patrik Farkas, Enterprise Architect, Vodafone.
Deutsche Telekom, which is part of an association of German telecom operators that has been collaborating for the past year on the implementation of REST interfaces based on TM Forum Open APIs, emphasizes that a frictionless delivery is in everyone’s interests.
“It is so important to get these Open API-based standardized interfaces between buyer and seller in place, so that the processes are very smooth and automated,” says Thon.
The move to shake up wholesale delivery is happening as part of telcos’ wider efforts to standardize their IT and network systems so that they can support new business models.
“We are not developing REST facades in front of old legacy systems,” says Thon. “We are an integral part of our company’s IT strategy, which is focused on decoupling, using international standardized interfaces such as TM Forum REST API and methodological approaches like TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture.”
Like the CAMARA Project, TM Forum’s Wholesale Broadband Project seeks to simplify implementation through the use of domain context specialization (DCS), which standardizes Open API payloads for specific applications.
“A DCS toolkit will translate generic Open APIs into a context-specific payload that will be used only for the wholesale broadband fiber payload,” explains Olta Vangjeli, Program Director, TM Forum. This means a single Open API can carry different standardized payloads, which eliminates the need for technology-specific management and orchestration APIs.
Although the new TM Forum project is focused on serving the needs of today’s wholesale fiber broadband market, it also has an eye on the future.
“In parallel we are seeing this delayering into separate NetCo and ServCo and the positioning of wholesale access into a NetCo type of business,” says Vangjeli. It will therefore be possible to accommodate “the strategic development of wholesale access to encompass other B2B2X services, particularly as the world shifts towards intent,” she adds.
In the meantime, national regulators overseeing wholesale broadband access markets will need to approve modifications to how fiber access services are bought and sold in each country.
Already in the UK, however, many alternative providers are on board with TM Forum standards, according to CityFibre’s Bird, who notes that “consolidation around a specific standard is already happening.”
Vodafone’s Harrop agrees that there is a striking degree of consensus between members of the wholesale project. “Everybody was on the same page in terms of the need to rationalize and consolidate and to come up with a unified standard. It was as though we’d unearthed a stone of complexity that was always there and that we all agree we now need to try to sort out,” he says.