Increasingly, as I talk to service providers about the role BSS, and specifically charging, discussions soon move away from collecting payments for goods and services, to enabling a fast time to market. Which makes sense.
The range of new offers that service providers are rolling out is increasing and the time that they need to get these offers to market is, you guessed it, going the other way. It’s not a case of do more with less but take a step back and come up with a new approach that is designed to support many more offers that telcos have been used to, and at a time to market that is more web-scale than plain old telco.
This is why we’re seeing the need for an Enterprise Product Catalogue in Digital BSS gain more and more traction in recent times. The catalogue facilitates having a centralised view of all Products/Services, including those of partners, and the management of the product lifecycle. Having a single, centralised source for all product and service information increases accuracy and reduces operational costs.
But, it also provides flexible approaches to catalogue configuration which enables service providers to manage all elements of a go-to-market strategy and thereby quickly launch offers to the market. This includes defining sales channels and eligibility, order entry requirements, holding the definition of cost\ price and linking to the specific capabilities of a modern charging solution to leverage all the options available for value exchange that are possible.
However, the traditional view of products and services is going to blossom with the advent of 5G and the complexity of the management of their monetisation is similarly going to expand. The current models of flat rate charging, Pay per Use and Subscriptions will need a revamp.
The way service providers have leveraged handset subsidisation (based on the so-called razor blade model, where the dependent good is sold at a loss, or at cost, and the services it consumes, or ancillary products generate the profits) has probably run its course, especially given the lower cost aspects of the device expectations in the Internet of Everything.
To compete with the OTTs that are eating their lunch, service providers need to be able to match the two-sided market business models, and B2B2X capabilities and leverage As-a-Service approaches to how they monetise the capabilities that network slices promise.
Service providers will need the ability to compose a charging function with new Business Models in mind, configure them for the circumstance under which they are being use, and deploy them into the network of the future to be discovered by network capabilities that will utilise them.
With microservices being currently a prevalent approach to providing re-usability and modularity for new solutions, the charging approach of the future needs to move away from the concept of the flexibly configurable monolith (regardless of how well integrated all the components are), to a composition approach for new charging flow logic, along with the packaging of the microservices and their configuration into a function that is fit for purpose and can be deployed anywhere in the network. Tying this back to the service creation aspects of the catalogue will be key to enabling a service provider to add the composability of the monetisation model into the mix of capabilities already involved with bundling and publishing sellable things.
Time to market is often what can give one service provider a competitive edge over their competition. When this competition includes OTTs, media companies and even banks, as well the telco down the road, maybe it’s time for a new approach.
Mark Collins is Senior Product Manager at Openet and an experienced Manager in the Telecoms Software Industry with over 15 years experience managing products and projects.