|Europe I 2007
|Service portability across converged networks
|EMEA Managing Director
Mike Betz serves as Bridgewater Systems’ Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Prior to joining Bridgewater Systems, Mr Betz spent 20 years in senior positions within the sales, marketing and product management groups of leading telecommunications and technology organizations. Mr Betz most recently served as Vice President and Managing Director of Whale Communications’ EMEA operations. He also held a series of high-level roles at a number of networking companies, including Concord Communications, System Management Arts (SMARTS) Inc., Compuware Corp., Oracle and IBM. Mike Betz holds a BSC in Engineering (Mechanical and Manufacturing) from the Amsterdam Institute of Technology. Additionally, he earned a post academic marketing institute certificate from Catholic University, Brabant, The Netherlands and a post academic business school certificate from PAO Bedrijfs en Natuurwetenschappen, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Converged networks can provide subscribers with a seamless fixed/wireless environment that delivers the services they require no matter what device they are using. With converged networks, subscriber-centric policy management covering all the networks, services, content and applications available plays a critical role solving the complex challenges facing operators. Consolidating these controls produces a series of management efficiencies, lets operators deal flexibly with their subscribers’ demands in real time, and facilitates the development and marketing of new, differentiated services.
By implementing subscriber-centric policy management, carriers can ensure a consistent subscriber experience across networks, applications and devices It is important to realize that convergence goes far beyond bringing together fixed and mobile networks under partnership banners. Convergence is bringing together technologies, operators, services and subscribers, and it is driving the need for service portability – delivering the right service and a consistent experience to the subscriber over the best, most appropriate network for the device. The subscribers’ desire for seamless mobility and service portability is creating challenges for operators bringing together disparate networks and subscriber bases. Operators need to consider the individual subscribers, their expectations and how to leverage a broader network experience to gain a business advantage. They also need ‘policy’ controls to direct, enrich and bill the subscriber’s interaction with networks and applications, to drive up average revenue per user, ARPU, and improve subscriber retention. Economies of scale are driving mergers, acquisitions and partnerships among carriers. This is fuelled by carriers wanting to leverage their infrastructure investment across a broad base of subscribers and services, and expand market share to ensure future revenues and business growth. To do this, operators must bring together numerous diverse network infrastructures, applications and services. These disparate infrastructures each have their own subscriber database, policy store, authentication scheme and specialized interfaces to billing and provisioning systems and are costly to manage. This causes time -to-market delays for new services due to extensive provisioning requirements and increased management costs related to supporting multiple infrastructures. All of which results in a fragmented network experience for the subscriber accessing different applications and services across multiple networks, and drives up customer care costs and subscriber churn. Beyond integrating networks, operators need a unified subscriber view that allows them to understand subscriber behaviour and manage the complex entitlement relationships between the subscriber and applications, and networks – regardless of the access network, device, or where the application resides within the content and application ecosystem. Subscriber-centric policy management plays a critical role in solving network convergence challenges facing operators, enabling management efficiencies and allowing operators to create flexible policy controls around the subscriber to offer new, differentiated services. Bundling services Broadband data and mobile phone user are reaching saturation in many markets, where the majority of consumers have a handset (or two) as well as a home-based Internet connection. This trend is driving mergers and alliances as telecom service providers look for ways to capture more of the subscriber’s spending on data services by bundling a variety of services and special offers. For example, in Europe, NTL Telewest recently acquired the Virgin Mobile brand, making them one of the first quad-play (voice, data, video and mobile) operators. British Telecom and Vodafone have forged an alliance focused on converged services, and Telefonica purchased O2 in Germany. Vodafone has also teamed up with cable companies in Germany to roll out its ‘Vodafone at Home’ and ‘Vodafone Zuhause’ services. These alliances are aimed at offering the subscriber a broader array of similar services across cable, fixed line and wireless networks. As a result, service portability becomes increasingly important, including the notion of offering the best application experience that has the highest quality of service, QoS, lowest cost, highest bandwidth and is most appropriate for the subscriber device. As operators link networks and services in a highly competitive and growing market, they need solutions that will allow them to create and launch compelling service bundles that bring together a range of applications to build new revenue streams. Overlay these with time-sensitive targeted marketing offers and operators can create a sticky subscriber experience that makes it difficult for subscribers to churn. To meet these needs, service providers need a common policy management infrastructure that enables them to model subscribers and services, including service bundles and promotions, that can be rolled out quickly to a broad base of subscribers who do not care (and may not know) if they are on a WiMAX, UMTS, DSL, fibre-optic or cable connection. Common infrastructures A key step toward network convergence is a common authentication platform managing subscriber access and authentication process for both wireless and wireline networks. Using a single platform instead of several reduces costs, brings management efficiencies and eliminates the problems customers have dealing with a variety of access networks, different log-on procedures and user interfaces. A single platform solution with a common authentication scheme encourages enterprise customers to subscribe to a wider variety of networks services and drives up revenues. Corporate administrators appreciate the simplified network management solutions a unified platform brings. A consolidated network solution allows service providers to reduce customer care costs significantly by delegating some administrative functions to enterprise administrators, and lets enterprise users be more responsive to their own user base. Simplified charging With a single policy management infrastructure managing access to all networks and applications, operators can streamline the interfaces to operational support systems, OSS, and charging systems, and reduce provisioning time. By simplifying changes to charging systems, service providers can deploy innovative charging models easily and differentiate their services to appeal to a broader base of subscribers. Subscriber needs As carriers offer more services, they find it harder to maintain multiple development and deployment environments. The network infrastructure, for instance, will be a mix of IP and non-IP technologies for the foreseeable future, so service development and delivery should not be coupled to specific networks. Operators will need to offer services from a broad content and application ecosystem – both within their domain, and hosted by third parties. To create an intelligent policy control over subscriber access to networks and applications, that aligns policy decisions to business needs, service providers need comprehensive, real-time subscriber data (see Fig. 1): • Static information about subscriber entitlements such as network type, applications, service tier, QoS; • Dynamic information related to real-time subscriber state, including device type, time of day, day of week, presence, location and IP address; and, • Previous subscriber usage behaviour, billing by quota, prepaid account, units or time, etc. The operator can create complex policies related to a wide range of conditions easily, including service tier entitlements, time of day, day of week restrictions or usage thresholds, and develop rules based upon a combination of subscriber data, including real-time conditions (see Fig. 2). An intuitive user interface can facilitate policy creation by the business services groups within the operator’s organization, enabling them to offer services keeping pace with subscriber demand, without the need for extensive technical expertise. Networks and applications must be able to interact with the subscriber’s home provider to determine the subscriber’s network or application usage rights, or even location and device type. The home provider needs policy controls to govern access to subscriber information by applications, and to prioritize access for preferred providers – providing new ways to monetize subscriber access in partnership with third parties. Quality of service No longer solely dependent on the infrastructure, QoS, quality of service, is now about subscribers having the same level of satisfaction and service whether they are using a Blackberry or a laptop with a UMTS adapter. Ensuring consistent subscriber QoS on any device, network or application, helps service providers reduce subscriber churn. In the past, operators worried about having bandwidth available to meet subscribers’ QoS expectations. While this still poses challenges, subscribers have upped the ante and want the right QoS experience regardless of which device they pull from their briefcase. This can be achieved with a policy management system that is focused upon subscriber entitlements. If a subscriber has access to IPTV services and uses it for video-on-demand training he might require more IPTV bandwidth to maintain QoS. With a subscriber-centric policy management infrastructure, he can personally specify a QoS boost in real time using a personalized self-care portal. For the carrier, this means a satisfied subscriber and more revenue. This can be difficult to achieve when the subscriber’s profile or application’s policy control is in a static database tied to a specific wireline network, with no opportunity for the subscriber to request additional QoS as needed. Converging markets In the end, success in this market will be tied to service portability. With a subscriber-centric policy management approach, providers can use the most appropriate networks to deliver applications and services in accordance with the subscriber’s needs for bandwidth and QoS, and at the lowest delivery cost for the device the subscriber is using. This type of centralized approach resolves the challenges and costs associated with the separate network and application ‘silos’ that provide a fragmented subscriber experience and hamper the provider’s ability to capitalize on bundled applications and time-sensitive offers. By centralizing key policy management functions, such as authentication, authorization and accounting for multiple networks and applications, operators can derive efficiencies, accelerate service launch, and create innovative services and charging models. Finally, operators can deliver a subscriber-centric experience regardless of the network used.