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Nokia Study: 89% of Telecom Operators Plan to Upgrade Their BSS

Real-Time Charging Is the No. 1 Reason Telecom Companies Want to Invest in BSS for Their Networks

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A new study from Nokia found that an overwhelming majority of telecom operators are considering upgrading their business support systems (BSS) so that they can create new services and charge customers for them.

Currently, most telecom operators rely heavily on the consumer market for the bulk of their revenue. But to grow and expand into new markets, such as enterprise and entertainment, they need to evolve their business models and develop new ways of charging for their services, which, in turn, requires them to revamp their existing BSS.

Nokia surveyed 100 communications service providers from around the world last fall, including those in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. An overwhelming 98% of those surveyed said they would need to evolve their legacy monetization systems and BSS to support new services made possible with 5G networks. In addition, those surveyed said that they expect that 60% of new revenue will come from these new 5G-enabled services.

Those new 5G business models include charging customers based on functions like quality of service (speed and latency of the network), charging customers “dynamically” or based on the network resources that are currently available (similar to an Uber-like experience), or charging based on network usage, which includes not just per-gigabit used, but also the duration of the usage.

One area that is a priority for telecom operators is the ability to handle real-time charging. This is not a new idea, in fact, real-time charging is something that many BSS companies advocated for back in the 4G era.

When asked by Nokia about specific investment areas for BSS, two-thirds of respondents said that real-time charging is essential for 5G networks. Other areas of importance were billing and invoicing and customer relationship management (CRM).

Investing in BSS

But not all telecom operators will upgrade and evolve their BSS in the same way. Nokia’s survey found that 48% of those surveyed said that they are going to extend their existing BSS and try to use them to handle the new charging models.

According to Jonah Pransky, head of digital portfolio product lifecycle management (PLM) at Nokia, extending the existing BSS stack means that the operator will likely add functionality or customize their existing system so that it will continue to work as it currently does in 4G. Pransky warned that this is a short-term solution because if a telecom operator wants to implement a new functionality that requires the operator’s 4G online charging system to interwork with the 5G network, but the BSS system is not optimized for the 5G network, it probably will not be able to monetize all the new services.

However, the Nokia survey also found that 47% of operators said they would implement an architectural evolution in their BSS. This means that the service providers plan to use a 5G online charging system that will interact with all the 5G network functionality. This is a more effective way to monetize the 5G network, according to Pransky.

Another 42% of operators surveyed said that they plan to deploy a separate software stack that will support 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). Pransky said that this means that operators will deploy a software stack to support customers on their 5G networks, but they can still support their existing 4G customers with their older BSS. “As customers move over to new 5G plans and thus, the new system, they can be treated to a much more transparent, real-time digital experience that older systems could not support,” he said.

Pransky added that if the 5G BSS stack is a converged charging system, it will be able to interface with the 4G network so that if a customer does fall back to the 4G network, they will still be handled by the 5G BSS and have the same CX.

And if a telecom provider has an additional software stack for its enterprise IoT customers, Pransky said it is unlikely that this software stack will have much overlap with the operator’s existing BSS. That means that the new IoT software stack can be optimized for IoT devices, which will likely be high in volume, but have low value because IoT devices require little amounts of data over longer periods of time.

Clearly, 5G is rapidly becoming mainstream in almost every part of the world. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report: November 2021, more than 180 service providers globally have commercially launched 5G services. By the end of 2021, Ericsson forecast that there would be more than 660 million 5G subscriptions.

Nokia’s survey overwhelmingly indicates that service providers realize the need to upgrade their BSS with the launch of 5G services, but it is not certain how quickly this will happen. Nokia recommends that operators be ready to adapt their BSS quickly to give them the flexibility they need to grow their businesses and remain competitive.

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