Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blueprint: Better Service Control for Telco Agility

By Thomas Vasen, VP Product Marketing and Marketing, DigitalRoute

In a globally deregulated telecoms industry where intense competition is rife, differentiated products and services mean commercial success. To deliver these, lean and agile systems are required.

In this regard, though, the current situation looks grim. Many telcos are fixed on addressing issues that mitigate minor risks rather than trying to exploit growing opportunities. This makes little sense. The case of PCRF is a good example.

Applied as they are today, PCRF (policy and charging rules function) applications enforce policies that invariably constrict service usage rather than looking for new ways to expand the relationship with the customer. It’s ironic, because they should be able to easily do the latter. The “other half” of the Policy application set, service control, addresses what might be called the “positive side of the equation.”

Service control, is, like Policy Control, built on the mediation platform. But where it differs is that it is designed to quickly and easily enable new services that advanced networks are increasingly being deployed to support.  The cornerstone of service control’s value is thus the enablement of service agility and this is built in from first principles.

It makes sense that this happens in mediation, traditionally, all about adapting to the landscape and making data fit with all the requirements and purposes around itself.  Doing this quickly, with a very high degree of self-control and flexibility, is where the agility comes from.

Service control supplements PCRF. It adds a new dimension to what the Mediation/Policy box can provide. Furthermore, since service control offloads certain functions in the traditional Business Support System (BSS) infrastructure, such as billing, incremental new services can be introduced with very different cost-per-transaction profiles. This means the legacy BSS cost stack need no longer represent a barrier to progress for operators wary of the limitations of their existing infrastructure. This is a common and very real concern.

Service control’s three fundamental deliverable characteristics underline what it delivers:

  • To decrease time-to-market and total-cost-of ownership in architectures where legacy is a barrier to service innovation
  • To provide a cost effective platform that increases service possibility through legacy BSS offload
  • To increase the ability to exploit the profit opportunity contained in Over-The-Top (OTT) services.

Consider service control in action. In highly competitive markets, versatility is key to opening up new revenue streams that often present themselves only briefly such as when regulatory statutes change in unpredictable ways and a brief window of opportunity arises as a result.

In this case, service control can provide Subscriber Usage control, Network Experience monitoring and the ability to improve subscriber interaction and engagement. Service control’s real-time enablement layer, with only small changes to its core infrastructure, can support incremental new service launches quickly.

Where profits are declining and customer spend is stagnant or traditionally dominant services (like voice) have been commoditized, service control can help access and exploit new revenue streams. Its network-based control infrastructure enables differentiation on the basis of either the service or the subscriber and partners. Other key players in service delivery are easily accommodated into the back-end, enabling critical revenue shares to be quickly implemented.

Service control increases Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA) while not reducing the bundled content delivered to end-users. An example is using service control to support an innovative sponsored data offering. This is a use case legacy BSS struggles to accommodate.

Opening Doors to Sponsored Data

Sponsored data requires splitting data bits into different buckets, where one stream goes to the consumer’s individual bucket and the other to a common one, sponsored by a content provider. It works like a 0800 number or an e-commerce site where a second party pays for postage on the goods purchased.

Having many people consuming the same sponsored bucket is a particularly tricky challenge and requires fast, capable and lean systems in place. Partner enablement, roaming buckets, and Freemium service offerings are also addressed by service control.

For operators, realizing these things can be handled in existing mediation and policy platforms is appealing. Service control’s easy configuration enables sponsored data simply by adding a newly configured use case into a platform that is already installed in the data center. The operator’s end-customers are attracted by a service in which sponsored content is not counted in their data bundles and the operator itself gains a new revenue stream by being able to directly charge the OTT provider for delivery of the sponsored service. This increases ARPA for a percentage of its traffic while not reducing the bundles that it sells to end-users.

The solution is capable of metering all subscriber and partner information and its open nature enables easy integration with any existing downstream applications. Its easily configurable business logic supports innovation and responsiveness to the demands of the market.

By handling these requirements, service control addresses the three key questions that CSPs have to answer in order to succeed commercially:

  • Can I offset the exponentially increased cost of many new services by deploying attractive, low-margin services quickly as an upsell opportunity? 
  • Can I address the requirement for service transparency and tiered offerings via a solution that enables both subscriber and service control from the same platform?
  • Can I deliver incremental services quickly and reactively enough that I can lead the market?

Service control takes the policy box into a new dimension, and offers telco service providers a big step towards next generation commercial success.

About the Author

Thomas Vasen, has over 15 year’s operational experience with product and service development in the telecoms industry. Before his present position with DigitalRoute, he was responsible for solution development at Service Assurance pioneer Polystar OSIX and before that he was an entrepreneur in a series of Voice over IP projects at operators in Europe. At B2 Bredband AB, the largest FTTH broadband operator in Sweden, he was responsible for the setup and operations of the 1st primary line local-loop replacement service launched on the SIP technology in the world. Thomas has studied at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and at the London School of Economics.

About DigitalRoute

DigitalRoute has been providing new approaches to enterprise data management since 1999. Its software platform offers high throughput and provides a unique degree of user configurability, processing all usage and statistical data extracted from the networks, including both billable and non-billable events. Over 300 leading companies worldwide actively use DigitalRoute technology to meet their data management needs, including a number of OEM partners who use our platform as a central part of their own offerings. DigitalRoute is built on the core values of Expertise, Open- Mindedness and Commitment. DigitalRoute is a venture-backed, privately held company with a turnover of 30m EUR in 2013 and a record of profitability since 2005. With close to 200 employees, the company is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden with regional offices in Gothenburg, Atlanta, and Kuala Lumpur. http://www.digitalroute.com/

Windstream to Separate Network Operations from Service Business

Windstream announced a bold plans to spin off its fiber and copper network, along with certain other assets, into an independent, publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT).  The network operations business would then lease back the physical assets to Windstream through a long-term triple-net exclusive lease with an initial estimated rent payment of $650 million per year.

The company said the separation of its physical network from its services business will enable it to become a more nimble competitor, while accelerating network investments, and maximizing shareholder value. The new REIT would be open to diversify its assets through acquisitions.

"This transaction will make Windstream a more nimble competitor in today’s increasingly dynamic communications marketplace and accelerate our deployment of advanced communications services," said Jeff Gardner, president and CEO of Windstream. "Additionally, the REIT will have geographically diverse, high-quality assets and sustainable cash flows with the ability to grow and diversify over time."

Windstream anticipates that the spinoff would occur in the first quarter of 2015.


  • Earlier this month, Windstream announced the nationwide availability of its enterprise-class Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).  Windstream’s UCaaS is a fully managed cloud-based solution, offered to enterprise and mid-sized businesses for a flat monthly rate. The UCaaS product suite is hosted in Windstream’s secure data centers and leverages Windstream’s high-quality MPLS with Quality of Service (QoS) for optimized performance. For its UCaaS solution, Windstream's partners include Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and ShoreTel.

Nokia Tests LTE Broadcast in 700MHz UHF Spectrum in Germany

Nokia Networks is participating in a field trial of wide-area TV broadcasting in Germany using a single LTE frequency within UHF spectrum.

The trial, which includes the Institut für Rundfunktechnik, the research institute of broadcasting companies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, Bavarian broadcast company, Bayerischer Rundfunk, and other research partners, is testing eMBMS (evolved Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service) LTE Broadcast for distributing TV over existing mobile broadband infrastructure. Subscribers would be able to watch TV on their devices without eating into their mobile data plan and independent of network load.

The trial uses a test license of spectrum, which is also referred to as 3GPP band 28 or "APT700". Nokia LTE equipment is deployed at four sites of the Bavarian broadcast company, Bayerischer Rundfunk, in northern Munich and connected by a high performance optical transport network.

“Today, when watching videos over a mobile network, the content is individually streamed to each user. With LTE Broadcast the same signal is received by many users at the same time, resulting in more efficient capacity and spectrum use,” said Hossein Moiin, chief technology officer, Nokia Networks. “Spectrum doesn’t need to be dedicated to either broadcast or broadband, but can be used flexibly for both according to users’ needs. We believe that LTE Broadcast is a technology well suited to distribute TV and broadcast services and will help us expand the benefits of mobile internet to everyone while evolving the TV viewing experience.”


Cambium Releases Wireless Radios for 5 GHz U-NII Spectrum

Cambium Networks released its ePMP Force 100, a high-gain, 5GHz integrated subscriber radio now supporting fixed outdoor wireless in the unlicensed national information infrastructure (U-NII) band covering 5150 and 5250MHz.

The ePMP Force 100’s release comes on the heels of Cambium Networks receiving FCC grant authorization to operate in the U-NII band.  The additional 100 MHz spectrum is available via download of software release 2.1.

The ePMP Force 100 can be deployed as a subscriber module that can connect to any ePMP access point, as well as peer nodes in point-to-point deployment configurations. Service providers who already have the ePMP 1000 Connectorized Radio in their networks have the option of purchasing the ePMP Dish separately to enhance throughput and increase deployment range.

Key features of the ePMP Force 100:

  • Frequency availability in the United States: 5150 – 5350 and 5470 – 5850MHz
  • Security: 128-bit AES encryption (CCMP mode)
  • Peak gain: 25 dBi antenna gain with 30 dBm of transmit power
  • Round Trip Latency: 6 ms (flexible frame mode), 17 ms (GPS Sync mode)
  • Throughput: 150 Mbps of real user data


Cloudwatt Deploys with Juniper's OpenContrail SDN

 Cloudwatt, a new public cloud provider based in France, has deployed Juniper's open source OpenContrail SDN to build a sovereign and secure public cloud for its enterprise customers. The network went live at the end of June.

Juniper said Cloudwatt is one of the most active contributors to the OpenContrail community to-date.

"The choice of an open source SDN solution was essential for us from a sovereignty perspective. By integrating OpenContrail with our choice of cloud management platform, OpenStack, we can greatly simplify our cloud network design and operations, seamlessly connect virtual and physical environments and scale out our cloud without compromising security and privacy. Ultimately, OpenContrail makes it possible for us to enhance sovereignty, contain network operation cost and to provide competitive pricing to our customers," stated Didier Renard, president and CEO, Cloudwatt.


  • Investors in Cloudwatt include Orange,Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and Thales.

  • In September 2013, Juniper Networks introduced OpenContrail, a new initiative that makes the source code library for its Contrail SDN solution available through an open source license.  OpenContrail will provide all the components necessary to run a data-center overlay including an SDN controller, virtual router, orchestration API, analytics and management console.  The use of OpenContrail is available via an Apache 2.0 License. 
    The company said it decided to offer an open source version of its SDN system due to customer interest in open source and the desire to boost innovation in the industry.  OpenContrail gives developers the opportunity to innovate, adopt and experiment with SDN technology that seamlessly integrates with existing network infrastructures.  
    The paid version of Contrail is backed by the company's full support resources.

Ericsson to Acquire MetraTech for Metadata-driven Billing

Ericsson agreed to acquire Boston-based MetraTech Corp., a provider of metadata-based billing, commerce and settlement solutions.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

MetraTech, which was founded in 1998, offers a flexible billing platform that supports new revenue models and global commerce that are being driven by IoT and XaaS. MetraTech’s metadata-driven MetraNet billing and settlement platform can support new NFV services and business models, as well as services in legacy silos. The company has 140 employees and contractors.

Ericsson said the acquisition extends its expertise in billing and expands its geographic presence in the US.

Per Borgklint, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Support Solutions, Ericsson says: “For a range of industries, thriving in the Networked Society means having the ability to quickly support new revenue models and shift strategies as fast as customer and partner needs evolve. MetraTech’s metadata-based billing solutions strengthen our extensive OSS and BSS portfolio and billing capabilities across a range of sectors, helping us extend our leadership as we support a world with increasingly more connections.”


  • Investors in MetraTech included Accel Partners and Vesbridge Partners.

BT Business Selects RingCentral's Cloud Phone Platform

BT Business has selected the RingCentral platform for a new generation of cloud business phone systems in the UK. Beginning early next year, the cloud phone system will be offered through BT Local Business, a network of independent BT businesses across the UK, and through BT's dedicated telesales call centers.

John Thorneycroft, Managing Director, Commercial and Marketing at BT Business said: "UK businesses are looking for a new generation of solutions to meet the rapidly changing communications needs of their distributed and mobile workforce. RingCentral brings unique cloud solutions with unparalleled ease of use and management, combined with a rich set of capabilities.”

The new generation of RingCentral’s cloud solution is now available with HD video and web conferencing.

Separately, RingCentral announced Q2 revenue of $52.8 million, up 40% from the second quarter of 2013. Service revenue was $47.9 million for the second quarter of 2014, up 39% from the second quarter of 2013. Product revenue was $4.9 million for the second quarter of 2014, up 52% from the second quarter of 2013. Net income (loss) per diluted share was ($0.20) for the second quarter of 2014 compared with ($0.60) for the second quarter of 2013.

RingCentral is headquartered in San Mateo, California.