For many mobile operators LTE is a new start. LTE is truly the next generation of infrastructure. LTE makes the public network an IP network and all traffic becomes data. On the one hand, an all-IP network should simplify operations and eliminate some of the OSS silos that have been built up over the years.
On the other hand, an all-IP network represents an entirely new approach to everything from network engineering and product development to fulfillment, assurance, and billing. As the cost of deploying infrastructure and capacity continues to climb, operator revenues are leveling off as consumers and businesses buy maximum capacity and regulators control the price. Faced with the challenge of managing the cost of creating capacity against revenue generation, operators are developing offers that make connectivity a component of new products, not the only product.
The Bottleneck is Back
The widespread deployment of product catalogs over the past few years effectively moved the fulfillment bottleneck from order capture and processing to provisioning and activation. The individual OSS stacks used for fulfillment across multiple layers of incompatible infrastructure continues to prevent operators from implementing a seamless fulfillment process. Once the product and service catalogs were consolidated to a single entity, there was still the problem of activating a customer’s services across numerous layers of infrastructure. But LTE fixes that. There is only one type of network to activate and, at least theoretically, the fulfillment bottleneck is gone.
With that solution in sight, focus returns to the products. Just because an operator has the ability to bundle connectivity as a component, doesn’t mean the product catalog can handle it. When hundreds of applications are connected via multiple access methods and devices, fulfillment solutions must be seamless, automated, and driven by a powerful centralized catalog of components that include applications, features, connectivity, and infrastructure. All-IP infrastructure pushes the bottleneck back to the OSS. A data-driven OSS architecture gives operators the ability to rapidly define components and products, automates fulfillment, and monitors the end-to-end process to prevent costly errors and fallout.
Catalog at the Core
When all traffic is data, products can be built from components that include applications like VoIP or HD sports combined with hosting, storage, management, and – yes – connectivity. To rapidly and accurately arrange all these components into a product that can be delivered to a single user on-demand requires a dynamic, centralized catalog that delivers reliable data to product development, fulfillment, activation, assurance, billing, and care functions. A single data thread from the customer to the infrastructure that activates each product component at the right time, in the right place, for the right customer. A centralized product catalog, integrated with customer data that drives every sales channel and every order fulfillment in the same way using the same data creates efficiency and reliability while minimizing risk and eliminating customer confusion.
Implementing LTE is expensive and operators are being pressured from all sides to deliver more capacity faster and cheaper. The incremental increase in revenue from LTE connectivity will not cover the costs unless operators find a way to monetize it with a large menu of products that are rapidly defined and instantly activated. LTE delivers the network, let the catalog deliver the products.