Impacts of new trends in BSS
Since its early days, business support systems were predominantly impacted by new trends in technology, people´s behavior and the economy. I will here explain how today’s new and emerging trends are shaping the BSS landscape of a hyper-connected society.
Since their inception, communication service providers had one main goal in mind: monetization. That´s the reason why Business Support Systems (BSS) were born. They are a set of interconnected systems and functions that allow for the monetization of operator assets, including the collection of contract payments that charge for services on time, and according to the end user contract agreement.
In the 1980s (remember dial-up?), fixed phones with high tariffs and low bandwidth data connection needs set the tone for BSS systems catering for simpler portfolios. Then the 1990s came with mobile networks, pre-paid payments and people becoming more mobile, which meant a demand for a more complex architecture to make the right products available to the correct subscribers at the right time.
Finally, now in a new century, we have seen the explosion of internet usage (streaming, for example), social networking, and business connectivity needs that have brought extra requirements into BSS, meaning faster time to market services and decreased operational costs. So, what is coming now?
The current role of BSS
Here’s an example: A customer goes to a point of sale, browses a customer portal or searches the operator´s mobile app. A list of available products is presented, and the customer chooses the most suitable one after checking conditions and prices. As soon as the purchase is confirmed, it is decomposed into several requests to many internal systems in order to activate it for that particular subscriber. Finally, the customer starts using the service and the operator makes sure they’re charging the user as per the contract agreement that was accepted. In this small paragraph we just summarized the four main areas that BSS deals with: customer management, product management, order management and revenue management.
There have been many different trends from earlier stages of its evolution driving the requirements on business support systems, such as:
- Network evolution from fixed to mobile 2G, 3G and 4G.
- Convergence of products such as fixed, mobile (voice, SMS, data), TV and fixed broadband.
- Increased number of different products and bundle availability and eligibility.
- Complexity of products, contracts and pricing rules.
- Evolution of different channels and customer behavior (salesperson vs. do-it-yourself, for example).
- Increased network and IT architecture complexity for order decomposition and fulfillment.
- Rating and charging becoming more online instead of offline (especially for data).
Wait, there is more coming!
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, 5G is switched on in several markets and, “it goes beyond connecting people to fully realizing the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Digital infrastructure can make distance less relevant than ever. 5G is the key to making it all work – driving economic value from enhanced mobile broadband to industry digitalization. That, in turn, will require an ecosystem of technology, regulatory, security and industry partners to deliver on the potential”.
The same report also shows that mobile data traffic grew 82 percent between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019 driven by the rising number of smartphone subscriptions, plus an increasing average data volume per subscription. The number of IoT connections is already growing rapidly, especially with broadband IoT (4G connectivity) in areas such as asset management, fleet management, traffic safety, drones and smart metering. These trends are already challenging service providers to update or transform their BSS landscape to accommodate new requirements, such as:
- More and different users and units – Can we charge sensors or electricity instead of mobile number and bytes? How do we activate a third-party fleet management IoT application after a customer subscription?
- New business models – Is it possible to charge for a specific 5G network slice with low latency? What about seamlessly adding third-party charges into my customer invoice?
- Reduced time to market – Can we quickly launch new products and make them available in third- party web portals?
- Monetization – Can we package parts of my BSS, make them available to enterprise customers as cloud applications and generate extra revenue?
And it doesn´t stop here. The future promises to challenge the BSS environment even more. Technology is promising more advantages than ever before. People want things to be cheaper, faster, more convenient and delivered to their doors at no extra cost. The predictions are that there’ll be supermarkets without checkouts; clothes shops that take your measurements in seconds and carry out custom tailoring in minutes; schools with an increasing robotization of teachers, and hospitals with non-human doctors; autonomous cars; restaurants with mechanized menus; galleries displaying artwork made by artificial intelligence (AI), and live music performances by algorithmic composers. These are just a few examples of future possibilities. Many of these examples might seem like science fiction – but they are already being realized in society. The one common factor to all of these ideas is connectivity. With connectivity comes the need to provide the best customer experience, allowing customers to choose the perfect product for their personal and business needs. These new orders will have to be fulfilled in a more complex landscape, so operators can keep making money and finding new revenue streams. BSS will be there to save the day!
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