On the eve of Mobile World Congress, we’re preparing to hear tales of LTE deployment and mobile network convergence as we navigate the new venue and get lost among the endless rows of exhibits. Operators are nearly unanimous in their belief that LTE is an opportunity for a fresh start. 3G was a rapid response to unanticipated data demand but 4G and LTE – well that’s a different story. So surely operators cannot contemplate a fresh start without considering OSS. Once the design, deployment, testing, and acceptance of the network is completed – then what?
LTE is not an evolution of existing mobile infrastructure – LTE is a replacement for it. LTE is IP access for mobile users and constitutes the final step in creating an all-IP public network. When it comes to operations for LTE (and the associated IP infrastructure), there’s more to consider than network management. Services like voice and video that used to require a unique silo of infrastructure and OSS are now networked applications that must be managed along with applications for geo-location, storage, cloud computing, and the list goes on and on. Add to that all the products, partnerships, and content that are enabled by a mobile broadband data network and OSS for LTE becomes a special kind of nightmare. Implementing a unique OSS silo for every application would be impossible and no sane operator is considering it. That said, what are they considering?
When all traffic is data, operational dynamics change. Operators must now worry about managing applications and servers, while monitoring and enforcing entirely new measures of quality and performance. Real-time access to the traffic running across the network is no longer the domain of the NOC. Across the business, from the Care Center to the Product Managers to the customer, infrastructure data is in demand. Everybody wants to know what’s going on and all those OSS applications need access to network data. And now we’re talking about virtualization. We’ve already seen it in IT infrastructure and it’s only fitting that it be applied to network infrastructure now that it’s all connected the same way. Managing layers of network virtualization and ensuring performance of SDN-delivered connectivity requires dynamic monitoring, specialized intelligence, and automation. Humans can’t react quickly enough and the OSS must be configured for autonomous operation.
A Plethora of Products
Analytics solutions are coming to market that enable operators to recognize customer behaviors and offer up on-demand products or add-ons that increase capacity (video download), improve performance (gaming), or modify access (WiFi offload). If the OSS is generating a product offer on the spot, then the necessary components must already exist somewhere – right? Can the product catalog handle that? Can the fulfillment systems? What about billing? The consistency and commonality of an all-IP data network opens up an entirely new vault of potential product offerings and we’ve only just scratched the surface. For every product, every user, and every transaction there are OSS solutions that must be engaged and integrated. Those are challenges that must be addressed before LTE can become the revenue catalyst that operators need it to be.
So, as you walk the halls at MWC and marvel at the future that LTE makes possible, think for a moment about operations. We’re not just managing another network overlay, we’re rebuilding the public network for the next generation (or two) and it’s important to consider how best to run it.
The LTE future is right around the corner – plan accordingly.