The world of 4G presents an incredible range of opportunities for wireless carriers and their hardware and software suppliers. Along with the obvious benefits of increased data speeds and extra capacity, 4G technology also carries the possibility for a much wider range of business models (such as pay per use), a far more diverse device portfolio (from embedded laptops to connected washing machines) and a plethora of new services (such as VoIP).
Of course, there are obstacles--lots of obstacles. From installing new network components to releasing suitable devices, 4G is no picnic. And one of the industry's lesser-known but nonetheless steepest challenges involves the guts of wireless, the operational support system (OSS) and business support system (BSS) pipes that connect services, devices and billing systems to make the whole thing work. Today, the OSS/BSS paradigm is relatively straightforward: There's an individual system for each individual service offered by wireless carriers, which creates a one-to-one relationship between services and support systems. However, in a 4G future, support systems will need to provision, monitor and bill for an intricate web of services, technologies and offerings.
"4G is a major disruptive change to the service provider's business," explained David Chambers, solutions manager for mobile OSS at vendor Amdocs. "Many third-party services need to be supported by the service provider as if they were their own, affecting everything from capacity planning, fault management, service provisioning, billing and service assurance."
The trick, said Accenture's Miguel Myhrer, will be migrating operators' legacy systems to this new paradigm. And it appears that the transition will be no easy task, no matter the strategic direction. It will be a long-haul process.
"Service providers need to have a clear, long-term OSS architectural vision, and work toward that goal through rationalization and consolidation in a measured approach," said Amdocs' Chambers. "They must ensure that each major new technology project, including the different aspects of 4G, takes a significant step down that clear path."
Chambers suggested operators should consider outsourcing whatever OSS and BSS systems they can, in order to transition to a "modern" architecture over the spread of several years.
Indeed, some see a rough transition to 4G no matter the strategic course. Elisabeth Rainge, director of next-generation networks for research and consulting firm IDC, in an interview earlier this year argued the wireless industry will need to undergo a major revision to its approach to the OSS/BSS.
OSS/BSS and how it relates to 4G network efficiency will be a hot topic at the 4G virtual conference Oct. 28. Check out the "OSS and BSS - the key to 4G network efficiency" panel at 12:30 p.m. EST. Click here to register.