Small operators can thrive, as long as their BSS allows it

Small operators can thrive, as long as their BSS allows it

Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Rethink Technology Research

What is the future for the small service provider? Every day we hear of operators merging in order to achieve greater scale and expand their capabilities, and of how even the giants are being squeezed by over-the-top (OTT) players.

Yet we also hear that for communications service providers (CSPs) to remain profitable in the OTT age they need to become an IT player, turning the network into an applications platform to deliver differentiated services in an agile way. I see success coming in vertical integration – combining quality connectivity with content and applications that are personalized to the user.

This process is not the preserve of the Tier-1 players. Understanding the needs of customers and attracting partners to help create strong content can be achieved at any scale. And in fact, smaller operators may be better placed to know their customers, and match content, pricing, network quality and other loyalty drivers to their needs.

This scenario envisages a sort of ‘long tail’ of CSPs. Connecting up remote or sparsely populated user groups, or those which are difficult to reach such as consumers on an oil rig, or even a business premises, may benefit from a specialized CSP. Plus there will be more and more requirements for local or specialized providers, to serve communities with particular languages or service requirements.

So, there is a clear need for smaller CSPs to ensure these diverse groups get services of the same quality and relevance as everyone else. Yet those CSPs face significant challenges. The days of a ‘mom and pop’ telco making a living from basic connectivity are ending. Users expect high quality connectivity and a constantly changing, relevant set of content, apps and services.

To support that need, smaller CSPs needs to be agile and innovative, while keeping the costs of providing services low. The secret is in the business support system (BSS), but not the hefty, complex, expensive monolith of the past that is ill-suited to a smaller operator’s business model and cost base. For operators of all sizes to emulate the agile processes of Web providers and turn their networks into software platforms, they need a BSS which supports that. It must be scalable, with modules that can be added as required and costs which align to the number of users. And above all it needs to be flexible, allowing operators to run their business online and on the fly – to mix and match options to create personalized bundles; to link all the information about a customer, wherever it is held; to launch new applications quickly and remove old ones.

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