Seamless service is one of the hottest topics in the telecommunications industry today, with good reason. For service providers, seamless service means new opportunities to offer exciting and new subscriber offerings while leveraging the value of existing assets. Perhaps even more importantly, as service providers face increasing competition from next generation Internet-based media companies, seamless service is one of the most valuable differentiators available to service providers.
However, as network operators build their next generation networks, ensuring seamless service presents a multi-faceted challenge: how to successfully manage a network environment that enables multiple devices to serve up multiple media across multiple access networks using technologies from multiple vendors. Are the operators up to this challenge, or are they destined to become the dreaded 'dumb pipe'?
For true media mobility between devices and between different access networks (in the home, the work place, in the car and on-the-go), service providers must not only provide seamless handover, but improved security and guaranteed quality of service. Current Operational Support Systems (OSS) and network management tools will need to be smarter and be able to dive deeper and lower in the network.
As networks advance in complexity, it will be necessary to build more intelligent and networked management systems that are both vertically and horizontally integrated. Each managed resource will need to be supported by an autonomic management layer to enable a self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing and self-protecting network. And just like the core network, the subscriber network has layers that must be managed: device, network and service. It is not enough to simply install and monitor the consumer devices -- the subscriber's network needs to be viewed as a microversion of the macro network.
Service providers are at a crossroads. Those that succeed in providing seamless services have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen their competitive position, increase subscriber loyalty, and ultimately average revenue per user (ARPU). However, those that don't take action or fail to shield the consumer from the underlying complexity of seamless services will fall by the wayside.
The networks that will enable seamless mobility are the IMS and Next Generation Networks that are currently being specified by various Industry standards organizations. Leading network equipment providers, industry standards organizations, service provider customers, and governments will have to work together to define the standards that will drive adoption of seamless mobility.
One effort currently underway is the creation of an open, multitechnology, multiprotocol OSS interface that will allow network managers to discover and learn in real time the management capabilities and the network resource models of the network it is managing. Motorola is an active participant in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a partnership of worldwide standardization bodies that is leading the specification of the new Information Model Integration reference Point (IRP).
Closely aligned and compatible with the 3GPP IRP concept is the Next Generation OSS (NGOSS) standard currently being developed under the supervision of the TeleManagement Forum (TMF). Network equipment providers are working together to create a comprehensive, integrated framework for developing, procuring and deploying operational and business support systems and software. The 3GPP IRP Methodology fits well into the TMF NGOSS Architecture, which is a key enabler for autonomic management.
More and more, consumers will come to expect seamless mobility, placing increasing pressure on service providers to deliver. As an industry, network equipment providers have made the commitment to develop the kinds of standards that will enable seamless mobility but for the full potential of seamless services and mobility to be realized, service providers will need to step up and embrace a new management paradigm.
About the author
Tom Elam is the director of software marketing for the Broadband Solutions Group in Motorola's Home and Networks Mobility division. Mr. Elam is responsible for the ongoing success and growth of the Broadband Solutions Group software products including CCE (content management for carrier digital merchandise), NBBS (device management for carriers), and eCare (server-based remote desktop control software).
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