If you listen to the Wall Street analysts—or even your neighbor whose telecommunications experience amounts to dialing a telephone number, or checking a stock portfolio via the Internet—you would think that the industry is dead.
But put your shovels away. It’s not time to dig its grave; in fact, it’s far from dead. I see more opportunities now potentially for billing and OSS executives and their vendors than any time in the last 30 years.
Bankruptcies Are Not Necessarily That Bad
First let’s examine the impact of all these recent carrier bankruptcy filings: Other than for investors and people who may have wasted years away in career development, it isn’t as bad as it looks. A carrier network at or near bankruptcy is like a newly built luxury resort hotel in bankruptcy. The original owners and investors built it way over budget, so much so that it would require 100 percent room occupancy at $500 per room per night to make their interest payments. They file for bankruptcy. Finally a new set of investors pick up the property and make money at 50 percent occupancy at $150 per night.
The point is that fiber in the ground, CLEC collocation cages, interconnection agreements and other such assets have value and can create carrier wealth.
Carrier Focus on OSS and Billing
Carrier CEOs and CFOs have passed down the marching orders:
1. Sell more of what we are currently offering, and focus on service provisioning.
2. Do whatever it takes to keep the customers we have, and that means focusing on billing and customer care.
3. Reduce operating costs, and that means upgrading billing systems and other OSSs across the board.
In short, the only way a carrier business can survive is to upgrade the ordering and service provisioning processes and billing systems. If a particular carrier does not, someone else will pick up that carrier at a fire sale or a bankruptcy price and make it happen with the acquired assets.
Top 10 Carrier Opportunities Today
But what about new opportunities for billing and OSS products. Here’s my top 10.
1. Wireless Internet: Mobile wireless carriers have no choice but to jump with both feet into providing wireless data and Internet access. Every carrier will have to upgrade its OSSs to be successful, or at least keep its existing customers from being lured away by the competition.
2. RBOCs in long distance: The next 12 months should see the RBOCs providing long distance in more than 20 states all requiring a billing system upgrade.
3. Cable TV: Cable modems and Internet access services can outperform DSL because of the bandwidth available on coaxial cable. But the cable providers can’t succeed providing unlimited user bandwidth at flat rate pricing.
4. IXCs are CLECs: There is nothing wrong with the business model of IXCs getting unbundled loops from the ILECs and providing basic CLEC-type voice services. All the IXCs need for profits is an all-electronic ordering and provisioning system with the ILECs and OSS perseverance.
5. VoIP Centrex: While VoIP will not replace circuit switching anytime soon (or maybe ever), the opportunity for voice over LANs to a public VoIP Centrex server has service value.
6. Managed IP: No carrier has really focused on being exclusively a carrier’s carrier in the wholesale managed IP space and dealing with intercarrier usage-based settlements.
7. Gigabit Ethernet MANs: Its technically feasible to deploy the new Gigabit Ethernet products as a metropolitan area network (MAN) carrier operation. All a carrier would need is a service provisioning, billing and real-time inventory OSS.
8. Multi-tenant DSL: Selling DSLs one at a time for Internet access is a losing proposition as a data CLECs. But a shared tenant building DSLAM connected via T-1s to an IP network service provider makes service value sense. Appropriate new billing and OSSs are needed, or it will be just a building owner’s hobby.
9. Public 802.11b: The laptop vendors are overjoyed with the wireless enhanced 802.11b protocol, particularly in the education market. Great potential for carriers also exists at airports, coffee shops, libraries and the like. In addition to billing, public encryption key infrastructure is a must here.
10. IP video multicasts: Nothing has more potential for eating up fiber bandwidth capacity faster than corporate multicast video via managed IP networks. However, there is also no greater challenge for billing, service provisioning and intercarrier settlement systems.
These are my opportunities and signs of life in the telecommunications industry—at least for billing and OSS folks.
Searching for Signs of Life in the Telecommunications Industry
Posted in Articles, Billing, Courts, Finance & Regulatory, Provisioning, Wireless, Wireless Operators, Wireless Services, Voice, VoIP