Telemar Choice Indicative of Trend?
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By Susana Schwartz

One of South America's largest fixed-line and mobile operators, Telemar, recently chose the newly formed Telcordia/Accenture strategic alliance in the hopes of expediting new services introduction and implementing an end-to-end service fulfillment solution.

The contract might be indicative of a trend, as carriers transforming order management and provisioning processes look for the help of “prime integrators” or “services integrators” in an effort to align OSS/BSS strategy.

“There should be some skepticism whenever companies, even some of the largest ones in a given space, claim ‘end-to-end’ anything, particularly when it comes to OSS/BSS technologies,” says Jeff Cotrupe, consulting analyst to Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) and founder and CEO of MarketPOWER, LLC. “It’s up to the carriers to determine exactly how many areas of OSS/BSS Telcordia and Accenture are jointly covering—for example, how much of the TeleManagement Forum’s eTOM framework is directly addressed.”

In Cotrupe’s opinion, the alliance of Telcordia and Accenture will deliver end-to-end service management. “The first notable fruit with the win at Brazil-based operator Telemar is to provide exactly that type of solution.”

Indeed, if one goes back to Telcordia’s Bellcore days, its evolution in inventory and provisioning is evident. “Telcordia’s TIRKS inventory system was one of the most widely deployed OSSs in history—and its acquisition of Granite Systems brought it sorely-needed product enhancements and updates through Granite’s Service Resource Management technologies,” notes Cotrupe.

Accenture’s OSS history is also deep - going back to its Andersen Consulting days, where it began to hone its OSS re-engineering experience. “Accenture has been particularly successful in front-office systems such as customer care and billing, so I have no doubt the company’s work with Telcordia is going to continue to deliver the goods when it comes to service management,” adds Cotrupe.

However, if carriers are seeking one-stop shopping for OSS/BSS requirements, it’s going to be tough, as even the network equipment juggernauts have failed to deliver on that promise in the past. “As carriers work to streamline their purchasing and deployment cycles without the headaches of 50 mini-mite OSS software-crafters, the dream of one-stop-shops has not come to fruition,” says Cotrupe.

As Telcordia knows from its Bellcore days as the de facto monopoly OSS provider to the RBOCs, it’s an arduous process to be a one-stop shop for carriers. As a joint entity with Accenture, however, it could get one step closer, as Accenture has proven it has the wherewithal to deliver on some of the most massive telecom software deployments in the world. So, this alliance might come closer to delivering on the dream of a one-stop-shop than was possible in the past. “So if any other entity this side of Amdocs has a chance to prove to skeptics like me that it can pull off an end-to-end service management strategy, you could do a lot worse than to put your money on the Telcordia-Accenture alliance.”

Spying Through PCs, TVs?

Like an Orwell novel, some of the technologies bandied about can seem pretty innovative, but pretty scary at the same time.

Recently, “Technology Review” posted comments by Google’s director of research, Peter Norvig, in which he discusses software prototypes where Google Research could potentially listen to a person’s TV or device to procure useful data about viewing habits and personal preferences. The company’s work on audio and video processing includes things like systems that provide Web content matched to what's playing on a TV.

Google already matches text ads to the Web content on the PC screen, so though it is potentially invasive, it is not a stretch that Google could track what TV programs are watched in order to target advertisements to individual interests. Last June, the company revealed prototype software for built-in microphones to listen to sounds in a room. The software filters each five-second snippet of sound to pick out audio from a TV, thus turning the snippet to a digital "fingerprint." If it matches that fingerprint to that of a pre-recorded show, it displays ads, chat rooms and other related media to the person.

This, of course, raises concerns about misuse of information, analogous to what happened with AOL recently, where hundreds of thousands of subscribers’ search queries were accidentally posted publicly. Supposedly, the fingerprinting technology used in the Google prototype makes it impossible for the company to eavesdrop on other sounds in the room, such as personal conversations, but some question how that can be verified, as the fingerprint’s reside in the company's audio database server.

Some of the more radical views espouse that private industry and government could use microphones to potentially “spy” on consumer lifestyle choices. Planet.com goes so far as to say digital cable TV boxes have had secret microphones built inside them since their inception in the late 1990s. The “dormant” devices can be activated when the time comes for such practices.

With the growth of TiVo, OnStar and psychological algorithm profiles, some believe the time is prime for databases based on what programs people watch. At a time when the current Administration has conducted warrant NSA spying without warrants, some fear these types of technologies will bring us into an Orwellian world.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Earthlink may have felt it was knocked out with a one-two punch this summer, as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision that cable providers would not have to share access to their networks with ISPs. The FCC then ruled that DSL providers do not have to offer discounts to ISPs. Though Earthlink traditionally has not been a facilities-based provider it is getting up off the floor and fighting back with its own network build-out. The company announced that Covad Communications will begin network construction to expand its line-power VoIP offering to Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington. The plan is to have EarthLink Home Phone Service, bundled with ADSL2+, available to 12 million homes upon completion. Earthlink said it will pay approximately $13 million to get the rights of way for the network build-out in Philadelphia. Earthlink also is going head-to-head with Google and others in bids to build and manage a wireless network in San Francisco.

Because a large chunk of its customers are broadband service subscribers, the company feels its ability to divorce itself from dependence on independent phone and cable companies will drive its success.

YouTube Taps Level 3

Level 3 Communications will provide high-speed Internet access and services to YouTube’s data centers. Level 3 leaders believe that video will generate a lot of traffic on its network. YouTube is off to a great start, according to Nielsen NetRatings figures, which say it has twice as many viewers as its closest competitor-- News Corp.'s MySpace.

Alcatel and Lucent Merger Approved

With approval of the Alcatel SA and Lucent Technologies Inc. merger, some expect some impact on the OSS space. “The merger could mean great things for discovery, activation and provisioning,” says Syndesis CTO Mark Nicholson. “It could foster efficiencies for us as we productize adapters for distribtuion, since one end-to-end strategic vision with global services could help us streamline strategic and operational processes. That means we can make changes to things like adapters and cards that we pre-build with a unified roadmap from both those companies. That will help as we deliver the hardware to our customers.” Nicholson believes that Alcatel’s strength in IPTV, Ethernet and broadband will complement Lucent’s strengths in VoIP, IMS and transport.

Are IP Phones Worth the Trouble?

Gartner predicts enterprises will spend $20.3 billion on IP phones between now and 2010. In his research note, Bob Hafner, managing VP of communications applications, states that many enterprises are spending anywhere from $350 to $1,000 for large-screen IP phones that sit right next to PCs, which have far superior capabilities for running applications cost effectively. “The point of the screen phone is to run applications, but the software development required to do so is a waste of time when you can develop the applications for the PC sitting next to the phone,” says Hafner. He concedes, however, that a cheaper monochrome version of an IP phone (at a pricepoint of about $150) can be worthwhile for unified communications. “You can tie the phone to the PC to share contact lists and personal directories. Then, you can click on a name on the PC, which can then automatically dial the phone for you.” By integrating business applications with telephony-based communications, there is an opportunity to enhance productivity. “The ‘soft benefits’ are harder to justify and to get enterprise buy-in for, but time savings can be realized with the cheaper IP phones since people prefer communicating on an ergonomic device like a phone. There’s just no need to buy the really expensive ones, so spending should be re-prioritized,” adds Hafner.

Carriers Trying to Fight Pretexting

According to the Wall Street Journal, carriers are taking aggressive steps to snuff out pretexting, a practice where criminals, through social engineering, pose as customers in an effort to steal personal information from carriers. While some states have laws against pretexting, the practice is picking up momentum.

Sprint Nextel has been one of the more aggressive carriers in fighting to protect consumer privacy. Earlier in the year, it launched a lawsuit against San Marco & Associates for allegedly trying to obtain its customers' records illegally. Sprint’s privacy officer, Ken Nakamura, said private investigation firms had used pretexting as a means to access customer call logs and phone numbers. He also claimed the PIs sold the data to online data brokers.

Telcos Must Give VoIP Providers Access to 911 Services

The Senate just passed the VoIP E911 amendment to the Port Security bill (S-1063). That means that telcos must give VoIP providers access to 911 services. The legislation comes as part of the "manager's package" of the port security bill sponsored by Sen. Nelson (D-Fla.) The bill no longer contains a waiver provision that would have allowed non-compliant operators to offer services.

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