Selecting a trusted vendor and VSAT technology platform is only the beginning in developing and operating a successful satellite broadband service business.Download (681 KB)
Selecting a trusted vendor and VSAT technology platform is only the beginning in developing and operating a successful satellite broadband service business. All business processes must be defined and automated to the most cost-effective level possible, from activating services for new customers, to supporting and billing them, along with managing the network resources and customer premises equipment required to deliver the services. The automated systems that perform these functions are known as Operations Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS).
This paper identifies the functionalities of OSS/BSS systems, including the complexities involved in setting them up, and provides an overview of relevant Hughes offerings that complement its extensive line of VSAT technology platforms.
In order to operate a large-scale broadband service, there are many functionalities that need to be implemented as a set of automated processes to make them as scalable as possible. These include:
As illustrated in Figure 1, OSS/BSS systems form the heart of any managed network service.
OSS systems are utilized in the actual operation and monitoring of the constituent parts that make up the network. Depending on the architecture, they may either encompass the Network Management Systems/Element Management Systems (NMS/EMS) layers, or sit directly above them. The five key areas of network management, known as Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security (FCAPS), are implemented in the NMS/EMS layers.
BSS systems, as the name implies, are generally geared towards the operation of the business, such as order entry, order fulfillment, customer interaction (CRM), knowledge base, trouble ticketing, etc.
Though OSS and BSS systems serve distinct roles in the overall management of the network, it is essential that they work in an integrated manner for maximum effectiveness. OSS/BSS systems comprise a variety of software systems, which bridge business services and network operations. For example, if a customer calls about a problem with their service, the call center will likely use a database in the BSS systems to look up and validate the user. Once validated, the call center technician may use data, such as equipment alarms, from the OSS to determine the cause of the problem the customer is experiencing. Therefore, although there is a clear distinction between the BSS and OSS systems, they essentially form a circular relationship as illustrated in Figure 2.
The following sections briefly describe the steps that follow in the lifecycle of a service activation assuming that the marketing, pre-sales, and sales cycles are completed.
New customers must be brought online as quickly as possible. This requires several steps, which the BSS system facilitates:
The BSS system pulls information required to complete these tasks from various databases in the BSS itself, as well as from the OSS system.
Once an order has been placed, the process of creating the service and bringing the customer online begins. This process may be automated in more sophisticated systems, or portions may be manually handled while other portions are automated. The steps in fulfilling an order are:
The final step above includes the comparison of the installed site to adjacent sites in order to verify that the signal levels are within expected norms
Once a service is activated and the customer is using it, the process of billing is initiated. This process may be largely automated in the BSS system to occur typically on a monthly cycle. However, the BSS billing components may rely on data from the OSS systems to apply credits caused by outages, for example. For enterprise customers especially, the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an important contract deliverable that must be met by the service provider and therefore tracked and reported.
In the support of any large network, there are many facets of support required in order to keep the network running and— first and foremost—keep users happy. Everything from individual CPE issues to core network issues must be dealt with swiftly and effectively.
In order to support the network with the contracted SLAs, a network operator must have the infrastructure in place to proactively manage the network, as well as to react to customer issues quickly.
For some issues that do not involve a direct outage, customers can use self-care portals. Self-care portals allow users to resolve questions quickly on subjects, such as account status, billing, and network status. If a customer is experiencing issues, they may also open and track cases on the typical self-care portal. All of the information that the customer can see on the self-care portal is presented from the OSS/BSS.
Customer Facing Support
Depending upon the SLAs for which customers have contracted, various levels of live help desk and onsite support may be required. These help desk and support personnel require interactions in one form or another to the BSS and OSS systems in order to verify accounts, open trouble tickets, and conduct other activities. The OSS/BSS facilitates customer and network support at every level.
For very large networks, an enhanced three-tier customer support structure may be used, as illustrated in Figure 3. The first line of support is the traditional three-tier support, which is backed up with two more layers of deeper level support.
An organization may not implement all of these layers to support their broadband customers; however, at every layer a view into the OSS/BSS systems is required. It is also important to note that personnel at the various layers must be restricted to certain views. For example, Tier 1 support would need full access to a user’s account information but may have restricted access or a limited view into core network equipment views. The definition of roles and permissions is also a function of the OSS/BSS system.
In addition to serving the escalation role for the three-tier support, the NOC serves the very critical role of network monitoring. A wide array of systems and functions must be monitored, which include:
All of the above are monitored by an array of systems and presented to NOC personnel on personal displays as well as large multifunction screens in the NOC. The monitoring systems use a collection of techniques, such as SNMP alarm consolidation, SNMP polling, statistical data analysis and other methods in order to present the big picture to the network operations staff. These systems comprise in-house developed applications, as well as Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software packages and together make up the core of the OSS.
Field support technicians are used in cases where a problem arises after a system is already in use by the user and can’t be solved by the remote support technicians. These technicians often carry spares on their trucks or have quick access to an inventory of spares. When there is an issue, they are automatically scheduled and dispatched by the trouble ticketing system, which is part of the OSS/BSS infrastructure, based upon the geographic area they cover, their working hours, and their on-call status.
In order to properly diagnose the issues in the field, verify their intervention and log their activity, the field technicians typically rely on laptop or tablet-based Web interfaces, which tie into the relevant OSS/BSS screens.
The various systems that make up the network produce volumes of data. The OSS/BSS must be able to warehouse this data and then process it into meaningful reports, which are consumed at various levels of management. Business analytics provide insight into, for example, revenue broken down by category, such as regional or demographic, new orders over different periods of time, customer churn, how well customer service is performing, etc. Analytics can provide invaluable insight into how well marketing activities, such as online campaigns through social media are performing. All of this information is vital to constrain customer churn and form a solid basis for profitable growth of the business.
More and more of the economy is starting to rely on online transactions. In the retail industry, for example, the use of payment cards for online transactions means that businesses, clearing houses, banks, and anyone else in the path must be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. The OSS/BSS must be able to produce the required data and reports to ensure compliance and analyze breaches should they occur.
As the network rapidly grows, the network operator must monitor the usage of space segment in order to properly allocate and plan the growth. In typical Ka-band systems, this means monitoring the capacity of the each beam and determining how to allocate new remotes and how to increase capacity in beams reaching capacity. For example, the capacity of a Ka spot-beam may be monitored via daily reports, which show the status and utilization so that planners can take steps to reduce congestion and plan future traffic.
Application Programming Interface (API)
Some functions required by the network operator may have to be custom written applications or may require interfaces to other existing systems. For these cases, the OSS/BSS system must provide API interfaces to allow programmers to design software that interacts with the OSS/BSS, or allows the OSS/BSS to interface with other systems.
In addition to being the largest VSAT system gateway and terminal provider in the world, Hughes is also the operator of the largest consumer satellite broadband service— HughesNet®. Within the North American footprint, Hughes operates high-capacity satellites, which provide the coverage to North America (including parts of Mexico and Canada) for currently more than 900,000 subscribers (2Q14).
Hughes also offers a fully managed broadband service to a wide range of enterprises, HughesON, which includes comprehensive support, including monitoring every aspect of the transmission path to the customer – including third-party connectivity and equipment. This managed service employs best-of breed technologies, from terrestrial fixed and wireless to satellite, delivering the most cost-effective hybrid network tailored to the customer’s infrastructure.
The combination of consumer and enterprise service offerings, satellite ownership and ground segment management make Hughes unique. Technology know-how spans everything from specifying satellite payloads, to designing systems on a chip for its extensive line of satellite routers, modems and gateways (satellite hub), to the design, development and integration of the OSS/BSS.
Making It All Work
Hughes OSS/BSS systems were developed to handle the wide range of technologies needed to support customers of all types—consumers; large, medium and small enterprises; franchises/ branch locations; government agencies; Value Added Resellers (VARs), and wholesale (VNO) customers.
Implementing an OSS/BSS System
The cost and time required to implement an effective OSS/BSS system can be very significant. In general, there are three options for implementing such systems:
Clearly, the third choice is the ideal choice for any new broadband operator.
Utilizing its own OSS/BSS system developed to support the world’s largest satellite broadband network, Hughes offers a complete OSS/BSS solution delivered as a software as a service (SaaS). Hughes can leverage the systems and experience it already has in-house to enable an operator to focus on the primary aspects of running its business.
The advantages for the network operator of outsourcing the OSS/BSS functions to Hughes are:
The Hughes OSS/BSS SaaS can also support the virtual network model allowing a network operator to partition and sell wholesale capacity to, for example, regional resellers while enabling those resellers to have a view into the relevant OSS/BSS views and functions that relate only to their part of the network.
One example of this model is a large Middle Eastern/African based operator using the Hughes HN platform to provide consumer and Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) satellite broadband services. In this case, Hughes manages and maintains most of the complex OSS/BSS systems and provides Cloud-based access for various functions, such as service plan definition, order entry, fulfillment, ticketing, monitoring, etc.
In the following scenario, the operation of the network spans many national boundaries:
Hughes maintains the essential systems required to manage the network in well-established and protected data centers. OSS/BSS and network experts are at hand and available when needed, which reduces the time required to resolve issues. The network operator has complete views of OSS/BSS systems from their local NOC via a dedicated MPLS network.
Order activations, installation orders, trouble ticketing, and other views are visible at various levels by the in-country Resellers and VARs. Their access to the system ultimately ties into the systems managed by Hughes.
The end users of the network typically interact with the reseller or VAR in their respective countries. The reseller or VAR can solve most issues locally but may escalate to the Local Help Desk provided by the network operator. If an issue can’t be solved at that level, it is escalated to Hughes.
Therefore, the complexity of the OSS/BSS systems is hidden from the network operator enabling the network operator to remain focused on the development and growth of the business rather than putting those resources towards maintaining complex OSS/BSS systems.
Hughes experience in operating large consumer and enterprise broadband networks can help service providers to create a successful business. Hughes Cloud-based OSS/BSS technologies reduce costs, increase growth, provide seamless integration, and allow a service provider to focus on running its core business while Hughes runs the network.
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