Next Generation Communications Blog

March 2011

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Key Principles of 'Operational Excellence' for Service Providers: QoE, End Users and Business Silo Integration

By Mae Kowalke

In the quest to maximize competitiveness, network providers typically put most of their efforts into deploying and maintaining infrastructures capable of delivering advanced communication services. In other words, most of the investment is in technology.

That’s starting to shift somewhat as providers expand their focus on creating high quality of experience (QoE) through new business processes, too—like self-care portals and more detailed billing.

This is a step in the right direction, but more is needed.

“To achieve business objectives, increase competitiveness, and improve end user QoE network providers need to achieve a level of operational excellence — a philosophy of leadership, teamwork and problem solving resulting in continuous improvement throughout the organization — in all functional areas,” advises Alcatel-Lucent in a recently published white paper.

Traditionally, network operations, IT and customer care have been separate silos. Yet, together, these three make up about 36 percent of a typical provider’s operating expenses. Consolidating them can, therefore, have a significantly positive impact.

“A proper integration strategy supported by ongoing measurement and management will create a streamlined operational environment that improves competitiveness by focusing all business operations to deliver the highest QoE to end users at all times,” notes Alcatel-Lucent in its white paper.

The justification for such a transformation is, of course, the end-user.

“In a changing environment and increasingly competitive landscape, network providers have struggled to find the key to success. Approaches are as varied from one network provider to the next as are their networks.

Mobile Service Providers Need to Capitalize on Green Energy Strategies

Mobile service providers, especially those with operations in developing countries, tend to fall into a common trap when it comes to energy management: focusing all attention on site-level solutions rather than an overall, long-term strategy.

Such site-level solutions tend to be stand-alone projects where energy management is treated separately from other network and operational activities, and the focus is only on off-grid sites.

This type of band-aid approach might work in the short term, but eventually it will come back to bite providers as energy costs continue rising.

“Without a strategic energy plan, OpEx costs can increase dramatically while service deteriorates,” notes Xavier Belet, Director of Alcatel-Lucent’s green consulting services group, in a recently published white paper Green Transformation For Mobile Service Providers. “What’s required is a comprehensive global approach to energy management that assesses current usage and incorporates the groundbreaking opportunities created by new alternative energy sources.”

A comprehensive energy management strategy must take into account, and realistically address, the challenges inherent with using alternative sources in developing countries. A green transformation plan will include capital investments in energy infrastructure necessary to meet energy needs today, and the demand of tomorrow as mobile services become even more popular.

In the white paper, Belet discusses levers available to optimize total cost of ownership (TCO), what’s needed to develop a green transformation plan, tips for mitigating risk, successful business models, and best practices for energy management.

To begin with, there are two main ways to approach optimizing TCO: cut consumption (use less kilowatt hours to operate the network) or cut costs (lower the cost of each kilowatt hour). Cutting consumption is best achieved through optimizing equipment, network design, and site environment. Evolving IT systems also helps.

How to Improve Employee Access to Productivity Tools and Applications

By Mae Kowalke

Enterprises often tend to think that the network is one area with a lot of potential for cost savings—and they’re right. The trick is figuring out how to achieve the savings without negatively impacting network capabilities or going down a rabbit hole of upgrades with long-term ROI but significant short-term investment.

The key is something called convergence. A converged network saves the enterprise money and can actually make money too.

Converged networks offer eight specific advantages: they’re simpler to maintain, increase productivity, make more efficient use of real estate, align with eco-friendly initiatives, increase the mobility of workers, enhance user experience, make possible deployment of more robust applications, and can fully automate certain functions.

“Enterprises are forced to cut their spending budgets by reducing travel and minimizing expenses of all types,” noted Alcatel-Lucent in a recently published white paper. “To sustain financial viability and future growth, enterprises must also make money by seeking new and innovative business opportunities. “It is now feasible to implement multiple applications (such as voice, video, and data), increase speed of execution, and minimize costs with the implementation of a single converged network infrastructure.”

The reason a converged network is so advantageous is that is does away with complex, cumbersome infrastructures that have developed over time as enterprises added capabilities like video conferencing and data sharing, which typically require separate overlay networks built on top of older architecture.

“A converged network eliminates the complexity of multiple overlays, reduces the required CAPEX and OPEX, and increases employee productivity,” Alcatel-Lucent noted in its white paper.

How Service Providers Can Increase Profits from Mobile Data Services

By Mae Kowalke

When it comes to potential profits from the growth in mobile data use, network providers are sitting on a goldmine but often are not cashing in on it. What’s stopping them? Quite simply, networks that can’t keep pace with the demand.

There’s the temptation to apply brute force to this problem by simply building more network capacity the same way the existing infrastructure is designed. But it will take brains and brawn to be successful.

In this case, brains involve adopting technologies that enable on-demand quality of service (QoS) upgrades to deliver immediate, short-term boosts to network performance—for a fee. This is possible using dynamic QoS and traffic policy management to efficiently allocate network resources and generate additional revenue.

In other words, by intelligently applying technology that exists today, network providers can do more with the resources they already have, and get more leverage out of infrastructure investments.

Alcatel-Lucent calls this strategy application enablement, defined as “an industry vision that offers more effective ways to counteract the increasing gap between revenues and traffic growth” using “efficient high leverage network architecture that can provide low-cost transport for a wide range of new personalized multimedia services.”

“This solution can also generate additional revenues from application and content providers (ACPs), as well as from subscribers,” Alcatel-Lucent said in a recently published white paper.

To create high leverage networks and realize the benefits of application enablement, today’s providers must adopt new business models.

Proactive Service Assurance: Why Quality of Experience Matters

By Mae Kowalke

For mobile service providers, Quality of Experience (QoE) is today’s Quality of Service (QoS). The problem is, most service assurance tools are still operating under the old paradigm of QoS, the goal being to meet pre-defined service level agreements and key performance indicators (KPIs). This is a reactive approach rather than a proactive one, and just won’t cut it any longer.

In today’s mobile services market, successful providers are the ones that adopt a new paradigm of proactive service assurance.

“To truly meet the end-user QoE expectations that will accompany next-generation mobile networks and the advanced applications and services that end users will adopt, service providers need a proactive monitoring process that can identify, reduce, and help eliminate potential network service problems before they impact subscribers,” notes Alcatel-Lucent in a recently published whitepaper on QoE.

Using IMS to Develop and Deliver Better Mobile Applications and Services

By Mae Kowalke

People have been talking about IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) for years, touting it as one of the next big things for next generation delivery of mobile services. What exactly is IMS and how can it help providers transform the development and delivery of services consumers are willing to pay for?

From a technical standpoint, IMS can be defined as an architectural framework designed to make possible the delivery of Internet Protocol services. This framework mostly uses protocols—like Session Initiation Protocol (IMS)—developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force.

By design, IMS is not intended to standardize applications; instead, its underlying purpose is create a form of fixed-mobile convergence by making multimedia and voice applications easier to access from both wireline and wireless terminals.

Alcatel-Lucent Helps Bring Energy Metering to Pennsylvania

By Mae Kowalke

In the three Rs of the environmental movement—reduce, reuse, recycle—reduce comes first because in the long run it’s less expensive to use fewer resources than to recover resources once they’ve already been used.

The same principle holds true in the area of energy. Technology that helps with energy efficiency might not seem as exciting as the development of renewable energy sources, but it can make a big difference in terms of cost and impact on the environment.

In its entry for energy conservation, Wikipedia points out that one way technology can help is by “allowing energy users, business and residential, to see graphically the impact their energy use can have on their workplace or homes,” and by providing smart metering solutions to help people change their energy use behaviors with minimal impact on their daily activities.

Communications technology company Alcatel-Lucent takes the idea of energy efficiency seriously, and is working with customers to help them achieve sustainability goals. Case in point: a solution being developed for Exelon Corporation’s electric and natural gas utility subsidiary PECO in Philadelphia, which will bring updated metering technology to 1.6 million Pennsylvania customers.

PECO is embarking on a ten-year metering technology upgrade project, and selected Alcatel-Lucent to build an IP-based optical communications network to support the system’s goal: give residential and commercial customers in southeastern Pennsylvania the information they need to effectively use and save energy.

“By deploying a network that combines optical, IP and microwave technology, PECO will have the ability to transmit mission critical data and applications to and from its control centers automatically, so customers can rapidly and efficiently control individual energy usage,” explained Eric Thomas, VP of Alcatel-Lucent’s strategic industries division for North America, in a statement to the press.

Alcatel-Lucent is providing a converged IP/MPLS network, a gigabit Ethernet switch designed for demanding operational environments, a microwave packet radio and long-haul system, and a portfolio of network integration services. Together, these will deliver service seamlessly across fiber and microwave technologies, and optimize service delivery regardless of operating conditions.

IP traffic engineering and design, circuit provisioning, maintenance services and project management will also be provided by Alcatel-Lucent.

Alcatel-Lucent’s mission to make a difference doesn’t end in the energy sector. The company also recently teamed up with nonprofit World Education in a $6 million global initiative (ConnnectED) to provide educational and digital skills training for children and teens in disadvantaged communities.

Optimizing Mobile Broadband Profits through Enhanced Customer Care

By Mae Kowalke

For today’s service providers, the most important—and often untapped—source of revenue is mobile broadband. The challenge is that, as the market continues to mature, this very source of revenue is becoming commoditized and providers are finding it more and more difficult to differentiate services and keep those offerings profitable.

The simple truth is that competing on price and network capacity alone no longer cuts it. What’s needed is a return to the basics of maximizing overall customer experience.

“With strategies that leverage their unique customer intelligence and deliver it where and when it’s needed most, service providers can turn their customer support operations into profitable assets that transform the customer experience,” said Alcatel-Lucent in a new white paper about mobile broadband.

Understanding what will really create loyal customers means taking a long, hard look at the typical client experience, and then finding a way to remove all negative aspects of that experience and build on the good aspects.

“Many customers encounter complex problems from the moment they begin using their mobile devices,” Alcatel-Lucent points out in its white paper. “Customers need guidance on practically every aspect of use, from connectivity and device configuration to billing, data usage and e-mail setup. But when they contact service provider help desks, they often reach agents who can’t help them solve their problems.”

The resulting frustration is not good for anyone involved.

In its white paper, Alcatel-Lucent cites TeleManagement Forum’s definition for customer experience:  “the result of the sum of observations, perceptions, thoughts and feelings arising from interactions and relationships between customers and their service providers.”

Customer experience is formed from every touch point, direct and indirect, adding up to an overall perception of the provider, which impacts the customer’s loyalty.

Alcatel-Lucent, PowerTrunk Partner on North America's First TETRA LMR Trial for NJ Transit

By Beecher Tuttle

Telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent and mobile radio solutions provider PowerTrunk recently wrapped up a very successful trial of a TETRA/LMR network (Terrestrial Trunked Radio/Land Mobile Radio).

The trial, which was the first of its kind to be completed in the United States, enabled New Jersey Transit buses to stay connected with operations personnel using next-generation voice and data technologies.

Formerly known as Trans-European Trunked Radio, TETRA is a digital trunked mobile radio standard that is commonly utilized in Europe and other locations outside of North America. Public-safety agencies, utilities and transportation companies in more than 100 countries currently embrace the technology, but New Jersey Transit is the first to do so in the U.S., Mexico or Canada.

The TETRA network was a strong fit for the nation's largest statewide transportation system because it is proven to provide higher data bandwidth than New Jersey Transit's current network, which is very limited and not spectrally efficient.

Alcatel-Lucent, Vodafone Germany Collaborate on Comprehensive Enterprise Communication Solution for Mid-Sized Organizations

By Beecher Tuttle

In an effort to provide small- and medium-sized enterprises with a seamless and efficient next-generation communication platform, telecom giants Alcatel-Lucent and Vodafone Germany recently announced that they will be partnering on a comprehensive new solution.

The motivation behind creating the new package, known as "Business PBX," was due to the noticeable lack of end-to-end enterprise communication solutions for smaller organizations, which don't have the resources necessary to adopt today's traditional converged communication platforms, according to a company release.

Marketed by Vodafone Germany, Business PBX is made up of several key Alcatel-Lucent components, including its Business integrated Communication Solution (BiCS) and related end-user devices. The platform is designed to provide medium-sized enterprises with an all-encompassing communication solution that is extremely intuitive and easy to maintain.

Each crucial function of the Business PBX is pre-installed on the BiCS platform and can be utilized immediately following installation.

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