How to jump-start telco's IoT business despite legacy BSS
Running an IoT business at a telco that has a legacy business support system in place is hard, yet not impossible. Many telco IT teams face the challenge of supporting a telco IoT business with a legacy BSS in place — often at short notice and with a limited budget.
It is important to note, however, that supporting a telco IoT business in a full-fledged way requires telcos to modernize their BSS in the long term. Without modernization, the BSS will not be able to manage millions of connected devices, scale, become intelligent with analytics, easily onboard partners or run with a justifiable, low TCO.
Until the time-consuming BSS modernization happens, how can teams support an IoT business with a limited budget?
Have a clear vision and start small
It is a given that telcos must have clear business and IT visions of their IoT offerings. A clear vision can energize the team and give it a sense of direction. Keeping this vision in context while working on interim technologies makes the team more conscious toward reducing interim throwaways.
When budget is limited, businesses have to be practical and start small with realistic interim targets. For example, an interim target could be as simple as the B2C wearable market segment. Or it could be the B2B fleet management segment. Target the low-hanging fruits — or target areas where ROI realization is faster. This will earn the confidence of top management on the sustainability of the IoT business line. This, in turn, will later enable more diversification of targeted segments.
Implement systems in phases
With a budget squeeze in place, the telco will have to cherry-pick the most essential new systems required for its first IoT rollout. The obvious systems to pick first are those which are part of the connectivity layer and device management layer. Systems for analytics and advanced partner management can wait until later phases.
To realize fast time to market and reduce interim throwaways, teams should focus on configurable changes rather than code changes of their legacy BSS. This means the IoT services hosted on the BSS must be carefully designed by the business and IT team. Note that in later phases, the BSS will be modernized with a high-performance, cloud-native stack, and its maintenance costs will justify the low average revenue per device of IoT.
The IoT rollout should fit into implementation phases
Business and IT team should have the same understanding of target segments and of the IoT service’s nature. The first IoT rollout is least likely to exhibit any complex charging and billing plans. Most of the IoT services will be based on subscription plans. From an organizational perspective, there is a high chance that the IoT business line will be separate from the traditional voice and data business line in the beginning. Hence, even though not desirable, the degree of convergence across IoT services and traditional data and voice services will be limited.
Let’s look at two sample IoT service plans that can fit into the first phase of implementation:
- B2C product plan: A SIM-based wearable with an add-on rental of $5 per device per month. The wearable’s data plan shares the data quota of the subscriber’s mobile data plan.
- B2B fleet management plan: One fleet, which has multiple trucks, will have a shared data plan. Rating and charging of that fleet will be done based on its data usage and rental. The telco’s B2B partner will support fleet monitoring and management, and the telco will provide the billing service using the legacy BSS. The telco will also provide the device management service to the B2B partner. The contract agreement and settlement between telco and B2B partner will be handled manually until the partner management system is ready.
Legacy BSSes have functional and performance limitations preventing them from supporting a full-fledged IoT business line. However, if planned well, they can jump-start a telco’s IoT business. Later, in phases, telcos can add additional IoT capabilities and increase the extent of convergence it offers. Such an approach will ensure precious ROI keeps trickling in.
The opinions expressed within this article are of the author based on his experience. The opinions expressed here don’t reflect the views of his current/past organizations.
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