Monday, April 2, 2012

[Guest post]: Service innovation in Mobile Broadband: nothing standard about it

By Taco Schoute*, CEO, BroadForward

Mobile Broadband promises operators to generate higher revenues than ever before. However, as is well documented throughout the industry, this opportunity comes with a price. Many operators have been confronted with major data growth, increasing network investments, service degradation due to congestion and falling profits per user. Slowly but surely, network departments are rolling out the required capabilities to manage network resources, such as PCEF and PCRF. These capabilities are not only needed to address quality-of-service issues, but also to enforce subscriber preferences and operator network safeguards.

More and more policy inputs needed

As the next step, in order to drive a higher return on investment, operators are now looking to introduce value-based service offerings. This is not possible with their newly acquired policy control capabilities alone. Increasingly more policy decision inputs from existing assets in their back office and IT domain are needed to enable more suited, more advanced Mobile Broadband services and tariff plans. Examples of services desired by the industry include time, location and congestion based offerings, notifications, shared data plans and loyalty schemes.

Vertical integration challenge

In past decades, operators have built up valuable and sizeable assets in that area, such as Billing and CRM systems, subscriber databases, location gateways and VAS platforms. Many of these should be utilized in what will essentially amount to a new Policy Control ecosystem. This will consist of a vertical integration of decision inputs to the central Policy and Charging engines, touching almost every element of the data layer, the control layer and various IT and Business Support Systems.
This is where it stops being straightforward. It turns out to be very hard to establish Mobile Broadband use cases across the entire vertical, using systems of multiple vendors, either newcomers or incumbents. To get and keep use cases up and running, all players in the chain, operators, product vendors and system integrators alike, are faced with a daunting task. They have to manage every conceivable product and protocol incompatibility as well as issues around ownership and scale. All this ultimately leads up to additional costs and project delays.

Who owns what?

In reality, there is no such thing as ‘seamless’ or ‘ubiquitous’ when it comes to connecting different systems from different vendors. Although understandably, in competition with each other, vendors have to position themselves as being capable of connecting and interfacing with the surrounding areas. However, in fairness, vendors have a natural aversion to R&D that is not core to their product. Often it is needed mainly to land a specific deal. With all the competitive pressure on them, they could well do without the considerable costs and unpredictable project timelines that those integration challenges bring. The effect is that operators cannot automatically rely on vendors catering for anomalies that arrive in the periphery of their product. Similarly IT departments and system integrators will require considerable time to assess, build and maintain one-off adaptations.

The way forward

With so many products in the chain, it makes sense to elevate integration to a level beyond individual product R&D. This is possible if connectivity is made configurable and adaptable, independent from the vendor specific interfaces or individual product roadmaps. A solution enabling and managing these connections would need to offer adaptability ‘on the fly’. This way flexibility is maintained while underlying systems evolve. From a user perspective such a solution requires easy ‘toolkit-style’ configuration processes to apply the necessary functions, features and logic to enable and maintain connections.

The Broadband Policy Gateway is a new product category specifically focused on providing this level of flexibility and control. With integration hampering service innovation, products like the Broadband Policy Gateway are a welcome addition to the industry, offering anybody with integration needs a much more effective way to enable the Mobile Broadband services that operators want.

*Taco Schoute is responsible for Management and Business Development at BroadForward. He has over 10 years of international experience in the Telecommunications sector catering for high revenue generating solutions for 8 out of the 10 largest mobile operators in the world. He has held various senior roles including general management, sales, business development and marketing. His last position before joining BroadForward was with Acision, the world leader in mobile data, as Head of Messaging.

Taco holds a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering & Management from the University of Twente, The Netherlands.


  1. Thanks for this information. It's a very good for everyone.

  2. Sounds like quite the daunting task for larger incumbents to rope in their entire supply chain to deliver a straightforward mobile broadband product offering. It might have to be the case where a team in isolation that works independent of the larger company would be able to execute if they were allowed unfettered access to improve upon their processes and create something that innovates and even disrupting their own business for the better.