HomeMobile EuropeProvisioning the right package

    Provisioning the right package


    Introducing more and more services means being able to provision across, and mediate between, an ever-increasing number of network elements. Tertio’s CEO Nigel Clifford tells Keith Dyer what operators face when it comes to keeping the back office up to speed.

    Mobile Europe: For those not familiar, could you give us a little background on Tertio?

    Nigel Clifford: Tertio goes back to 1989 so we are not exactly a baby start up. We got into telecommunications high volume transaction processing in the mid-1990s and in 1999 completed a management buy out, supported by Apax Partners and Advent International

    I joined in 2000, and what we have done since then is to be very focussed around provisioning and mediation services to fixed and mobile operators. We are profitable and debt free and currently have 35 customers in 20 countries, about 70/30 in favour of mobile.  The company has a turn over of around £11 million.

    ME: What mobile operators can you list as customers?

    NC: We have a global supply position to major telecommunications groups. With Hutchison we are the worldwide provisioning supplier. We also have a major presence with T-Mobile UK. In general our customer base is in the EMEA and Asia Pacific region. We have just signed our first deal with a major operator in Japan.

    ME: What do you think has enabled a company the size of Tertio to build up such a client base?

    NC: Our people and our products are the centre of what we do. Our people come across as extremely expert at what they do. They are not asked to be billing experts one day and inventory the next.

    They are provisioning and mediation experts. Clients that have got legacy OSS, or bespoke development, are now under a lot of pressure to move to new systems as they take a look at the back office — that’s a big step to leave that behind and move onto a packaged platform. Our focus is extremely reassuring for them.

    ME: Perhaps you can tell us a bit more about how the products support that focus?

    NC: Our focus is provided by our two product packages whicih are our provisioning platform — Provident — and our mediation package — Evident. The products are class leading, we have benchmarks that have never been bettered. They are easy to use, flexible and convergent, meaning they can support the move from voice to data and content services, from circuit switched to packet switched networks.

    ME: Do you always approach the market directly or do you work with other partners?

    NC: The challenge we face is widening the number of conversations we have in the market. But we have won several projects through our systems integrator partners such as Danet,and Accenture. We also have alliance relationships with leading equipment manufacturers, such as Juniper, Nortel and Siemens, as well as software providers such as Portal and Granite.

    ME: When you have those conversations about changing an OSS system, what are you finding are the main operator concerns at the moment?

    NC: There are two to three levels of concern. There is an operating concern, that you will get the same response times and be able to move data from the old to the new system. There is also the question around implementation, will it be ready — will the interfaces be ready? Then there is the human dimension where an in-house team is responsible and that in itself provides three pulls. There is the issue where people are a scarce resource, you might have had people working on a system for 10-15 years and they have started to retire or move on to different areas. Then there is the issue of a roadmap for the future, and there is the issue of cost — how an in-house team could provide a cost effective roadmap to the future as opposed to the Tertio system, where we are doing to for 35 different customers. So it’s about making the cultural and operational case for change from a familiar to new and better systems.

    ME: And what are the drivers operators are facing to suport making that change?

    NC: If you draw right back to looking at the market as a whole, the big issues all operators are faced with are the number of competitors in their market, the number of customers, the level of debt that they can operate with and shareholder expectations. They are looking at market saturation and how they can differentiate and provide value within that. It’s a very macro set of factors and what we’ve seen is an interplay between launching, and changing swiftly, services that are novel, different and interesting where systems used to be static.

    Another aspect is how price competitive am I? A company looks at how cost effective they are and how they can drive that down into the whole organisation to come up with opex and capex savings. Then there are very specific issues affecting different operators to different degrees.

    For example with Hutchison, the drive was not about legacy systems or lowering a cost base, they were actually building a cost base, it was about rapidity and swiftness. With someone else it may be about how they will be able to react and launch a service when appropriate — about how they can compete with aggressive pricing and still maintain a margin.  The final thing is, “Can I still maintain quality of service and maintain good front and back office systems?” So each has a strand back into the back office and each operator has different pain points. It’s been very interesting working with different operators at different stages of their evolution.

    ME: And although you offer a packaged solution, it’s one that can lend itself to that variety of situations you have described?

    NC: The key for us is being able to offer complete flexibility. If you take the scenario where an operator has services X, Y and Z and he wants to introduce services A and B. How quickly can it do that? Our operating system has modeling tools which look at the implications on X, Y and Z if you introduce A and B. For example, if a company is doing picture messaging you need GPRS as the bearer. What happens if an operator makes the change from GPRS to 3G and takes down the GPRS bearer service?

    We have modeled the system to enable the operator to look at that in abstract before changing the service, and map the service to the change of bearer. Speed of response is not everything; it’s got to be accurate. It shows the complexity of having customers moving up through the hierarchy of sophistication. They shouldn’t be worried about how the operator makes it happen.

    So we also enable operators to make changes themselves without coming to us, which allows them to take down and put up services very quickly. So a client can take over and trial services themselves.

    ME: Does the forecast growth in virtual mobile network operators give network operators any particular OSS challenges?

    NC: Well, there are more operators in some markets than others — so they are all energised by being able to find a service and pricing package that differentiates them, to drive that to the bottom line. But I can see a model that looks at how many operators there can be in the market place. In other words, one or two in each market may gracefully exit.

    So operators are bumping up against each other and considering network sharing, and positioning themselves where they are far better looking after customers rather than running infrastructure. In that case you are going to get more of a retail/ wholesale split.
    So a network operator has to be able to interface with MVNO layer. It has to be able to recognise service profiles provided by the MVNO into the network. The ability to recognise and authenticate access, and the readiness and knowledge to activate and deactivate clients is essential. So a hosting network has to build the interfaces to the MVNO service layer. We have readily avalable interfaces and are agnostic as far as the target system is concerned. We have 100 plus interfaces readily available, as a result of being involved with each of our clients as they add and add and add more target systems.

    ME: Is OSS still an area where operators are looking for tighter and tighter ROIs?

    NC: By the time we are talking to customers they’ve got in their minds what the ROI is. People don’t have the time to be flying kites and are pressurised to deliver. Two thirds of the case has been made internally and then they will look at our three to five year total cost of ownership to implement and run the system. People are pretty sophisticated now about why they are getting involved and the number of operators who are just speculative are quite significantly down on three to five years ago.

    ME: We saw a lot of activity in the OSS market itself sround that time, have things settled down in the OSS market as well?

    NC: Yes, the OSS market place is not unlike the mobile market place — where people IPO’d in 1998-99 and set sail with an awful lot of money. Some came into rough water and were eating through their cash, and it was not clear whether they had found a model before the cash ran out. Some burnt brightly before being absorbed into larger companies.

    Today, we see a continuing demand for an approach that says “we want the best — with that feeling of stability and a number of successful deployments.

    Being a smaller company is not necessarily a hardship if you have a good name in the market. Operators don’t want someone who will just send 100 people over. They want something tailored to what they require but based on a packaged offering.


    Opticom, SwissQual and TNO have combined to create the test standard, POLQA – which stands for “Perceptual Objective Listening Quality Analysis”. The standard updates the current standard, PESQ/P.862.

    The POLQA coalition is the outcome of a competitive standardisation process run by the ITU- T. An expert group within ITU-T spent more than four years evaluating various candidate algorithms to find a suitable successor to older standards. The joint solution is expected to be standardised and made available commercially in an aligned release process during September 2010.

    The three partners involved claim that POLQA will offer immediate, strong support for testing of new wideband 4G/LTE networks delivering HD-quality voice services. Tests carried out during the POLQA evaluation also included future technologies such as Unified Communications, Next Gen Networks and 4G/LTE, which might support HD Voice, i.e. “wide-band” and “super-wide-band” telephone calls of 7kHz and 14kHz frequency range.

    TNO’s Senior Researcher Dr. John Beerends, who introduced the first perceptual speech quality metrics to the ITU-T in 1996 and was co-author of the PESQ standard stated: “We received a clear message from the telecoms industry, demanding a uniform successor of the PESQ standard, and I’m delighted that the rigorous testing that has gone into this evaluation shows clearly that the jointly-developed POLQA solution will be superior to existing and alternative approaches.”After a four year process within ITU-T, the standards sector of the ITU, three companies have merged their technology to create a single voice quality standard for next generation voice – including HD Voice, 3G and 4G/LTE.

    “Over the last ten years test and measurement vendors have widely adopted ITU-T Recommendation P.862/PESQ and there are now more than 20.000 installations worldwide,” explains Michael Keyhl, Founder and CEO of OPTICOM. “However, recently developed speech codecs for 3G and 4G, and new techniques for delivering an enhanced voice quality experience have generated strong demand for an update to this industry standard. POLQA is the answer the industry has been looking for.”