An Interview with Mats Karlsson, Head of Business Support Systems (BSS) at Ericsson
For service providers, the road to 5G has been long and arduous. Now that 5G has launched, service providers face new challenges. Navigating 5G monetization is complex, and it requires a carefully planned strategy. Securing revenue growth also requires transforming the existing business support system (BSS) into a more robust system that is ready for new 5G use cases. In this article, we are going to talk about the role of Ericsson’s digital BSS in 5G monetization.
You might be asking, “Why Ericsson?”
Ericsson is the only end-to-end 5G technology vendor with a complete digital BSS solution.
Before we get started, I’d like to suggest a definition for BSS so we are all on the same page.
BSS is a business support system that handles the customer-facing activities within a service provider’s day-to-day operations. Amongst other things, BSS includes order capture & management and charging & billing. The customer experience on the 5G network is supported by OSS applications (i.e. support tickets, service assurance support, etc).
Recently I interviewed Mats Karlsson, Head of Business Support Systems (BSS) at Ericsson. In this interview, Mats shares his perspective and insight about how important it is to embrace a complete BSS solution as part of your 5G monetization strategy.
Q1: 5G investments are accelerating in the market. Where do you see the opportunities for monetizing these investments?
Mats Karlsson: When we look at monetization, we can see that service providers can be divided into three categories based on their capabilities and their role in the value chain.
Network Developer— These are service providers that are selling quick 5G voice and connectivity. In other words, they offer mobile internet and communication services. Their 5G business model is consumer-focused, and they have a narrow role in the overall IoT ecosystem.
Service Enabler — This category falls in the middle of the other two, and it represents the largest opportunity. These service providers broaden their services by leveraging capabilities within the network (cloud, edge, IoT enablement) to deliver their services. They become an enabler for 5G and IoT, and they provide custom services to enterprise customers.
Service Creator — These are service providers who are actually creating new services. This often involves moving beyond telecom into new industries. An example of this would be AT&T’s fleet management (connected vehicles). They work with a large ecosystem of suppliers. In addition to delivering their new services, they also provide a full suite of IoT solutions.
We think a large number of service providers will be successful service enablers. Ericsson’s role is to help service providers prepare for the future and make sure they have established partnerships with the companies that will be needed.
Q2: Can you give us an example of a service enablers role?
Mats Karlsson: Sure. There are a lot of companies who do AR and VR. For this example, let’s use Unity in the US since they are big into AR. In order to use AR wherever you are, you need good network connectivity.
So the question becomes, how can we make sure the service provider can expose the specific capabilities that can be customized for the users of Unity’s augmented reality technology? This is one example of where a service enablement road could lead.
Q3: Which do you think is best, big bang or stepwise evolution for digital transformation?
Mats Karlsson: I see much more stepwise evolution. Let me explain…
There is a history in the industry of trying to work with the big bang approach. It was the IT department and the service provider trying to completely transform the IT systems and BSS. It usually took them a couple years.
When they were finished, they oftentimes realized that’s not what the business side of the enterprise had asked for. So now the trend is that transformation is driven more out of clear business needs, and less out of the IT needs.
Every service provider is different. Some start with standardized BSS systems, and some start with twenty different BSS systems. The transformation of the service provider with twenty different BSS systems will be very different than the service provider with standardized systems across the board.
But overall, I’d say the answer to your question is a stepwise evolution. Service providers often get an idea and want to know, “When can I implement it?” The first step is usually to modernize the architecture with a stepwise approach.
Another reason stepwise evolution is best is because it allows you to stay agile and flexible. For example, it’s hard for a service provider to know now where they will be in 3 years. They don’t want to get locked into a certain path because new opportunities will likely arise. The stepwise approach is a more malleable way to go about the process.
At Ericsson, our 5G Core and OSS make out-of-the-box integration possible with our simultaneous charging solutions (4G, 5G, IoT, VoLTE). This is one way we are able to support a low risk stepwise evolution to 5G.
Q4: What does the concept of “open” mean to Ericsson?
Mats Karlsson: When I think of “open,” I think of “open standard.” It means our systems should be easy to use. It should all happen in a very simple way.
If I’m an enterprise, I don’t want to order one service from one service provider, and then go to another service provider for another service. If I did that, I’d have to do things differently depending on the service provider for that specific service. That’s not simple.
So for us, it’s about making sure the interface and the APIs for the networks are open and standardized. Without that, it’s hard to get the industry moving. Whether it’s ordering services, using services or monetizing services, it should be easy to use our system.
We see real value in work like that being done by the TM Forum to bring together vendors and service providers to define open and standardized APIs. It’s very good for BSS and certain parts of OSS.
For us, the ability to expose the assets of the network is key. Nobody benefits from having closed and proprietary APIs. If they are not open and standardized, it will slow down the whole industry.
Q5: What are you most excited about with regard to the development of Ericsson’s BSS portfolio? What are you most proud of?
Mats Karlsson: On a personal level, I get excited about working with customers all over the world. We have about 200 BSS customers. I might talk to a customer in Africa who is asking about GSM and how to monetize voice traffic, and then the next minute I’m talking to a customer who is really into 5G and enterprises.
And then there are the big Tier-1s, such as AT&T and Verizon, who are pushing the limits with our products, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. It’s a global transformation and quite a journey.
I’m most proud of our ability to keep our customer commitments, and keep our high quality standards. We’ve developed a solid, consistent portfolio. Our customers are happy, and we are building trust. These are things we are very proud of.
I’m also excited to see what the cloud journey brings to this industry in terms of agility, flexibility, speed and operational efficiency. Cloud infrastructure enables the most agile and cost effective operations, and it will redefine the future of BSS.
We have gotten requests from many customers who would like to run their telecom systems and their workloads in a public cloud. Just two years ago, people would have thought it was crazy to even suggest that.
And then there’s the whole 5G era, and what it will bring as far as use cases that will drive the monetization. We can definitely see some early clusters of use cases and the monetization around them.
We help our customers identify the network capabilities that enable early 5G and IoT monetization.
Through it all, we know it’s important to maintain a humble perspective. It’s like the guy who invented the internet — he didn’t figure out the monetization of the internet. He didn’t know that Facebook was going to be developed.
At the end of the day, we want our BSS and OSS to be enablers of innovation.
Service providers who choose to leverage Ericsson’s 5G leadership get to experience secure network resource exposure (including network slices), which is supported end-to-end.
Add IoT device management, scalable solutions, and charging & billing into the mix, and you can unlock the full potential of new opportunities. State of the art technology provides extraordinary user experience, fast deployments & upgrades, and reduced TCO through efficient operations.
Would you like to learn more about how telecom operators are preparing for the opportunities and challenges of 5G?
If so, download the MIT Technology Review Insights report “The 5G Operator: Platforms, Partnerships, and IT Strategies for Monetizing 5G.”
Before I close, I’d like to thank Mats Karlsson for taking the time for this interview, and for providing information that I know will be useful for a lot of people.
And, thank you, my dear readers, for checking out my blog post. To continue the conversation, please leave a comment below or tweet me at @adamsconsulting.
[Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by Ericsson. I was paid to interview Mats Karlsson and to write an article about Ericsson’s Digital BSS solution.]