Telecom OSS/BSS: An Overview

1. Introduction
Before the initial 1970s, most of the support activities in a telephone company such as taking orders, maintaining network inventory, provisioning services (for example, line assignment and testing), configuring network components, managing faults and collecting payments were performed manually. It was realized that many of these activities could be replaced by computers. In the next few years, a number of computer systems and software applications were created to automate these activities. Examples include TIRKS, RMAS, SES, etc. Thus came the term Operations Support Systems (OSS). OSS are ³network systems´ dealing with the communications network and supporting processes such as maintaining network inventory, provisioning services, configuring network components, managing faults.

Business Support Systems (BSS) is a newer term and typically refers to ³business systems´ dealing with customers and support processes such as taking orders, processing bills, collecting payments, sales and marketing, supporting customer care agents in response to service requests, trouble reporting and billing inquiries, etc.

OSS and BSS systems together are often abbreviated as BSS/OSS or B/OSS. The term OSS was historically used to include both network and business systems. Some industry analysts, system integrators and service providers still use the term OSS to include both network and business systems, which sometimes causes confusion.

This article provides an overview of some of the core areas in OSS and BSS such as Order Fulfillment, Service Assurance and Billing systems. The following BSS/OSS systems are covered: Order Fulfillment ± Order Management, Service Provisioning and Inventory Management


Contact Center. y Hosting ± Custom Application Environments. Some of the examples of communications products/services are: Voice ± Basic telephony. Frame Relay. long distance. VPN. etc. y Internet Protocol (IP) ± Internet Access. Web Site Hosting. Disaster Recovery.Fault & Trouble Management.Billing Mediation.y Service Assurance . Local Access. Interconnection Billing. Voice over IP (VoIP). toll-free. The Realm of OSS/BSS in Order Fulfillment. Order Fulfillment functions are a critical set of activities performed in order to fulfill customer orders for services in a Communications Service Provider (CSP) environment. For an extensive overview of business activities. Private Lines. y Data ± Layer 1 Wide Area Network (WAN) Services such as 2. security and network services.1 Order Fulfillment Communications products/services could range from Voice services to IP and Data services to Hosting and CPE services. However. Layer 2 WAN services such as ATM. y . Topology & Configuration Management. Planning & Testing y Billing . etc.tmforum. business process and functions. etc. Billing Systems. Managed Services such as storage. Remote Access. etc. VoIP. Contact Center. The following figure shows a very high-level view of activities performed in a typical CSP environment. Layer 2 VPN and Metro Ethernet. Rating. Network Performance Management. Assurance and Billing 2. Revenue Assurance The article explains some of the basic functions of these systems. this article doesn't intend to provide extensive details. refer to standards such as eTOM and TAM at http://www.

process customer moves and changes. Upon fulfilling the decomposed orders and appropriate testing of the circuits. service details. One of such tools available in the market is Selectica COnfigurator. validation and submission. price quotes and orders. customer accounts. relevant contacts and applicable contracts. while supporting multiple channels such as Web. Orders can be validated as the data is entered and/or validation after all the data has been entered. Order Management includes the following areas: Order Entry and validation ± The Order Entry process captures order details such as package or plan. validate orders. service address.1. 2. Order template documents and partner applications as well as multiple lines of businesses. Products/solutions that validate order data as they are entered and walk the user through the product configuration process are known as ³Product Configurators´. etc. The following sub-sections explain the Order Fulfillment related functions and OSS/BSS systems. y .. the orders are put into inventory. Data entered during Order Entry is also validated against predetermined rules. orders are decomposed and sent for provisioning.1 Order Management Order Management systems are complex systems that allow customer or customer service representatives to capture and process new orders.After order entry. modify existing orders.

allocation of bandwidth in the transport network. as new services are added to the offerings. and preparation and . Apart from Circuit Design support. each of which would be sent to the appropriate provisioning systems. it also provides circuit order control. inventory record maintenance. etc. 2. typically based on service types or quantities. One of the major problems service providers often grapple with is that.2 Service Provisioning Service Provisioning systems are systems used to setup products/services for the customer after an order for the services has been created and accepted by the CSP. and Field Service Management systems. customer eligibility and other business constraints. if a customer order contains both a VoIP order and a phone line order. configuring the customer¶s routing path. setting up of wiring and transmission.y Order Decomposition ± A single customer order can be decomposed into one or more service requests. For example. in order to be able to fulfill an order. ordering channels. Product catalog based Order Management solutions attempt to solve these problems by storing and processing qualification rules for services based on customer profiles.1. Circuit design refers to specifying whether facilities exist to provide the service and which pieces of the network equipment and routes the service shall utilize. one each for VoIP and the phone line. service locations. One of the most widely used systems providing Circuit Design facility is Telcordia TIRKS. availability. Service provisioning activities include specifying the pieces of equipment and parts of the network to fulfill the service. selection and assignment of components from inventory. the lack of flexible order management platform results in product/service specific OSS/BSS applications. These in turn result in higher time-to-market as well as increased costs of maintaining many different applications and systems. Some of the systems that constitute provisioning systems are: Circuit Design & Assignment Tools. Activation systems. product interdependencies. two service requests would be created. led by different business units.

EMSs can also feed equipment status data back to network and trouble management systems. The order control module in TIRKS works with a circuit provisioning system and operates in conjunction with other TIRKS components to assign facility and equipment information for circuit orders and design circuits. The circuit design generated in TIRKS is then communicated to field operations or automated activation systems for implementation. i. For such activations. Activation systems often comprise a library of adapters to various network systems. TIRKS can then provide automated design criteria for certain circuit orders. and to a wide array of access devices such as DSLAMS. a Field Service Management (FSM) system is notified which in turn dispatches technicians. the capability to roll-back operations already performed. For example. Circuit Design and Assignment tools these days often have graphical tools that allow a user to create services on a network map using mouse clicks and drag-and-drop rather than drawing maps by hand or using an abstract set of equipment identifiers displayed in a table. It should be noted that Provisioning systems interact with the Inventory systems. Network Management Systems (NMS) or application hosts. certain activations can be performed automatically. EMSs are designed to receive and execute commands sent by activation systems on the devices. Element Management Systems (EMS). or cable modems. both to . it is ready to be activated. Moreover. They usually also support transaction control.distribution of circuit work orders. Digital Loop Carriers (DLC). Service Activation systems pass the device specific commands and configuration changes to the network elements. After a service is designed based on the existing equipment and circuit inventory. to SONET terminals to allocate bandwidth. EMSs use protocols such as Common Management Information protocol (CMIP) or Transaction Language (TL) or Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to communicate with activation and other systems.e. in case an error occurs. issuing commands to ATM or circuit switches to provision circuits. If new equipment or lines need to be configured manually.

3 Inventory Management Tracking inventory involves tracking equipment.verify that the required network elements and other facilities are available. Inventory Management Systems track both the physical network assets (such as equipment and devices) as well as ³logical´ inventory (such as active ports. provisioning systems have close channels with inventory systems. performance. Therefore. although not all support both.2 Service Assurance Communications service providers (CSP) strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors by implementing attractive Service Level Agreements (SLA). Some examples of information tracked are: the location and quantities of the equipment. As a result. etc. as well as penalties upon violation . etc. an inventory system can help network operations determine the network usage and available capacity as well as enable automated network design and planning. By relating usage of network assets to specific customers and services. and once the resources are provisioned . how a piece of equipment is configured and its status. circuit ids. Inventory Management Systems also enable Service Assurance systems to find the impact of a network fault on the customer¶s reflect the changed on-line configuration of the facilities. Some tools also have ³auto-discovery´ features to automatically check physical network assets and match the results with the information held in the inventory.). An SLA may specify levels of service availability. these work only with some of the newer intelligent network elements. However. 2. IP addresses. SLAs are formal contracts where the level of service delivered by the CSP to his customer is stipulated. operation. some vendors have combined workflow capabilities with inventory management capabilities in their products. facilities and circuits. 2. etc.

2.of the SLA. Such a problem in the network can result in a chain reaction where many network elements in a certain path produce alarms*.1 Fault and Trouble Management Fault Management Systems are designed for detection. 2. An alarm* is a persistent indication of a fault that is cleared only when the triggering condition is resolved. The following sub-sections introduce some of the common service Assurance systems. etc. . act and report the level of service.). Offering SLAs implies that the service provider has the ability to monitor. switches. isolation and correction of malfunctions in a communications network. in order to assure the quality of services delivered to the customers. switch failure. The following figure illustrates how fault management works. etc. Service Assurance refers to all the activities performed for such an assurance. Examples of trouble or fault in a network are damage to an optical fiber line. that helps retain existing customers. They monitor and process network alarms generated by network elements (routers. The goal of Service Assurance is to provide an optimal customer experience. attract new customers and prevent penalties arising out of violation of SLAs. gateways. Fault Management Systems may be either a component within Network Management Systems or as a standalone set of system and application software.

Older Network Elements might simply send an alarm notifying a problem while newer Network Elements can provide more precise and detailed messages. They use complex filtering systems to assign alarms to specific severity levels and correlate different alarms to locate the source and cause of a problem. Trouble Management systems also handle automatic escalation. NOC operators can see rolebased views on their consoles. via EMS. Fault Management Systems may collect alarms via SNMP traps. emails. such as progression of a ticket from minor to major or major to critical. After a problem is identified. The Trouble Management System then sends commands to appropriate systems such as Field Service Management to schedule and dispatch technicians to repair the equipment and/or to EMS to reroute network traffic around the problem areas. the FMS then notifies appropriate network operators as well as pass the problem information to a Trouble Management System that in turn logs the problem and issues a trouble ticket to start the repair process. and support a variety of notification methods such as paging. Fault Management systems usually provide graphical network displays which are projected on large screens at the Network Operations Centres (NOC). shortcuts to operations they perform the most as well as . CMIP events or proprietary agents..Network Elements are designed to provide various levels of self-diagnosis. synthesis voice dial-out. etc.

jitters and out of sequence packet reorder. customer premises availability. Associated Remote Monitoring (RMON) MIB-type data can then list ten most active users. etc. Probes such as Brix Networks BrixWorks Verifiers and Tektronix/Minacom IVR tools typically emulate customer traffic in order to test or probe specific paths to measure the quality of . Performance Management tools can access the data by using SNMP to poll the MIBs at predefined intervals. etc. to name a few.2 Network Performance Management Performance Management components in NMS and other Alarm Handlers monitor applications and systems and collect performance variables of interest at specified intervals. Examples include WireShark and to quickly make connections to EMS to perform any testing or diagnostic operation. etc. etc. (I & II). Statistics on performance variables can also be captured via dedicated network appliances known such as ³probes´ and ³sniffers´ that monitor or probe customer¶s local loop connections. latencies. packet performance. packet delivery rate. response times. FTP. One way to capture performance metrics is collecting event logs.2. Performance variables of interest may be service provider network edge availability. etc. Packet sniffers typically monitor signaling protocols such as SIP and RTP by inspecting packets on the wire/fiber. an Ethernet Switch may have a MIB which provides in and out data volumes of each port. This form of performance testing is usually referred to as active testing. CDRs and other performance data such as counters or timers that the network and system elements maintain as part of their normal operation. central processing unit (CPU) busy status. EMS feeds. HTTP fetches. FTP. 2. DNS. For example. packet losses. histograms of frame sizes.. This is referred to as passive measurement. Performance data is captured by polling MIB using SNMP or using syslog. Most passive measurements report on a single network element. number and types of erroneous frames. using pings.

instead of the internal operation of a network element. This form of performance monitoring is reactive performance monitoring.3. An alternative is to pass the performance data directly to Performance Management tools. Some CSPs have taken performance statistics of the network affecting customers¶ circuits to their customer self-service portals. such as application response time. For example.the services supported.2. Appropriate thresholds are determined for each of the interesting performance variable so that exceeding the thresholds indicates a problem. Some tools also support proactive monitoring by way of providing simulation tools that helps network operators project how growth in network traffic will affect performance metrics and plan to take proactive countermeasures such as increase capacity. Round-trip time is measured if the ping packet returns. An example of active network performance test is injecting ³ping´ (short. Probes could be either placed into the network or could be built into network elements such as in the case of Cisco¶s IP Service Level Agreements tools. on an on-going basis. network layer echo packet) into the network aimed at a remote IP address. Note that active measurement measures a service. Concord eHealth could collect performance statistics from Netcool agents via SNMP polls at a pre-defined interval. Performance Management tools may also support real-time and historical reporting. Performance statistics are initially analyzed to determine the normal (baseline) levels. Performance Management tools then measure the performance variables against SLAs defined as thresholds per application or service. and an error counter is incremented if it doesn¶t. Performance statistics captured by ³active´ or ³passive´ performance tests are normalized and routed to relational databases and/or data-warehouses. 2. Topology & Configuration Management . In case of exceptions they report them to alarm handlers.

etc. network topologies started becoming dynamic. with the rise of IP-based. which is critical to understand network performance or root cause of network alarms. and disappear without providing prior notice to the network administration. dynamically routed networks. or because a network operator group might add a new router or switch to the network. possibly without everyone else in the network operations center being aware of the changes. This makes it easier to discover relevant portions of the network more accurately. Any error or inconsistency in the configuration files of different network devices caused problem. According to [3]. Also.Older networks and systems were static and the network wiring was fixed in place. Backup paths. on their own. and test equipment [3]. DHCP and other techniques allowed users to appear. Instead of static associations between users and network addresses (as was set in the old ³hosts´ file). and sometimes required long outages while changes to the network and its configuration were being made. etc. can make it very difficult to discover actual paths. Probes are placed into the network to automatically find devices and circuits. Also. Most major NMSs therefore provide capabilities to automatically discover a network¶s actual topology. MPLS. The topology of the network became dynamic because a few of routers might decide. Some service providers may run network discovery routines on a daily basis to discover any unauthorized changes to the network topology as a result of security intrusions or unplanned insertion of devices. . move. patch panels. most network elements provide MIBs that can be polled via SNMP to discover the network. to shift routing patterns. through multiplexed links.. and therefore these changes were well controlled [3]. for instance. in order that the system can ignore certain portions of the network. most Topology Management Systems allow the network operator to provide hints so that the system. although discovering the network topology in its entirety may not be guaranteed. virtual private networks.

2.including the equipment. Based on the results and other planning activities. network elements and computer systems have a variety of version information associated with them. They provide simulation tools that help the network operators to project how growth in network traffic will affect the network performance. traffic and technology. TCP/IP Software. Testing is an important activity in setting up a network or customer circuits. services and call quality ± is critical for assessing the system prior to deployment and for service assurance in production . a workstation may have: Operation System. version 32. version 5.0 and SNMP Software. Configuration Management tools help automates the tracking of the changes. When a problem in the network occurs. if required.4. They also enable network operators to change configurations of the network elements as well as to roll back a change to a previous configuration. Planning & Testing Network Planning solutions help determine when a communication network needs an upgrade or additional equipment as well as to predict the impact of changes to a service provider¶s network¶s topology. Since multiple engineers/network operators work on making changes to the network equipment. Ethernet Interface. Integration testing of services configured for the customer 3. let us divide them into the following: 1.1. Testing of existing network or a change 2.Moreover. version 3. network operators can take countermeasures such as increase capacity.4. tracking the changes manually would be very tedious and error-prone. network operators often search the Configuration Management database for clues that can help solve the problem. For example. End-to-end testing of services configured for the customer Testing the entire network platform . Configuration Management systems store the configurations in a database or LDAP server for easy access.2. For simplicity in understanding the gamut of testing activities. configuration. version 2.

i. and the affects of any changes to the network or increasing traffic or adding new applications. routes. Also. field operations teams are notified to perform endto-end testing. The hand held terminal helps them to access loop testing system and to view the complete test summary from remote locations. The following figure depicts a simple Billing flow: .e. Another form of testing is integration testing of network setup for the customer.Mediation systems collect network usage data from the network elements and convert to billable statistics. and access charges of the services. 2. HTTP. video and data traffic. etc. which helps measure call/data quality. etc. network performance. both within the CSP¶s network as well as local access circuits between the CSP and the customer premises. Network testing tools usually simulate a production environment and generate synthetic voice. feature transactions. Upon completion of integration testing. Field engineers typically use equipment and network element specific applications to perform integration testing. these testing tools enable active testing of facilities. during ongoing operations. Network operators or field engineers perform integration testing of services upon completion of activations and other provisioning activities. circuits. These tests typically include tests like DNS. Ping.environments [4]. configured for a customer.. RTP. End-to-end testing includes testing of circuits.3 Billing IDC [6] defines Billing as: the processing and compiling of charges and enabling of revenue collection for network usage. Some service provider¶s use craft access systems for the benefit of field technician¶s access to their internal systems through a hand held terminal [5].

originating and termination numbers. applicable discounts and rebates from promotions.3. It is also used to feed other downstream applications such as Fraud and Churn Management. end time of call. IPDR supports both voice and data. a new standard is gaining acceptance called Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR). CDRs are stored until a billing cycle runs. Rating systems apply charges based on pre-configured pricing rules. CDR includes information on start time of call. and holidays. day of the week. provide flexible rating . it was solely a matter of taking the length of the call. etc. Modern rating systems can assign discounts based on calling circles. Call Detail Records (CDR) have been used to record the details of the circuit-switched phone call. In older times. evening. for phone calls. night). 2. using the CDRs/IPDRs. For IP Based Services.2 Rating Rating systems calculate the charge for an individual call. and assigning discounts based on the time of day (peak. IP usage event. This rating process has grown increasingly complex in recent years. Billing systems use mediation output to determine charges for the customers.Traditionally. assigning a price based on the mileage band (calculated by cross-referencing the prefix of the originating and terminating numbers in a table of values). duration of call.

etc. Interconnection Billing In the competitive world of communications. payment records. With unified billing. According to Insight [2]. 2. promotions and discounts associated with the customer account. 2. detect and identify . discounted. Interconnection Billing products support inter-working of a service provider¶s billing systems with the corresponding systems of another service provider.5. billing is usually performed once a month.3. and calculate customer invoices. These serve as strategic marketing tools but can be very complex to administer and operate.3. based on interconnect agreements and contracts. Each customer is assigned a specific billing cycle. recurring charges (such as line rentals).4. Overnight billing batch jobs are among the largest batch environment at a CSP¶s operating environment. In the United States. one-time fees (such as installation and service charges). Revenue Assurance Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management systems verify billing. a customer gets a single bill for all services provided (or billed) by the service provider. 2.3. taxes and credits.3 Billing Systems Billing systems aggregate rated calls. However. appropriately rated. in order to bundle their own products with their partners. the holy grails of the billing industry are unified billing and convergent billing. service providers often tie-up with partners. IP/data usage events.plans based on size of accounts and increase switching costs [2]. in order to successfully settle interconnect billing settlements an effective Interconnection Billing is required. and a single contact for inquiries and negotiation. Billing systems combine rated records with prior balance information. This helps the service providers to provide attractive bundles of products and services. and taxed.

Fraud Management systems typically detect and prevent unauthorized access to a communications network by analyzing traffic patterns on the network. Subscription fraud means that a customer obtains a service account by giving a false identity (name and/or SSN) or by giving a false address or false credit worthiness. profile based analysis such as habitual user profiles and neural networks. inference rules analysis.unauthorized usage of service provider network assets. . If a call is inconsistent with the subscriber's call pattern profile. the subscriber is provided with a report of the abnormal call activity. Some of the kinds of frauds are Usage and Subscription. y Detecting subscription fraud involves searching recent order and existing customer data for multiple orders and/or accounts with the same customer name. Substantial deviation of usage profile of a new user from an average new user. y y Common techniques to control subscription based fraud include threshold based analysis. Usage Fraud means that a customer uses the telecommunications network illegally. Common subscription fraud patterns include: Change of billing address within a few weeks of opening an account. y Other methods for dealing with the problem of unauthorized use involve automatically denying or blocking access to the network when abnormal use is detected to minimize the subscriber's financial loss.e. ³hacking´ or ³cracking´). SSN. Some examples are provided in [8]: One technique involves analyzing the average call duration or the number of calls placed to foreign countries to determine whether the traffic patterns are consistent with a subscriber's call history or pattern. or service address. This is accomplished either by obtaining a service with no intent to pay or by obtaining unauthorized access to the network (i.

empirical profiling. 3.due to price wars. They optimize the time taken to perform these operations and make the business processes more efficient. on the other hand. They also allow operators to review customer accounts that have suspicious activity. that enable service providers to learn which customers are likely to leave and take appropriate countermeasures. forecasting and simulation. Conclusion 3. typically characterized by evidence of intent where the resulting losses are often not recoverable and may be detected by analysis of calling patterns. to track their investigation and record the final case resolution.1 Summary OSS/BSS systems and applications automate many of the day to day operations performed in a communications service provider¶s operating environment. and customer¶s expectations related to customer service. Churn Management tools provide functions such as automated behavior analysis. is characterized with theft by deception.Fraud Management Systems typically read and store usage data from the service provider¶s network switching equipment and allows queries to be executed against the data that detect suspicious usage patterns. aggressive marketing and promotions from competing service providers. Revenue leakage is characterized by the loss of revenues resulting from operational or technical loopholes where the resulting losses are sometimes recoverable and generally detected through audits or similar procedures [1]. churn metrics capture. Churn management is an important area for service providers that have subscription-based business . It should be noted that fraud is different from revenue leakage. Fraud. Another important class of Revenue Assurance tools includes Churn Management tools. .

Service providers. Architectural Overview of Network Management. off-the-shelf in some. Dec 2006 [3] Eric Siegel. The article provided an overview of some of the core OSS/BSS areas in Order Fulfillment. and home-grown custom applications in the remaining areas. Oct 2005 [4] Arindam Banerjee. Light Reading. to modernize and optimize their operations. but a manual process is present to configure the telephone exchange using a switch management system. The Insight Research Corp. as part of discrete projects and programs. More often than not. therefore. the ordering system takes the details of a customer¶s order.There are no all-encompassing OSS/BSS systems that can be A side effect of the difficulty in integrating the various OSS/BSS systems is many of the OSS/BSS systems in a service provider¶s operating environment may not be integrated at all. http://www. sponsored out of different business units. integrated. tested and allow the service providers to easily modernize their end-to-end operations functions. Dec 2006 [2] The 2007 Telecommunications Industry Review. many of these OSS/BSS systems are integrated with the others in a point-to-point fashion. This leads to point-to-point integration of OSS/BSS systems unless the programs/projects are planned with a strategic goal. Service Assurance and Billing.lightreading. The Burton Group. For example. use all the different approaches: best-of-breed in some areas. Details of the order entered in the Order Handling system is re-keyed manually by the technician into the Switch Management System ± a process often referred to as ³SwivelChair Integration´. Network Management is the Key to the Success of Next-Generation . 3. it is not unusual to find the following scenario: when a customer orders a new telephone line.2 References [1] Who Makes What: OSS. Jan 2007 [5] Senthil K. http://www. OSS Solutions for Network Operators ± white paper. Telecommunication Fraud Management. April 1996 [21] Stephen Brown. TeleManagement Forum [13] Wikipedia. 2002 [8] Telecommunications Fraud Detection Scheme. http://www. http://en. http://en. TMFC 2122 White-paper [6] Sterling Perrin et al. Web ProForums. 1999 [12] Enhanced Telecom Operations map .cisco. US Patent 5504810. International Engineering Consortium (IEC) [11] Divakara K. Order Fulfillment Core Processes and Pain Areas. [16] Wikipedia. US Patent 5504810. Measuring Performance of Networks and [19] Balan Nair et al. TeleManagement United States Patent 5974127. IDC's Service Provider Infrastructure Taxonomy. McGraw Hill. Oct 2004 [15] Wikipedia. TMN Telecommunications Management Network..patentstorm. http://www. Jan 2007 [10] Element Management Systems ± Definition and Overview.html.Architecture.wikipedia. http://en. Ramachandran.html. Next-Generation OSS and Billing Market [14] Elisabeth Rainge. IDC [7] Lars Andersson.iec. April 1996 [9] OSS Through Java Initiative.patentstorm.freepatentsonline. ISBN:9780070658158. . The Burton Group.html [18] Wikipedia. Oct 1999 [20] Telecommunications Fraud Detection Scheme. Udapa.html. http://www. The Business Process Language of NGOSS.wikipedia. Jan 2005. OSS/J Roadmap. Feb 2007 [23] International Engineering Consortium (IEC).org/wiki/Management_information_base [17] Network Management Basics. Method and system for planning a telecommunications network.wikipedia. Yankee Group.pdf [22] Eric Siegel.

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