Reinventing the Back Office Post UNE-P

TEN YEARS AFTER THE TELECOM Act of 1996 brought competition to the local loop, FCC deregulation of UNE-P rates is forcing CLECs to reinvent themselves with facilities, VoIP or a high-volume margin resale strategy. As the March deadline for ending legacy UNE-P contracts approaches, vendors are catering to the segment with tailored solutions to ease the transition from a back-office perspective.

The post-UNE-P back office is marked by business models that require more technical knowledge and are more complex than ever before. Many of Concretios customers are stuck with the dilemma about what the next step is after UNE-P, says John McManus, vice president of sales at Concretio, an OSS provisioning provider. Some have converted to the new wholesale arrangements the ILECs have been offering, so they need not invest in a network deployment. Some are in the process of going back to the old resale model and converting their bases accordingly, while others have pursued a network deployment of switching facilities.

To bolster facilities ROI, some newly switch-based CLECs are offering their platforms on a wholesale basis, with the potential of better margins than what the ILECs are offering, he adds, driving yet more changes in the business model.

Further, many CLECs are bringing on new lines of business to increase their value propositions.

UNE-P allowed people without a level of OSS expertise to get into thebusiness….That just wont work anymore.

EUR Systems Bob Erdman

As CLECs strike out on their own, many are unprepared to address this complexity from an OSS perspective. Today, billable records come in an industry-standard format from the RBOC, and the UNE-P provider is not required to understand a whole lot about how those records are generated or aggregated, explains Bob Erdman, product manager for the CABS and mediation product family at EUR Systems. Post-UNE-P, the CLEC will have many sources for call records as it migrates to a multivendor resale, VoIP or facilities-based model, and they will be in various formats and coming from various elements and systems. These companies have to have processes in place to wade through all of that and ensure accurate billing.

CLECs may transition to wireless last-mile systems, wireline builds, new resale partners or a softswitch. But regardless of the post-UNE-P business model chosen, local competitors will find themselves with a few generic requirements. The chief hurdle is data collection; CLECs must implement all the processes necessary to get call records from numerous sources and sort them for billing. Many of the other challenges are related to revenue assurance and reconciliation of billing to an entirely new set of service costs.

Personnel training is a first step to back-office reinvention. This migration requires a knowledge and expertise of the network they are using, says Erdman. The better the billing person understands how those network messages were created, the easier it will be to bill. Its not just a question of taking a quantity and multiplying by price anymore.

Beyond expertise, the market transition also requires investment in new back-office platforms. Some resellers have invested money in an internal system specific to UNE-P, says Randy Minervino, vice president of marketing at Profitec Inc. As they broaden their horizons, it will call that legacy system into play. As they move, theres a large pool of knowledge around UNE-P, but not much else, and so it will strain existing systems from sales to provisioning as they expand their lines of business and their focus. The move ruins all the auditing paradigms they had in place, and the need to take data from multiple systems may impact data integrity and processes.

Options for CLECs include a mix of hiring back-office talent or hiring a consultant to train existing staff, and outsourcing or buying a specialized software package to perform mediation.

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Concretios CompleteSuite supports many order types, such as migration from one platform to the next. Users can track the detailed progress of an order as it is processed through WorkFlow.

Concretio has addressed both the new network providers and new wholesale providers by providing a one order browser-based solution to process the migration of UNE-P customers. The CompleteSuite allows users to process new, migration, move and change orders. An order is entered once and the following transactions are processed automatically: An LSR for a new loop or loop with number port, switch update, service order activation with the NPAC, local number portability as well as the database updates, including CNAM, LIDB, DA, CARE and E911. CompleteSuite also has an automated workflow management system that process all the transactions from one order.

TexLink Communications chose the CompleteSuite to facilitate the conversion of UNE-P CLEC customers to its network. Mark Gregory, TexLinks IT director, says, It literally flips customers from UNE-P service to our network with one order, while processing all the downstream transactions like switch updates, CNAM, LIDB, E911 and others with no human intervention. We like being able to manage the exceptions rather than having to manage the entire process.

Meanwhile, EUR Systems has a turnkey outsourced service for transitioning UNE-P resellers that takes all records, sorts and aggregates them, then resolves any data integrity issues. Features include usage input, file management, uncompressing of files, renaming, organization of the data based on the CLECs specific criteria, e-mail alerts and consultations. We work alongside them to provide a solution, not just a piece of software, says Erdman. And within our messageprocessing products, we built features and functions that make some of these mundane tasks automated. You have files coming from every direction, requiring initial error identification and correction, checking for duplicates and so on.

The OmniBill Full Service Portfolio also is a turnkey billing and back-office suite for CLECs, hosted at Profitecs 24/7 operations center for everything from order entry to collections. So if you dont have the skill sets internally, or the staffing, this gives them a bigger opportunity to be viable, says Minervino.

One central issue specific to those CLECs moving to VoIP is handling the order process flow of a VoIP order. Theres no such thing as a flow-through process in the VoIP world, says Minervino. A lot of people and departments need to touch an order. Its not just billing event records that come out on the back end. In creating OSS functionality upstream there is much to learn.

To that end, Profitec has a product specifically designed to help CLECs add to their existing market opportunities through VoIP, including online sales channel management, ecommerce, wireless access and more. The order process flow in the billing system is automated, so the CLECs can focus on how to bundle and market its offers.

Facilities or no, VoIP or TDM, the end of the UNE-P era is bringing a massive paradigm shift among competitors, requiring a quick ramp-up in back-office knowledge and systems to survive.

UNE-P allowed people without a level of OSS expertise to get into the business, says Erdman. That just wont work anymore.

EUR Systems
Profitec Inc.
TexLink Communications

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