5G Video: Interview with STL COO - Network Software


5G is an important aspect for an operator and the OSS/BSS evolution is an important factor for the success of the 5G.

In this interview, Saikat Mitra, STL COO – Network Software speaks with Kevin Gray, Fierce Wireless publisher, about OSS/BSS modernization, 5G opportunities and STL’s roll, OSS/BSS technology development trends and how CSPs can benefit from STL’s innovative solutions.



Kevin Gray: All right. Hi, everybody. My name is Kevin Gray, publisher at Fierce Wireless, and I'm here with the chief operating officer of Sterlite, Saikat Mitra. Saikat, thanks so much for joining us today.

Saikat Mitra: Hi, Kevin. How are you doing?

Kevin Gray: Great. All right, so first things first, can you just first introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Sterlite?

Saikat Mitra: Sterlite is an industry-leading solution provider of digital networks. Our 5G Digital Network Solutions help telco's, cloud companies, citizen networks, and large enterprises to provide enhanced experience to the customers and partners. So we do this from a range of services that we provide from wired to wireless, design to deployment, connectivity to compute, through our wide range of portfolio that we have, with the OSS/BSS software, with network software, with virtualized access solutions, and the system integration.

Saikat Mitra: In Sterlite, we believe that in harnessing technology to create a world with next generation connected experiences that transform everyday living. I would find myself very fortunate to be part of this organization, which helps me to have an impact of millions of lives every day. As a chief operating officer of the Network Software unit, I am responsible for the software business in Sterlite, who provides telco solutions to the service providers, to ensure that we have everything stack for Anything-as-a-Service Economy.

Saikat Mitra: I will get into the details in a bit later, but what essentially, I believe, is that unique selling point for ourselves is that, apart from providing an end-to-end OSS/BSS stack, we are able to also provide plug-n-play offering, which typically operators are looking forward to in a multi-vendor ecosystem. And this is possible to our microservices enabled open architecture portfolio that we have.

Saikat Mitra: And if you look at the 5G era, which is the talk of the town now, and 5G monetization becomes an important aspect for an operator. And we believe that the OSS/BSS evolution that is happening as I speak, is an important factor for the success of the 5G. The good news is that Sterlite software stack is actually already 5G ready.

Saikat Mitra: We have 50+ OSS/BSS solutions worldwide. And 40+ WiFi rollouts globally. So with this, with all our experience that we have working with Tier 1 and Tier 2 operators, and also the ever-evolving portfolio that we have, we believe we have a unique blend of experience and innovation.

Kevin Gray: Great. Okay. So that was a good thing to just start us off there. Let's go ahead and set the stage and dive deeper into OSS/BSS. So first off, what exactly is OSS/BSS modernization, if you could start there, please?

Saikat Mitra: So before I talk about the modernization piece, let me talk about the traditional implementation of the operation and business management systems, that the network operators have been going through over the last several decades.

Saikat Mitra: So typically this deployment will be going for several years, will have a lot of duplicated function. There will be multiple databases that will be inefficient architecture. This is because of the continuous patchwork that the operators went through over a period of several years. And now it is the time where it's a very fast-moving economy, and operators wants to basically launch new services quick and fast. And that is where the challenge lies, that with this very inefficient underlying system, we must support a system that is there. It requires an evolution; it requires a modernization. So the question is that, where do operators start that?

Saikat Mitra: If you look at the advent of the 5G. There are five things I believe would help a operator to be successful in a 5G era. It's about business agility, it's about time to market, it's about being able to experiment and get things tested faster, and low cost to serve. And then of course enhancing the customer experience. So these are the five things I believe would be important for an operator's success in the 5G space.

Saikat Mitra: And CSPs globally have realized that the traditional OSS/BSS could not help them reach where they want to reach. Like I said, in the past it was like rip-and-replace, which is to take multiple years. And most often than not could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. At the moment, the operators are taking a very careful approach of quick-hit optimization of the existing OSS/BSS system. Looking at the open architecture in certain parts, in our journey picking up the digital services and the customer experience platforms to use the microservices and the open architecture to deploy those and get quick results. And then slowly create a path towards the modernization.

Saikat Mitra: At STL what we believe is that, with our stack, that we have created over the last couple of years, we have helped a few operators to embrace this journey successfully. And we believe we have the experience and the portfolio to do that for several other operators in the ecosystem.

Kevin Gray: Okay, great. I think you hinted at this a little bit when you were talking about spinning up services and stuff. But my next logical question there is, the importance of all of this in 5G, and why is OSS/BSS transformation a crucial step for 5G monetization in particular?

Saikat Mitra: Sure. I think it's a very pertinent question because typically what we see is when we talk about 5G, it's all about better speed or exceptional latency and quality of service. But we often forget that 5G is giving operators some new innovative ideas, new innovative models, in which they can provide services, and benefit out of providing the services by monetizing those services, using a partner ecosystem.

Saikat Mitra: So collaboration with partners has become more important than ever. And that is where the transition of being a communication service provider to a digital service provider is the journey that any operator in the 5G space will take. And in this scenario, I think it is extremely important that we realize that the next generation OSS/BSS, is what will help the operators transform this communication service provider current scenario, to a digital service provider platform in the future.

Saikat Mitra: Essentially, I read an article in TM Forum, where they state 72% of the 5G revenue growth will be dependent on how the OSS/BSS evolution is successful. I think accelerating 5G monetization depends quite a bit on the way the BSS/OSS work seamlessly in a multi-vendor ecosystem, and with zero-touch operation. So this is for me, the crux of the success of 5G revenue growth, which is directly linked to the OSS/BSS modernization.

Kevin Gray: Okay, great. So as you mentioned, there is really going to be endless possibilities and opportunities. That is what I got from that as it relates to 5G, right?

Saikat Mitra: Absolutely.

Kevin Gray: What is STL's play from all this form a software perspective? You said you run a software business. Can you help break that down for us?

Saikat Mitra: I think to maximize the 5G deployment for an operator, I think they have to move up the value chain in terms of the services that they're providing to the end customers. So what I mean by that is, for example, typically when we talk about our network evolution, we talk about this network evolution, like I said, provides high speed, very high, extreme performance of latency and quality of service. But I can serve only what I can activate. Then how do I go up the value chain? So 5G enables you to move up the value chain of providing connectivity as a service. Then moving up to say, "Okay, in my platform, I actually invite partners to use this high connectivity to actually deploy and implement new services that helps their customers."

Saikat Mitra: So it's like B2B2X model, in which this entire ecosystem is moving. And again, one of the analysts says that 60% of the operators who have taken this 5G journey that are already onboarded, they don't have any idea of how to actually monetize this.

Saikat Mitra: And that's where we believe is where people like us, who understands this because of our experience working in this space, would be able to help these operators to tap this untapped business opportunity that is in their ecosystem. By providing the seamless condition from a communication service provider to a digital service provider.

Kevin Gray: Okay. So the next question I have for you is, I think I heard you say at some point something in the name of like the, Age of Now, economy. Can you help us break that down what you mean by revenue multiplier in the, Age of Now economy, please?

Saikat Mitra: Absolutely, absolutely. And it's one of my favorites actually. If you look at the current ecosystem where the end... let's say, if I look at myself or even you, I mean, whenever we look at getting some services from an operator, we look at a fixed consumption pattern. And we say, "Okay, at the end of the month, I spent this much of bandwidth, or I do this much of calling time and I get paid." But now it is moving away from that fixed consumption pattern to a more flexible consumption pattern. So gone are the days where you can have a fixed services that are given to the end customers.

Saikat Mitra: Now they are basically expecting that, "Whenever I want something, I hook onto it and then based on the consumption I pay." So this is the anything-as-a-service model we call it, which is in short form called XaaS. So that's where I think we are talking about, that this XaaS that anything-as-a-service, if operators have to maximize this, that's where they have to realize that they have a unique opportunity to monetize this. Using maybe a portion of the current monetization platforms that they have, with taking this leapfrog using state-of-the-art portfolio items, like for example Sterlite has, to be able to unpack this challenge.

Kevin Gray: Yeah, totally agree. Services has never been more important really, when it comes to monetization and getting everything you can of 5G. Okay. So next, let's talk a little bit about your overall strategy here. So what is STL's future OSS/BSS strategy? And where do you see the trends of OSS/BSS technology development going?

Saikat Mitra: If you look at the underlying mantra of the Sterlite's latest portfolio, we call it the NSW 2.0; Network Software 2.0. The entire mantra is based about, like I mentioned, everything stacked as a for Anything-as-a-Service economy.

Saikat Mitra: So what it means is basically to tap this XaaS, Anything-as-a-Service model, where we can basically help the operators maximize the investment they have done on the network monetization. And onboarding partners in the ecosystem so that we can generate more revenue streams in the operator's environment.

Saikat Mitra: So how do we do this? Apart from the functionality of providing this kind of use cases, I think it's important to understand, like I mentioned before, that it is not about rip-and-replace. So that will be an existing traditional ecosystem, and then on top of it, we'll be having some adjunct or some kind of overlay solutions, which has to work. And this has to work in a multi-vendor environment.

Saikat Mitra: And like I mentioned before, our microservice is based open architecture using for example artificial intelligence in our analytics platform or edge computing. These are some of the things that we have used in our stack to ensure that we provide a state-of-the-art architecture, and the foundation for us to build this added functionality on top of the operators current OSS/BSS platform.

Saikat Mitra: And the other thing I want to emphasize is, that this is possible to also not only the open architecture, but this open access should be supported by open APIs. Because I mentioned that our integration has to be flexible enough to work with multiple vendors, with some standardized APIs. And that's where this open API concept has been used very extensively across our portfolio. Whether it is the end-to-end OSS/BSS solution, we call it a dTelco, or to an enterprise that's a big portfolio item like the enterprise, or to one of our new product development ideas on the enterprise market. This entire thing has been built on an open API, open architecture, this model, to give us this accessibility to work on a multi-vendor and a multi-partner ecosystem.

Saikat Mitra: Now this is not it alone. Like they say today in this current economic that it's constantly changing with operators, outsourcing some of its traditional infrastructure to the hyperscalers.

Saikat Mitra: I think it was important for us to make the portfolio cloud native. And this we have taken by complying ourselves to the cloud native computing foundation, they call the CNCF, where we are certified all our portfolio items using the CNCF success criteria.

Saikat Mitra: Apart from that, our entire WiFi suite is Wireless Broadband Alliance compatible. And also our APIs are standardized across the board. Starting from the engagement layer to the product catalog, to the billing, everywhere, wherever you're using API, these are standard set of APIs which are TM Forum compliant.

Saikat Mitra: If I look at the NSW or the Network Software Portfolio, you set up this standardized model using of open database. And also the advanced analytics, and the machine learning algorithm that we are using, we believe that it also allows the platform to be adhering to strict GDPR compliance. It is also one of the very important aspect when you're talking about, seeing your products working in a economy like Europe or in the U.S., that this becomes very, very important.

Saikat Mitra: So in short, I think that the entire portfolio of network software has been built to be able to work seamlessly, to help operators take this journey from where they are today, to actually monetize the opportunities that they have, with the different revenue streams that come up on their way.

Kevin Gray: Great. All right, so I have time for one last question here, Saikat, and I think I'm going to have  to tee it up for you, when I think of STL, I think of you guys as being one innovative company in this space. I'm guessing you probably do too.

Kevin Gray: Can you perhaps just paint a better picture for us of STL's Network Software innovation? And really, what does that mean for CSPs, and how can they benefit from some of those innovative solutions?

Saikat Mitra: Absolutely. Like I mentioned before, Sterlite's DNA is about technology and innovation, and we cannot stop innovating. Even during these tough times, when we had our first challenges of reaching the end customers physically and going and actually seeing and doing some things together with the customer. We utilize this time to also work on certain new product development ideas.

Saikat Mitra: I think I talked about this enterprise platform, which is called the, The Enterprise Marketplace. Which is something that we have used to help partners, oh sorry, the operators to work with their partners and their customers to build a collaboration monetization platform, which is simplified like never before. So this is something which is very unique, and we also have proof of concepts that we are running with a few operators in Shabak and in India.

Saikat Mitra: Then this entire, the journey I talked about, the modernization journey, we had to first embrace the Agile methodology. Also, not only with our end customers, but also the way we are developing our products. The automated deployment using the Scaled Agile Framework, to be able to deploy releases to our end customers seamlessly, widely, if portfolio development is happening. So that's something that I believe is also quite mature, and we are using all Alexa standardized tools, open-source technologies to achieve that.

Saikat Mitra: Then we have something called an STL API Manager. So basically what this API Manager does is to, like I mentioned, that all the interfaces that we have, whether it's an internal interfaces of our engagement platform talking to the different channels. Or the engagement platform, talking to the downstream systems, order management, such as service provisioning, the entire gamut of interfaces that we have built are all standardized to this STL API manager, we call it. And not only it helps us internally, but also to integrate some third-party vendors where for example, for whatever reason, the customer has decided to continue with that stack.

Saikat Mitra: Like I said, we are building capabilities on top of the existing ecosystem of the partners and our customers. So that there is no concept of rip-and-replace in the current situation.

Saikat Mitra: Now, the other thing I want to talk about is, within the Engagement Platform and the Catalog, which is the Commercial Sales Catalog, which is extremely important when the operators are trying to launch new services quickly. I think that is something that we believe we have brought some old stuff like supporting flexible customer journey modeling. And also to provide template driven customer Commercial Catalogs. So these are some two cool features I believe, which will also help the operators to build a overlay solution on top of their current ecosystem.

Saikat Mitra: I think I didn't talk much about our WiFi Portfolio-Select-Me. Let me give you a few insights about that. As we all know that whenever we go, let's say for example, to a mall or to a, I don't know, to the stadium or something, of course we have our data network that we hook onto. But typically, if we go to these spaces, we always try to hook on to a hotspot. Because we expect that the hotspot will give me better connectivity, reliable, whatever, data that..., speed that I'm expecting.

Saikat Mitra: So with that, keeping in mind the STL dWiFi solution is built on providing a WiFi service management platform, which is at the moment let us release... Actually, also taking advantage of the state-of-the-art evolution of the WiFi technology, like WiFi 6, the hotspot to auto, and the open roaming. To not only provide increase coverage and user experience, but also seamlessly connectivity on the go. Which is something that we always love to do, so that I don't need to switch between different technologies while I'm on the go.

Saikat Mitra: Finally, I want to talk about another very important item, which is in my view, also something that we brought about in the current version of the release, is the Policy Control and Charging. So 5G is here today and there are deployments happening worldwide, as we know. But the Policy Control and Charging framework has to be also addressed as part of it. So for example, remove the unnecessarily load on the signaling for example, and provide ease of operation at the same time.

Saikat Mitra: So our dPCC which called it Digital Policy Control and Charging is 5G enabled. And it's the convergent rating charging and policy in the solution that we have, in which we are providing real-time policy, a policy engine which also work with the charging at a single instance. So this is something which is also compliant to the 3GPP-R15 and the 5G NSA. Which are some standards that one ought to comply to if you're looking at making your Policy Control and Charging work in a 5G ecosystem.

Saikat Mitra: So in short if I have to say that it's a plethora of new products that we have brought in. Of course, we have modernized the classic BSS/OSS stack working in a 5G era. It's a collection of something new, something old. But a bit more modernized so that it works in a new challenging environment of 5G space.

Saikat Mitra: And I believe this is something that, in the seeing is believing. And I really encourage our customers, our partners to try this portfolio, try a demo, try a proof of concept, and see what is in it. I can assure you, and you can trust me on this, that it will be something that will be worth your time and attention.

Kevin Gray: I think that's a great way to wrap up. That's all the time we have for today. Saikat, thank you so much for joining us and we hope to have you back soon.

Saikat Mitra: Thank you, Kevin. Thank you. I really enjoyed this conversation.