Taxonomy of the OSS

Billing – Retail Billing Systems

Billing is the process responsible for the production of timely and accurate bills. But billing systems also process customer payments and collections, handle customer inquiries about bills, resolve billing problems, provide information about billing status, and support pre- and post-

Billing – Billing Mediation Systems

Billing mediation products assemble information from various network elements into specific records, which are then fed into retail billing systems. These are basically high-level transaction processing systems, and though this is often applied to billing, the same systems can be applied to network event management for service assurance functions. Mediation systems are fundamental to the success of retail billing systems and are often supplied in tandem.

Billing – Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management

These systems verify correct billing, or detect and identify the unauthorized use of service provider network assets. Some software products can assess subscriber activities and identify unusual patterns in the same way as credit card companies assess card-holder spending patterns.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Formerly known as “customer care” systems, CRM includes all the functions involved in acquiring and retaining customers, making it quite a broad church. CRM can cover a vast array of processes within a service provider (anything involving customer service and support, extending even into service assurance and marketing), with the central theme the management of the customer relationship.

Element/Network Management Systems (EMS/NMS)

When vendors provide equipment to service providers, they must provide some means of remotely managing that equipment once it is installed. At a minimum, equipment alarms need to be collected and cards need to be configured, so virtually every device in the public network today will intelligently communicate with what is usually a vendor-supplied UNIX-based or PC-based system. A service provider will refer to this as the vendor’s element management system (EMS).

Depending on the vendor’s choice, the EMS will communicate to a service provider’s network-wide “Network Management System (NMS)” employing various protocols and various interface standards.


These systems are not specific to the telecom market but play an important role in managing complex OSS processes. Essential systems such as databases, messaging software, and systems management software need to be managed within a carrier’s OSS environment. The software that performs this central management role, and which also manages the security of the network, is generically referred to as middleware.

Resource/Inventory Management

Resource management systems are still often known as inventory management systems, though this tends to suggest the management of a database of physical network elements. Resource management systems can track physical inventory and “logical” inventory (though not all perform both functions). By relating equipment deployment to the services being delivered by that equipment, a system caWho Makes What: OSS<!– @page { size: 8.27in 11.69in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –n determine the network capacity being deployed and track network usage and available capacity.

Service Assurance – Fault Management

These systems collect and present alarms and events by interrogating network equipment and/or element management systems, and many allow staff to log in to specific network elements to check for additional information that might be relevant to the alarm. While there some pure fault management systems, they often perform other tasks, such as performance monitoring.

Service Assurance – Performance Monitoring

These systems measure and monitor particular technologies, applications, or functions of networks. For instance, in an IP network they might monitor latency and packet loss. There are systems designed specifically to monitor voice performance, and others for frame relay, ATM, and so on. There are also OSSs specific to wireless networks, as they are optimized to monitor, for example, the quality of the air interface or the transmission path between base stations and the backbone network.

Service Assurance -Service Management

Using fault and performance information, these systems deliver a view of service performance based on the customer’s view, rather than the network manager’s view. This type of OSS requires new metrics to define levels of acceptable performance, and often entirely new monitoring statistics. These systems are used in conjunction with service-level agreements and provide the information to determine whether the SLA metrics have been met by the service provider.

Service Assurance – Test & Measurement

These systems are closely associated with other performance management processes but differ in that they often include the significant use of hardware that is capable of launching on-demand tests that help determine network health. Most of the leading test and measurement packages offer varying degrees of integration of the test and measurement results with either a fault management or performance management system.

Service Fulfillmint – Activation

Service fulfillment is the combination of all of the processes involved in implementing a service order and provisioning the service to customers. Activation means “turning on,” or making available, a specified service. This could involve the dispatch of engineers and the installation of equipment, but assuming equipment is installed and available, a modern activation system will interface directly with element management systems or the relevant network elements. This means that, for end-to-end service requirements across a nationwide network, an activation system may need to issue commands to ATM or circuit switches to provision circuits, to Sonet terminals to allocate bandwidth, and to a wide array of access devices, such as DSLAMs, digital loop carriers (DLCs), or cable modems.

Service Fulfillment – Provisioning

Who Makes What: OSS

Service fulfillment is the combination of all of the processes involved in implementing a service order and provisioning the service to customers. The provisioning function involves specifying the pieces of equipment and parts of the network that are needed for the service, and the allocation of bandwidth in the transport network. Provisioning is therefore closely tied with the engineering design function, and also with resource management systems. Provisioning systems will often have a workflow engine to manage both the automated processes as well as the manual processes that might be necessary when manual engineering inputs are required.

Supplier/Partner Management

In other industries, the term “supply chain” is often used to describe the relationships involved in the ordering and delivery of material goods. But services are usually not traded, so the relationships among the various parties in a telecom environment tend to be more complex. Examples of this are the management of OSS interconnection between service providers, and the management of systems interfaces between carriers and their trading partners, service resellers, and (increasingly) content partners.

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