IBM has a huge task ahead of it as it attempts to implement the National Broadband Network (NBN) Company's Operational Support Systems and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS), according to telco consultant Professor Reg Coutts.
Last week, NBN Co named IT giant IBM as the primary systems integrator for the government-owned company's OSS/BSS systems in a deal worth $200 million.
"When you look at the history of OSS/BSS in Australia, it's a story of exciting development but tragic investment returns. They have been very much around the legacy telco problem," Coutts told the OSS/BSS Asia Pacific Summit in Sydney this morning.
"[OSS/BSS often] looks to me like multiple IT systems patched together to work but they always seem to unravel when customers and the market actually do things that they didn't predict would happen. That's just going to get worse, not better.
"Good luck, IBM, I'm sure you've been charged with the impossible task before. We're all looking with great expectation for you to be able to pull it together."
He did say that NBN Co would have it easier than other telcos because it is a purely wholesale company and therefore has few customers.
"When we look at the NBN, they're looking for it to be highly automated. The advantage NBN Co has is it actually has very few customers comparatively because it is a wholesaler to the retail service provider," he said.
The greatest difficulty, according to Coutts, will lie with the service providers who have to create billing systems that will be able to combine billing for services on the NBN and their own mobile networks.
"I haven't heard a lot of discussion about integration of the fixed and mobile services," he said.
Faced with the necessity to change OSS/BSS systems to bill for NBN servces, Coutts predicted the industry will ultimately shift, and telco providers may find themselves not dealing directly with end users.
"I'd suggest that when we're thinking about the future OSS/BSS, don't think about the telco industry. The telco industry, in my view, will disappear. From a customer's point of view, where they get service, they won't go to a telco — they may go to their football club, they may go to their shopping centre," he said. "The whole grappling of who will have the final customer relationship is an important issue."