National Broadband Network (NBN) Co has appointed IBM as the prime systems integrator to build the technology platform that will form the beating heart of the NBN; its business and operational support systems (OSS/BSS).
OSS/BSS refers to the core billing, customer management, network management and provisioning systems that telcos rely upon for their daily business. Several of Australia's major telcos (notably Telstra, Optus and AAPT) have refreshed their systems over the past years in an effort to become more agile and gain a more integrated view of their customers.
Speaking at the Communications Day Summit in Sydney this morning, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said the deal would be worth around $200 million over three years and would see IBM working with a number of other smaller suppliers as the prime contractor on the project. He declined to name the smaller suppliers.
IBM said it would provide a range of applications powered by what it called its IBM Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE).
"This contract is designed to deliver the five key core business and operational support systems components: fulfilment, assurance, resource management, billing and integration and B2B. Implementation has just started and will be completed in four releases," the company said in a separate statement.
"Using our extensive telecommunications industry expertise and proven applications and services capabilities, IBM will partner with NBN Co to deliver next-generation systems," said Andrew Stevens, managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand.
Quigley said NBN Co initially wanted to use completely off-the-shelf software for the deployment, but it ended up not being viable due to the complexity of NBN Co's needs. These needs will see the company provide its retail service provider customers with a complete end-to-end view of NBN Co's network and their place in it.
The NBN Co chief said that having the chance to build the OSS/BSS platform from scratch came with both advantages and disadvantages for the company; there weren't any legacy systems to work around, but the lack of such structures posed problems, too.
One opportunity which NBN Co has taken advantage of is the chance to integrate its fledgling Oracle-based enterprise resource-planning platform with the OSS/BSS systems at the heart of the deployment. Quigley said this wasn't easy in most other telcos, with ERP systems often being the domain of in-house IT departments while OSS/BSS systems are the domain of operational staff.
"To say they have strong convictions [about their respective roles] is an understatement," Quigley said, noting the divide between the disparate camps was like "a religious conviction".
NBN Co, however, has managed to come up with a model where it has "completely integrated" its ERP and OSS/BSS systems together.
The timeline for the OSS/BSS systems deployment is quite short; Quigley said NBN Co is planning to lay out a development sandbox for retail service providers to test the company's network using metropolitan points of interconnect by the third quarter of 2011. A certification environment is to be completed by the fourth quarter and a basic business-to-business gateway will be set up by the first quarter of 2012.