It’s time to consider what real-time allows you to do with a ‘tongue in cheek’ look at whether you can remain competitive without implementing real-time, and unifying policy and charging (hint: not really).
Here’s what we heard when we interviewed a participant in a recent industry round-table considering operators’ options for managing this disturbing trend for real-time innovation.
1. Firstly, operators seem simply too concerned with the need to implement policy in real-time. We agree our policy at meetings like these and are always finished by lunch, which is normally jolly good. We don’t really understand what customers have got to do with policy in the first place. Operators should simply treat all their customers exactly the same - can’t imagine a fairer policy.
2. And why would operators want to tailor their policies to customers’ behavior patterns or locations? That would be just plain rude and intrusive. Trying to anticipate customers’ needs and bombard them with special, tailored offers is absurd. Frankly, we feel a stronger differentiator is simply to leave customers alone – or to their own devices, if you will. And if they really don’t know their own location, well they’re beyond our help.
3. The policy control topic was certainly hot. Something about the need to more flexibly control sessions, and react in real-time to network congestion. Some of the young guns clearly haven’t been around the industry as long as me. Does no one recall the good old days when congestion was controlled simply by making calls more expensive in the mornings. Quality of Service was simple - if you couldn’t get through, you tried later - you always got through eventually. People are in such a hurry these days.
4. And let’s face it, congestion is a super problem to have - no surer sign of demand so it must mean operators are doing things right. And if it really becomes too severe, just add hardware. It’s cheap, the operations guys adore it and we keep lots of people employed building, designing, installing and operating it. Not to mention the value to the real-estate industry as we deploy increasingly vast data centers and the value to the energy sector to provide enough power. Everyone wins - now tell me who said congestion was a bad thing?
5. I joined a side session where the Working Group on the Promulgation of New Interfaces was discussing concerns over imminent abbreviation space exhaustion. Some wag suggested that a more IT-oriented approach would be consistent with trends towards innovation, simplification and virtualization, with the additional benefit of slightly less confusing network architecture diagrams. Happily, old wisdom prevailed - if there’s some white space in the diagram it is simply a sign that someone forgot to define an interface.
6. Indeed, the group agreed that this position was totally vindicated by the recent SWHY interface that ensures a healthy separation between charging and policy. Why spend money on one product when you can spend it on two - again, more choice and value for everybody. The argument that a unified policy and charging solution would be significantly superior in terms of operational efficiency, innovation and time to market pales beside the argument that the gap between the OCS and the PCRF was simply screaming out for a new interface.
7. There was much chatter around BYOD which I did find rather confusing. I certainly know about BYOB, actually I took a rather nice Chateauneuf round to the neighbors’ house last night. Apparently you need real-time control to manage this new phenomenon of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD). Frankly the policy should be ‘don’t bring any.’ It would cause massive disruption and risk and no-one would get any work done. I can clearly see that if you did allow it, you would need very good real time control. Not unlike BYOB in that respect – real time control definitely needed there, or at least a good supply of pills.
So, thank goodness for standards and working groups which, frankly, are the only things that save us from the insanity of new ideas and reckless attempts at innovation. They call it ‘disruptive’ innovation for a very good reason! I have been monitoring these working groups for as long as I can remember and have deep respect for such a close-knit community that has made more decisions over more nice meals in more exotic countries than the new boys will ever know. You can’t just destroy that much tradition and work on some whimsy about customers.
In short, unless you really want to understand your customers or offer them ‘relevant’, real-time services, instant updates and special, location-based offers, then don’t bother with this real-time malarkey. And if you want to manage your network ‘more efficiently’ or any other new-fangled thing, real-time is a waste of time and unifying policy and charging an even bigger one.
What is the world coming to?