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Centralized product catalogs will be key to differentiation in the 5G era

29 June 2020 | Research

John Abraham

White paper | PDF (11 pages) | Monetisation Platforms| Customer Engagement


"CSPs’ approach to product catalog systems of the future should begin with a centralized catalog that is shared across OSS and BSS, allowing for a unified commerce, charging and service catalog."

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Product catalog systems have been a part of telecom operations in some form or other for decades. However, these systems have increased in importance in recent years, driven by growth in the number of offerings and also their expansion beyond core services. Today, product catalog systems stand on the cusp of major change, as a set of new but as yet undetermined use cases enabled by 5G are expected to accelerate the transformation of communications service provider (CSP) business and operating models – and, by extension, their incumbent product catalog systems.

In their earliest form, product catalogs were mostly Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which held information on the CSPs’ various offerings and were closely tied to their billing systems. Over time, as subscriber numbers exploded and the range of offerings increased exponentially, Excel sheets were no longer practical and CSPs moved to databases. These databases were often proprietary, domain specific and closely tied to a particular vendor. While the database approach helped to improve operations and management of offers, it has led to the creation of overly complex architecture silos (thanks to mergers and acquisitions and expanding lines of business) with duplicate data sources, intricate monolithic architectures and proprietary interface connectors. Modifications to this setup, such as to add new products or bundles or partner offerings or include exception conditions, can be very expensive and time consuming. Over time, this has led to slower response times, and blunted the competitiveness of many CSPs.

The challenges that CSPs face with legacy product catalog systems will be further exacerbated with the advent of 5G, which is expected to radically transform telco business and operating models. However, a lack of clarity regarding the types of 5G use case that will succeed will diminish the effectiveness of legacy product catalogs. Further, 5G will also require extensive product catalog capabilities for supporting new business models, optimizing usage of network resources and engaging with external ecosystems and third-party partners, in order to effectively monetize new enterprise opportunities. In addition, CSPs’ growing emphasis on lean operations and cost control will drive demand for collaborative and configurable product catalogs.

To overcome the inefficiencies of legacy systems and to be better prepared for 5G-enabled use cases, CSPs’ approach to product catalog systems of the future should begin with a centralized catalog that is shared across OSS and BSS, allowing for a unified commerce, charging and service catalog. This will enable a thriving partner eco-system and also a cross-vendor framework, with a single source of data. These systems will ideally be cloud-native compliant (allowing for greater architectural flexibility and agility) and design-centered, so that the catalog systems can be configured by business teams without IT support and can provide role-based access. Additionally, product catalogs that support standardized application program interfaces (APIs) will help to accelerate the interactions with third-party service and content providers and also provide a framework for extensive automation in the long term.

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This white paper outlines how product catalog systems will change in the 5G era.

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