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MTN Côte d’Ivoire fulfills mission impossible with NGBSS

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To improve its network performance, MTN Côte d’Ivoire pulled off an astonishing transformation feat with Huawei’s NGBSS, making it the most innovative integrated services provider in the country and consolidating its leading position in the local telecom market.

The year 2008 witnessed the telecom market in Côte d’Ivoire develop rapidly, with mobile services having since grown up to 50%. As the most important integrated services operator in the country, MTN Côte d’Ivoire is a leader in terms of market share and subscriber acquisition. Meanwhile, the operator never stops developing new services to diversify its service portfolio, which spans CDMA, ADSL, UMTS, WiMAX, VoIP, and IPTV.

Growing pains

The rapid growth of MTN gave rise to a series of challenges, though. First, the operator’s IT architecture became over-complex with its diversity of services. With dozens of different vendors running so many components and subsystems, it lacked the flexibility of having one integrated platform for delivering business services.

Second, the value-added services of MTN were not very trusted by and attractive to customers, resulting in declining customer satisfaction and threatening customer loyalty. While the operator expected to improve ARPU by offering attractive new service packages and cross-sell its products, its business support system failed to provide the needed support. Standard changes, such as adding a new tariff package, often took two months or more to launch. Moreover, the CAPEX and OPEX for a new service were prohibitive.

Third, MTN had no unified customer relationship management system to handle customer requests and orders and manage its products. Finally, prepaid and postpaid customers were billed separately, and customers had no self-service portal for all their balance checking, account management, and charging concerns.

An inefficient, inconvenient operating support system (OSS) was a vexation to MTN and its customers. As for MTN the operator, the key to improving ARPU and market share lay in the integration of network resources on a standard platform that could seamlessly incorporate future telecom technologies to quickly develop new service packages that could satisfy customer requirements. Convinced that only an integrated business support system could solve the above issues, MTN partnered with Huawei to seek a total solution, and their partnership led to the Huawei next-generation business support system (NGBSS).

Milestone in business operation

MTN chose Huawei for its expertise in the BSS – ten years of experience plus 35 operators in 29 countries and 160 million subscribers served worldwide. The two companies also had a good history together: Huawei had helped MTN transfer from its TDM transmission network to a more efficient and affordable All-IP network in 2008. This move had reduced MTN’s OPEX by 50% while dramatically increasing call quality and network capacity, all delivered before the deadline.

MTN hoped to continue this strategic partnership in its efforts to overcome its new challenges. For this the operator selected Huawei’s NGBSS, a solution that included the CBS, OCS, WISG, AAA, IPCC, CCBS, Billing, PRM, FMS&RA, BI, Mediation/Provisioning, and was implemented based on the TM Forum Frameworx standard and Huawei’s best practice.

MTN benefited from the SOA-based integration framework of the solution, which provided such components as billing and revenue management, customer and product management, customer understanding and value improvement, customer care improvement and other relevant IT/CT components, in addition to system integration, managed services, and professional services. MTN’s requirements for high performance were fully met thanks to the solution’s simplicity, convergence, openness, agility, and intelligence.

MTN overcame the issues of complexity and redundancy with the legacy architecture, by taking advantage of the NGBSS’s simplicity represented by its sleek architecture and efficient business processes. Thus, the operator streamlined its IT structure, reduced difficulty in system integration, and improved operational efficiency.

Assisted by the NGBSS as a convergent system, MTN achieved convergence in terms of services, customers, business models and the value chain. Featuring a unified customer view, QoE, end-to-end customer lifecycle management, billing engine, data model and product management, service subscription, customer access and mediation, the solution brought MTN customers consistent customer care, unified billing, and real-time user experience.

Also, MTN used the NGBSS as an open system compliant with the TM Forum Frameworx standard for realizing high integration and low coupling between its IT subsystems through the ESB based on the SOA design philosophy. The operator benefited from the agility provided by the solution featuring productization, modularity, flexible configurations and workflow engines.

Relying on the solution’s capabilities of real-time analysis and insight, MTN could fully understand and master the requirements of end users and develop an effective business strategy so as to optimize cost and resource efficiency.

Accomplishing the impossible

To make sure that the solution would encompass all the core functional requirement specifications (FRS) necessary for all departments’ business operations, MTN’s CTO and CIO participated in all meetings side by side with both design teams.

Meanwhile, MTN expected the switchover to Huawei’s NGBSS to be completed within nine months of the project kickoff. It was a huge challenge for the operator, as it not only was a critical milestone in MTN’s business operations, but also presented an enormous risk: If subscribers experienced interruption in regular service provision after the switchover, they might move to one of its competitors.

Riding on their positive cooperation and complete planning, the two partners came to the project’s moment of truth at 2:00 a.m. on Monday, August 24th, 2009: the one-time NGBSS switchover. That moment would determine whether their efforts over the past nine months had been worthy.

As MTN’s CEO and CIO looked on, their IT staff and Huawei’s checked the results. As of 8:00a.m., there had been zero errors for all of MTN’s subscribers and it was a 100% success rate for testing on all systems. The two design teams accomplished the impossible. Highlighting FMC, the new system achieved convergent billing for the GSM, CDMA and WiMAX networks, creating a watershed moment in the history of MTN’s business operations.

Speeding forward

MTN’s one-time switchover to the NGBSS resulted in a highly-integrated and flexible architecture. This new architecture gave the operator an immense array of new competitive advantages that subscribers responded to with alacrity. For one, with average time to market (TTM) reduced from two months to just one week, the operator was able to rapidly deploy a string of new high-value services. Within one month of the commercial launch, MTN deployed Mobile Money, Mobile TV, MTN Zone, Booster, Friends & Family Number Extended service, Blackberry service, and a seamless roaming system (SRS) that covered all of West Africa.

In addition, the flexibility of the new architecture combined with MTN’s powerful new subscriber data collection tools to allow marketing to roll out many new attractive service plans. In June 2010, MTN launched advanced custom packages to individual, family, corporate, and government account subscribers alike, from hybrid prepaid and postpaid billing on the same account to International Roaming Solutions and special tariffs for voice and wireless data service, friends and family, and call placement in more than 200 Dynamic Zones.

With MTN providing such convenient and robust communication and business services based on the NGBSS, subscriber use surged in the months following the switchover. In the first four months of operation, ARPU rose by 40%, from USD8.00 to USD11.50. MTN’s subscriber numbers are now growing more than 10% faster than Côte d’Ivoire as a whole – by December 2010, the subscribers of MTN Cote d’Ivoire had totaled six million. Moreover, with the new system built to international standards, MTN can easily introduce new technologies.

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