How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

 

12th of June 2020

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) helps service providers transform deployment and operational processes. The maturing of NFV means that AAA can now be deployed virtually – a game-changer that optimizes resource utilization and network operations. From our experience in deploying virtualized AAA (vAAA), we’ve noticed there are some frequently occurring challenges. The good news is, we’ve also identified how to address them.

First things first: the most important thing about NFV

Conventional hardware infrastructure deployments mean the installation of application-specific servers or appliances on the customer’s premises. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technology introduces a well-defined cloud architecture that eliminates the bind between application and physical server by virtualizing network services.

Deploying virtualized network functions (VNFs) reduces the need to maintain vendor-specific or customized physical infrastructure. Applications can now be deployed on standardized and shared infrastructure, significantly reducing operational costs and making it faster to implement.

What objectives do NFV-based deployments meet?

Important outcomes that make NFV software-defined networking (NFV SDN) increasingly valuable include reduced complexity of networks, faster services, and lowered dependence on expensive physical storage. Further, NFV-based deployments aim to maintain a standard-based infrastructure shared by all VNF vendors, keeping OPEX and CAPEX low. Its core objectives include:

Efficiency

The NFV platform must have availability-adjusted NF SLAs that are identical to SLAs offered with dedicated services, specifying, for instance, the average delay, bandwidth, and availability of all services provided to the subscribers. To ensure SLA compliance, it needs to closely track network performance and dynamically adjust resources.

Scalability

The NFV platform should support a large number of VNFs and scale as traffic volumes and application usage increase. The ability to deliver a variety of NFs per subscriber could lead to the creation of new services, opening new ways for operators to monetize their networks.

Reliability

The NFV platform must comply with reliability requirements to offer high service availability, which is defined as end-to-end service availability including end-to-end service elements (VNF and infrastructure components).

How to overcome challenges in NFV AAA (vAAA) deployments

Let’s take a look at the top six NFV implementation challenges and the ideal solutions we’ve developed to address them.

ChallengeSolution
Configuration management

Managing file-based configurations for AAA nodes becomes complex and error-prone when each AAA node runs with its own copy of the configuration and requires syncing as nodes are dynamically added or removed.
Centralized configuration management

This helps manage the configuration changes (scripts or license files) through a web-based configuration portal, allowing changes to every AAA node in real-time. Alternatively, all configurations can be held in a centralized configuration database.
Lack of compatibility for VNF management interfaces

Many NFV infrastructure (NFVi) vendors require a custom interface for VNF management than standard-based, making them incompatible with other vendors.
Flexible VNF management

Selecting AAA vendors that offer flexible VNF management interfaces based on ETSI-compatible interfaces or custom interfaces based on NFVi instances is ideal to expedite deployment.
Vendor-specific user access management systems

Different vendors have their own access management system for their applications. This adds to operational overheads as user logins and access permissions are maintained in multiple systems.
Centralized access management


A centralized user access management system for all vendor applications eases operations, improves control over access controllers, and enhances application security.
Impact of session cache synchronization

In NFV deployment, each AAA node is dynamically added or removed based on traffic needs. This requires each node to replicate the session cache to other nodes, increasing complexity and introducing errors.
Stateless AAA

It is important to externalize application states and stores session contexts in a centralized database that can be shared across all AAA nodes. A stateless AAA ensures any node can process an ongoing user session request previously handled by another node and that simplifies dynamic scaling without having to worry about session cache synchronization.
Low variety of load balancers

For virtualized AAA deployment, load balancers are needed to distribute signaling traffic across multiple AAA nodes. In the NFVi environment, very few software-based load balancers support RADIUS/UDP messages.
In-built load balancer

Software-based load balancer VNFs are part of new-generation vAAA solutions and this helps implement RADIUS/UDP as well as HTTP traffic load-balancing.
Common network interface for all network traffic

AAA deployed with a common network interface for handling applications and database traffic leads to security concerns and also prevents resource optimization based on traffic type.
Multiple networks for different traffic

Separate network interfaces address key security challenges and optimize network resources. Each AAA node has multiple virtual network interfaces to handle different data traffic, applications, and database, making it more secure and scalable.

Conclusion

NFV reduces dependence on dedicated infrastructure. As a result, a vAAA solution enables significant customization and scalability that cuts across the operator’s entire network framework. Operators can, therefore, earn additional revenue without investing in any new hardware.

One of just a handful in the market, Alepo’s NFV- and 5G-compliant virtualized AAA (vAAA) can be deployed in any NFVi environment according to ETSI standards. Manage the entire AAA VNF life cycle with Alepo using its specific Virtual Network Function (sVNF), or integrate with a generic Virtual Network Function (gVNF) from any NFVi vendor. The carrier-grade 3GPP AAA is designed to optimize mobile, WiFi, and fixed network performance. Equipped with a proven and scalable integration framework, it optimizes scalability and resource utilization through orchestration. It can be rapidly deployed and offers quick insights into the way IP data services are accessed and consumed.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

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How Partnerships Are the Key to 5G Success for Telcos

How Partnerships Are the Key to 5G Success for Telcos

How Partnerships Are the Key to 5G Success for Telcos

 

23rd of October 2019

The proliferation of smart devices and high-speed internet has revolutionized the telecommunications sector, and the advent of 5G is further bolstering this transformation. Earlier, telecoms mainly partnered with other operators to share their networks, data, messaging and voice services through wholesales agreements, but these partnerships have evolved considerably over the years. In order for 5G to be a commercial success for telcos, more advanced partner models will need to be supported for all of the new use cases and devices that are envisioned for the network.

Today, a modern partner management solution for 5G success enables the convergence of partners across multiple sectors and caters to highly diverse needs. Unified partner systems cover key segments like distribution, IoT/M2M, content/OTT, roaming, wholesale billing, MVNO, and more. The result: automated processes, the ability to launch any partner model, and reduced operational costs.

Partnerships will pave the way forward

Telecom leaders are currently thought to be risking billions of dollars as they struggle to address a host of challenges. High-cost wireless and fixed connections, coverage outages, demand for improved customer service, and an ever-growing list of competitors are only some of the roadblocks in deriving ROI.

International consultancy BearingPoint recently commissioned a study in which 85 executives of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Communications Service Providers (CSPs) from Europe, Asia, and the US, as well as 440 executives from sectors such as IT, technology, automotive, transport, banking, and insurance, were interviewed. According to their findings, 60 percent of the CSPs believed working in collaboration helps drive cost-effective and innovative solutions, while 59 percent were of the opinion that partnerships help them remain competitive, and 51 percent believed they would improve customer experience in the telecom market.

However, the study found that telco transformations tend to focus on adopting new trends in technology for short-term financial success, “as opposed to working to address an increasingly widely held view that if CSPs don’t consider new digital business models, they will not survive in their current form.” Overall, it concluded, most CSPs still view digital transformation as a means of achieving short-term cost reduction, instead of attempting to gain long-term benefits such as the scope for new business partnerships.

It’s essential for operators to alter this approach to remain relevant and for their businesses to be profitable. They will need to move beyond delivering connectivity to become digital ecosystem enablers, co-creating new services with partners and subscribers. Partner management converges three key tenets of modern business success: improved customer experience, service innovation, and competitiveness.

Many of these advanced partnership models can be implemented on LTE networks, and as operators upgrade to 5G, they will be able to enhance existing use cases as well as introduce new ones. In addition to 5G, new technologies that create partnership opportunities include IoT, network function virtualization, software-defined networking, cloud-based platforms, and more.

The role of partnerships in 5G monetization

As 5G networks and devices materialize, partnership models will be established in multiple layers, from sharing infrastructure and exposing network capabilities as a service, to launching a wide range of devices and services onto the system.

5G has raised consumer demands considerably, with expectations like unlimited data usage, downloading movies in seconds, and unique services and devices like smart home appliances. This means there is a need for CSPs to monetize beyond data bundles and introduce indirect monetization mechanisms with the help of schemes like sponsored data.

New models could be created with 5G that don’t exist today and be the key to telco success. Imagine a telco could spin up a 5G network slice for a ride-share company like Uber, with a revenue-share agreement based on total distance the fleet drove, all reported and charged real-time via API. Or a telco sells SaaS home security devices and takes an upfront fixed fee and monthly fee from the manufacturer. There are endless possibilities and use cases for CSP marketers to dream up.

What CSPs must now do is look at investing in platforms that enable them to monetize innovative 5G business models. This includes IoT and network slicing-based services that speed up tech advancements for various next-gen applications such as VR apps, industrial IoT apps, smart cities, connected healthcare, smart home ecosystems, wearable technologies, infotainment systems, and more.

How it works: smart business models

An effective partner management software helps reduce the total cost of ownership with fast time-to-market for new offerings. Smart revenue-sharing models allow CSPs to create new revenue streams and handle today’s ever-evolving digital and communications needs with solutions for both marketing and back-office departments.

With these smart models, CSPs can:

  • Create personalized partner contracts
  • Speed up and automate the partner on-boarding process
  • Support telecom and non-telecom partnerships
  • Support multilevel hierarchy models
  • Offer advanced self-care for partners
  • Enable any business model or billing type

What the future holds

Customers want innovative services at faster speeds. CSPs are expected to meet these expectations at every touchpoint. And to retain customers, they must meet future challenges from competing technologies quickly and at an acceptable cost.

To achieve this, CSPs must focus on partner management solutions that will help them launch offerings involving high volumes of data and video, mobile workload volatility, a greater number of connections and demand for lower latency to develop transformative strategies. Also, new revenue streams can be created by monetizing lucrative OTT content, partner applications, and other partner relationships.

So, the goal is to achieve the right balance between traditional and digital to create the richest customer experience. A unified and effective partner management solution ensures greater collaboration between multi-disciplinary partnerships, which is vital to success and the key to ROI of 5G.

Want to learn more about innovative partnership models and how Alepo’s digital BSS can prepare you for 5G and IoT? Click here for our 5G-ready digital BSS flyer.

Rani Shanmugam

Rani Shanmugam

Marketing Content Writer

Long story short, Rani writes about the workings of telecom networks. Short story long, she has a rich and diverse background as a developer, business analyst, and technical writer for broad-spectrum solutions across various industries, and is now focused on telecommunications marketing. She unwinds by painting with her toddler son and loves to whip up elaborate meals fit for a feast.

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Why ISP’s Need Data Monetization

Why ISP’s Need Data Monetization

Why ISP's Need Data Monetization

18th of June 2021

The Way Things Were, Is the Way Things Are.

Even as mobile plans continue to evolve and become increasingly more unique, the majority of internet service providers (ISPs) in the world are still offering the same plans they were offering 20 years ago: flat-rate, monthly plans with a specific QoS (bandwidth speed) and unlimited data. ISP offers are simple because that is what customers have traditionally demanded from ISPs. The customers seem happy with what they are receiving, and ISPs don’t see any reason to fix what isn’t broken.

Or Are They?

However, internet usage has changed, as the adoption of streaming and other over-the-top (OTT) apps continue to increase. Gone are the days of simple browsing. Internet usage has become a bandwidth-straining practice encompassing a wide range of OTT apps including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and many more. This diverse, but consistently draining usage can create a strain on provider networks, which may already find it challenging to distinguish themselves in a saturated marketplace. ISPs must now face the fact that their traditional offerings are no longer the best means of business. The flat rate plan that used to be a great deal for the provider, has now become a steal for the customers.

The Solution is Data Monetization

Through the use of a data monetization strategy, ISPs can address both issues at once by preserving network integrity through fine-grained plans that cater to customers’ exact needs as they arise. A data monetization platform gives ISPs the power to create a network where a broad selection of customer behaviors can be catered to precisely, meaning that data is used and rated as efficiently and profitably as possible.

The Key is Differentiation

Now, data monetization solutions aren’t for everyone. Data monetization isn’t just a simple change, but rather an entirely new way of doing business for ISPs. Data monetization is for ISPs who are looking to differentiate themselves in a shifting marketplace by offering advanced business plans to combat the ever-increasing data use, innovating, and providing more customer-focused offers to retain and grow their customer base.

We’ve put together a list of some of the top game-changing data monetization use cases for ISPs.

A la Carte

Give customers complete control over their data use. Instead of offering massive “all you can eat” plans that drain customers’ wallets and over serve their data appetites, give them an “a la carte” option instead. Customers can choose to only pay for the exact data they use, the specific applications they want to use, the times of day they want to use them, and the speeds they need. By allowing customers to choose what’s best for them, you are ensuring that valuable bandwidth isn’t being wasted on grandma’s emails. With a la carte options, customers have the complete freedom to design, purchase and activate data allowances for their exact needs.

Zero-Rating

Differentiate yourself by offering plans with subscriptions to certain apps or websites that don’t impact the user’s overall data usage. For example, with a monthly 2GB plan, subscribers receive free access for up to 1GB of data for the website or app of their choice. Or, incentivize usage during off-peak times by offering things like free gaming after 10 pm. Form partnerships with apps or websites to provide this service for free, or at a lower cost. This can be a huge incentive for customers to choose you instead of the competitors. Many operators today are buying and building their own content. So, use zero-rating for your own applications and platforms, as a way to incentivize their use.

Turbo Boost

Let customers increase their speed instantly with bandwidth on demand. An increase in speed, or a turbo boost, comes at a small fee when they need the extra bandwidth. This can be a huge benefit for customers who typically subscribe to a lower bandwidth speed, but occasionally need the boost in speed to stream a movie or video chat with their family across the country.

Parental Control

Allow parents to have more control over their children’s internet use. Give parents the ability to restrict certain websites or applications, limit the times of day that child users can be on the internet, and limit the amount of data a child uses.

Happy Hours

Give a usage discount or a speed boost on special days, times or anniversaries. Happy Hours are a great way to incentivize data use during off-peak hours, decreasing the congestion peak times. Or, make customers feel special with a promotion on their birthdays or anniversaries, or on special days or holidays, giving customers a temporary higher bandwidth speed and/or a discount on data usage.

Think you’re ready to take the data monetization plunge and to truly differentiate yourself in the shifting marketplace? Read more about how you can, in the Alepo Solution Brief: Empowering the Internet Service Provider with Alepo Data Monetization!

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

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CSP to DSP: A Journey of Transformation

CSP to DSP: A Journey of Transformation

CSP to DSP: A Journey of Transformation

9th of March 2017

As mobile technologies have evolved, so has the telecommunications customer base. While ten years ago, customers were looking for little more than access, the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets has created new demands and opportunities that expand the role of the service provider.

Simple one-fits-all service worked in the past, but as technology has evolved, so have customer needs and expectations. A recent IBM study on Generation Z showed that 75 percent of respondents picked a mobile phone or smartphone as their device of choice, and 47 percent said they use their smartphones when shopping in a store. Further, prior to making any purchasing decisions, Generation Z uses their phones to research products and services to compare prices and discounts.

So, as technologies and consumers evolve, CSPs can find themselves left behind, crippled by their legacy systems into offering impersonal plans, leaving current and potential customers unsatisfied.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly clear that CSPs should strongly consider transforming into DSPs (Digital Service Providers). What distinguishes DSPs is precisely this fine-grained service, and ability to bundle several offerings, such as broadband access, content, and mobile apps.

A DSP is a service provider which has evolved from offering just the core telecom services, to providing broadband access, content, services and mobile apps to its customers.

While this evolution can be challenging, it is a necessity for providers who wish to remain competitive. In order to fully monetize their networks, it is imperative that they offer bundled and nuanced plans to a customer base ready to pay for these features.

But what exactly does it take to transform from a CSP to DSP?

How to evolve from a CSP to a DSP?

Becoming a DSP is about becoming more responsive and adaptable to consumers’ wants and needs around mobile data services. A stellar customer experience – complete with personalized and contextual mobile data offers, real-time usage alerts, unique roaming offers, and everything digital – is central to being successful as a DSP.

The core ingredients of a successful DSP:

  • Subscriber Segmentation Capabilities: A CSP needs to have granular segmentation capabilities based on parameters such as location, age, gender, consumption, device type, and many more. Mobile data needs for each subscriber varies greatly and requires this segmentation for smart offers that increase ARPU. A recent study by The Manifest reveals that of the 511 smartphone users surveyed, almost 40 percent use social media apps frequently – almost four times more than any gaming, communication or messaging apps. However, if we were to consider another context – enterprise customers – we’d find that their aim is to limit their employees’ use on certain social websites while at work and instead promote other services. To cater to these two different segments, an operator must create a customized offer for each.
  • Rich Contextual Data Offer Creation:  CSPs should be able to create offers based on multiple parameters: QoS, apps and content, time, device type, data usage, and subscriber profile, as well as network-centric parameters like congestion, access network, and location.
  • Sponsored Apps and Offers: CSPs can partner with other ecosystem players, like OTT apps or digital services, to offer special promotions or plans that are subsidized by the partner. For example, an operator may offer a plan where video streaming is free from one of their local video partners, to drive consumption of that content.
  • CSPs Own App: A lot of CSPs are choosing this option and urging users to install their native app. Using the app, subscribers can instantly purchase a data pass, or even create their own, based on how much data and validity they want to buy. In addition, users can subscribe to personalized data usage alerts. Subscribers can also elect to set their own bandwidth speeds for data, to manage and even “stretch” their usage.

The transformation of a CSP into a DSP is indeed disruptive, but it is the need of the hour. CSPs need to evolve their legacy systems, molding their business models to stay relevant and profitable in the market.

In the coming times, consumers and their needs will be the driving force of the market. CSPs need to understand this and create valuable offerings and business processes that put consumers at the center. CSPs need to plan ahead of the changing market requirements to beat the curve and relevant to their customers at all times.

Click here to read how Green Com modernizes its mobile network with an Alepo BSS Transformation solution, resulting in 10% higher revenues within just two months of deployment.

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Product Owner, Digital BSS

Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 14 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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6 Ways to Monetize Free WiFi Using a Captive Portal

6 Ways to Monetize Free WiFi Using a Captive Portal

6 Ways to Monetize Free WiFi Using a Captive Portal

17th of January 2017

In recent years, WiFi has evolved from a luxury to a basic necessity. This change is driven by the following ingredients of success—it is free (most of the time), it is widely available, and it connects us to the world. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that WiFi should now be included in the bottom layer of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right next to food, water, and shelter.

For service providers, this proliferation has been a bitter-sweet experience. On one hand, WiFi provides a means to ease network congestion caused by heavy data users (or as it is commonly called, WiFi offload). On the other hand, it becomes difficult to attach a monetary value to this widely-available benefit. As a CSP, you have to not only maintain QoE for your users but also compete for market share against unsecured public WiFi and other low-cost service providers. To top it off, most people expect WiFi to be a free service. This leaves very few methods to monetize WiFi, making it difficult to incorporate into your business strategy.

To combat the monetization challenge, one of the most underrated but reliable solutions is the WiFi captive portal. The captive portal is the face of your brand, interacting with your customers before they authenticate and connect. It’s not just a tactical pit-stop in the WiFi service route, but also a window of opportunity. All you have to do is think of the possibilities beyond free WiFi.

Here are 6 ways to make the best use of a captive portal in a way that both captivates customers’ attention and achieves business excellence, at no cost to the end user.

6 Ways to Monetize Free WiFi Using a Captive Portal

Fill out a survey

Surveys are a great way to collect user data, like email addresses, as well as a way to solicit feedback related to their experience with your brand. Through a captive portal, you can gather required data to drive email marketing campaigns and derive value from the survey results.

Verify SMS to connect

Asking for a user’s phone number gives you one more way to capitalize on your free WiFi hotspot access. You get verified phone numbers of prospects which can be fed into your marketing pipeline to develop them into customers.

Advertisements

Most users are willing to see an advertisement in exchange for free WiFi access. By putting advertisements in the form of banners and other static ads on the captive portal, the user must view these before they can gain access to WiFi. By showcasing your own brand’s ads, you can boost brand knowledge and support. Or, you can monetize by charging a per view fee for other companies’ advertisements.

Video Advertisements

Video advertisements take monetizing on ad revenue to another level, yielding a much higher per-view rate. Requiring users to watch a 20 second video ad, before they can access WiFi, stimulates user engagement and can generate higher ad revenue.

Capture data using social login

For almost all mobile apps, social sign-on is a norm these days. It has become a habit for the customer and you can exploit this to gain access to some useful data about the user. Later, you can use this data to run analytics and targeted campaigns targeting any particular segment.

Connect with an existing account

Whether you are an internet service provider or a mobile network operator running a WiFi network, you can allow your existing customers to log into your public WiFi hotspot network with the same credentials they use for their home broadband connection or mobile account. Easy WiFi access = happy customers = loyal customers!

The WiFi Captive Portal is not just powerful and appealing, it is also quite simple to createAlepo WiFi Service Management Platform (SMP) can help you design a captive portal that works best for you with our modular, highly scalable platform, which has proven IOTs with many top vendors. The Alepo WiFi SMP is the best option to get your WiFi services up and running in minutes while adding value to your brand.

Learn more about the Alepo WiFi Service Management Platform

Shaileja Pagare

Shaileja Pagare

Product Marketing Manager

An avid reader and a technology enthusiast who likes to keep up with wireless industry trends. She’s a music lover, a traveler and believes in living life to the fullest.

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