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Challenges and opportunities of policy control in 2015

There’s surely no argument that PCRF must now move beyond supporting the requirements of its original, fairly narrow set of use cases. New technologies like VoLTE mean innovative services are expanding the range of necessary BSS/OSS, partner- and other IT-integration points in play.  A growing eco-system of OTT providers, other partners, virtual operators and suchlike accelerate the need to enable policy solutions that can exploit new commercial opportunities and manage change.

Yet still, most communications services providers’ (CSP) first generation policy solutions – boxes that were fundamentally designed to tackle challenges related to network congestion and fair usage – remain to the fore. However, such solutions are unlikely to be up to the demands placed on policy control in 2015.

Today, policy is no longer mainly an enforcement tool but has become a means of enabling the CSP to profit from the explosive growth of data service consumption nowadays. PCRF in 2015 means delivering agility. Agile, more than anything else, is what the CSP must be enabled to become by its policy product. Why is this the case?

The short answer is that while fair usage and allocating bandwidth based on a combination of subscriber and service criteria remains essential, new application areas offer opportunities to create even more enhanced customer value. The integration of policy control with charging, customer experience management, analytics and partner management created new opportunities to increase revenue generation, improve customer loyalty and leverage marketing intelligence.

Despite the obvious opportunity, for many CSPs tapping the potential of Policy in 2015 is challenging.  The integrations required (noted above) are not straightforward, particularly with data infrastructures undergoing rapid transformation and with new business models being regularly introduced. Yet if they remain reliant on their first generation PCRFs, it will take CSPs months to keep up with their markets. And when they do catch up, before unlocking the commercial opportunities of Policy Control, they will still be hamstrung by the introduction of complex dependencies involving legacy platforms that require expensive and lengthy customization.

So, what to do? The obvious answer is to recognize that PCRF has moved into a new product generation that requires superior integration capabilities and enables the CSP to harness through policy control the potential of all the data in its IT and network infrastructure.

With this in mind, we can see that effective policy in 2015 has to be driven by the collection of data from a wider array of sources than ever before; data that must be filtered, transformed and consolidated to feed and be fed into a large number of business support and operational systems that are themselves in a state of constant change. This is because with the massive growth of data service usage and smart phone applications, it becomes increasingly important to understand the end-to-end user experience. Business Intelligence, Analytics, performance management applications and the partner eco-system require processes that make data manageable and understandable but their output is based on the millions of data events that are generated every second by the access-, core- and IT networks.

The bottom line is simple. Modern policy has to enable CSPs to act on all this information in real-time. The experience of the subscriber and the wellness of the network are the foundations for policy decisions that can fuel commercial success both today and tomorrow.

Author: Lars Mansson – Senior Director of Research and Product Strategy at DigitalRoute.