IBM wins $200m NBN Co systems deal


NBN Co has appointed the nation’s largest technology services company IBM as the prime systems integrator to build the technology platform which will form the beating heart of the National Broadband Network – its business and operational support systems (OSS/BSS).

OSS/BSS refers to the core billing, customer management, network management and provisioning systems — even extending to fault management — that telcos rely upon for their daily business. Several of Australia’s major telcos (notably Telstra, Optus and AAPT) have refreshed their systems over the past years in an effort to become more agile and get a more integrated view of their customers.

Speaking at the Communications Day Summit in Sydney this morning, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said the deal would be worth around $200 million over three years, and would see IBM working with a number of other smaller suppliers as the prime contractor on the project. He declined to name the smaller suppliers.

Quigley said NBN Co had initially wanted to use completely off the shelf software for the deployment, but it ended up not being quite possible, due to the complexity of NBN Co’s needs, which will see the company provide its retail service provider customers with a complete end to end view of NBN Co’s network and their place in it.

The NBN Co chief said that having the chance to build the OSS/BSS platform up from scratch came with both advantages and disadvantages for the company – in that there weren’t any legacy systems to work around, but also that the lack of such structures posed their own problems. One opportunity which NBN Co has taken advantage of is the chance to integrate its fledgling Oracle-based enterprise resource planning platform with the OSS/BSS systems right at the heart of the deployment.

Quigley said usually this wasn’t easy in most other telcos – with ERP systems often being the domain of in-house IT departments, while OSS/BSS systems were the domain of operational staff. “To say they have strong convictions [about their respective roles] is an understatement,” Quigley said, noting the divide between the disparate camps was like “a religious conviction”.

NBN Co, however, had managed to come up with a model where it had “completely integrated” its ERP and OSS/BSS systems together.

The timeline for the OSS/BSS systems deployment is quite short – Quigley said NBN Co was planning to lay out a development sandbox for retail service providers to test out the company’s network through points of interconnect located in metropolitan areas by the third quarter of 2011, with a certification environment to be completed by the fourth quarter and a basic business to business gateway to be set up by the first quarter of 2012.

IBM said it would provide a range of applications powered by what it called its IBM Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE). “This contract is designed to deliver the five key core business and operational support systems components: fulfilment, assurance, resource management, billing and integration and B2B. Implementation has just started and will be completed in four releases,” the company said in a separate statement.

“This agreement means IBM is taking a lead role in a project that will help to build a more productive, innovative and prosperous Australia,” said Andrew Stevens, managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand. “Using our extensive telecommunications industry expertise and proven applications and services capabilities, IBM will partner with NBN Co to deliver next-generation systems.”

Big Blue has previously taken on similar prime contractor engagements in Australia – for example, over much of the past decade it has been bedding down systems at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship as part of its prime contractor role on the massive Systems for People project.

Image credit: Whrelf Siemens, royalty free