Communications service providers introduced Ethernet-based services almost 20 years ago as a more flexible and cost-effective alternative to TDM-based services.   These services have been continuously enhanced over the years and are widely deployed today; however, traditional Ethernet service activation processes are increasingly out of alignment with market requirements.  

I asked Andreas Uys, CTO at Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), an innovative open-access fibre optic company that operates in South Africa, to outline some of the issues concerning Ethernet service activation, and how CSPs can overcome them.

“The limitations of traditional Ethernet service activation processes are quite significant,” Andreas said.  “Some of this is due to the way SPs are organized, and some is due to the reliance on manual operations; taken together, these issues dramatically slow the order to service process and delay time to revenue.”

Andreas continued: “Ethernet service activation naturally involves different departments… customer service reps generate work-orders, engineering designs the services, and the operations team provisions and manages the services.  Each department has its own ‘siloed’ systems and rely on emails and spreadsheets to track workflow progress.  This results in a time-consuming process, even to generate a simple quote.”

“Engineers design the service using stale data from multiple offline inventory systems,” Andreas added, “which results in non-optimal designs that waste network resources.  Similarly, the operations team uses multiple tools to manually configure each element or domain in the service path, which adds cost and the potential for errors into the process.”

With fragmented systems and workflows, offline service design tools and error-prone manual provisioning, it is clear that the Ethernet service activation process needs to be updated.  So what is the way forward? 

Andreas responded, “At DFA, we are implementing MEF-certified Ethernet services and TM Forum-defined open APIs to ensure interoperability and improve manageability, and we are using the Blue Planet Intelligent Automation platform for multi-vendor, multi-layer and multi-domain service automation.  These standards-based services, interfaces and products eliminate the inefficiencies of traditional Ethernet service activation processes and propel the customer experience into the 21st century.”

In fact, the Blue Planet Ethernet Service Activation solution can help you accelerate your order-to-service interval by several weeks, and reduce your order-to-service OPEX by as much as 85 percent, versus traditional Ethernet service activation costs.

“Our goal is to let customers use our online portal to view, modify and order services in real-time, with TMF Open APIs allowing Blue Planet to consume the customer requested service parameters,” Andreas said.  “Blue Planet automates the service design -- based on real-time network inventory data -- configures all the elements and domains in the service path, activates the service, and updates our order management system.  This automated, ‘catalog driven’ approach to service activation lets our customers operate at the speed of their business, unconstrained by outdated processes.”

Figure 1: DFA’s ‘catalog driven’ approach to network and service automation, leveraging MEF LSO and TMF APIs, and supported by dgit Telflow and Blue Planet  

According to Andreas, this approach is helping DFA achieve a state of operational excellence.  “We have real-time visibility, and traceability, into the order status.  Our operations personnel aren’t burdened by ‘swivel chair’ management, and in many cases, we can achieve a zero-touch order-to-service workflow from the customer to the network.  Our sales teams appreciate the improved quote responsiveness, and it makes a positive difference in conversion rates.  We can rapidly quote and deliver Ethernet services using data-driven, efficient and automated processes that avoid waste and duplication, key milestones on our journey to intent-based networking and closed-loop automation.”

Thanks to Andreas for taking the time to explain both the challenges associated with traditional Ethernet service activation, and a modern solution that completely changes the game.  Please visit Dark Fibre Africa to learn more about their commitment to customer experience and their innovative MEF-certified Ethernet service offerings.

Please join our upcoming webinar, “Re-imagining Ethernet Service Delivery,” on June 26 at 11 AM EDT, to learn more about DFA’s Ethernet service innovations and the state-of-the-art Blue Planet Ethernet Service Activation solution, and to apply for a free 60-day Ethernet Service Activation trial that lets you evaluate the solution in your lab or trial network.