Sigma targets cablecos with new OSS

Taking advantage of the growing move to convergent offerings by service providers, Toronto’s Sigma Systems Group has released a new operations support systems (OSS) suite designed specifically for the cable network carrier.

OSS products have historically been geared for the more traditional telecommunications carriers – including Sigma’s own CLEC in a Box offering – but the market appears to be changing as companies like Rogers migrate to a more open approach, as evidenced by their name switch to Rogers Communications from Rogers Cable.

“They want to be a player in the convergent marketplace,” Andy Jasuja, Sigma’s Chairman and CEO, said of the current cable operators. “Cable (co-ax) is just the media on which there will be all kinds of telecom services and entertainment services. So it’s not just TV only.”

Dubbed Cable Broadband in a Box, Sigma’s new OSS suite is comprised of four modular, pre-integrated applications for service management, self-provisioning, network topology management and service diagnostics for cable broadband network operators. The solution is built on top of Sigma’s ServiceBroker workflow engine, which the company said is already being used by Canada’s top three cable carriers – Rogers, Shaw Communications, and Cogeco Cable.

However, due to the stranglehold Rogers and Shaw have on the Canadian marketplace, Sigma officials admitted their market opportunity for Cable Broadband in a Box in Canada is limited.

That’s not the case for the overall North American market, said Larry Goldman, a senior analyst for the telecom OSS market at RHK Inc., a San Francisco-based market analysis firm. Goldman said telecom OSS spending in North America will hit US$500 million in 2000. RHK is forecasting that that figure will grow at a 44 per cent compound annual growth rate through 2004.

Goldman said Sigma’s end-to-end solution could find favour with service providers.

“In general, what we see is most of the OSS offerings and OSS deployments that are related to managing telecommunications services – whether it’s in the telecom, CLEC, ILEC space or in the cable operator space – the pattern is that the service provider bears the burden of integrating a number of different products from a number of different vendors. And while that is the way things are often done…it’s viewed as not being ideal.”

Robert Bratulic, Sigma’s director of marketing and strategy, said his company historically had point solutions for specific problems, like a billing product, a customer care product, and so forth.

“What we realized over the last two to three years is that the biggest risk in the industry is systems integration, not the lack of bells and whistles in your product.”

In creating both CLEC in a Box and Cable Broadband in a Box, Bratulic said Sigma used the “Microsoft Office approach, where you take similar products and integrate them in one box.”

Sigma chose the solutions to be offered based on customer feedback.

“After we brought in the initial provisioning for high-speed data services, they pointed out a number of things to us,” said Bratulic. “One of the issues, for instance, is open access. Cable companies today are being asked to supply the services for more than one ISP. So while today it’s Rogers@Home, tomorrow you might have Rogers@Home, Rogers@AOL, and others that are mandated by regulation to co-exist on the infrastructure of the cable companies. So they’ve come to us and said, ‘Help us deal with open access.'”

Bratulic said Sigma’s network topology management module is designed to help the cable companies deal with extreme growth; the service diagnostics module allows customer reps to trigger tests and checks on the network to isolate problems, rather than automatically sending out a trouble ticket to a mobile technician.

Sigma said other modules will be added to the OSS as need arises. For instance, a module to manage cable telephony is being planned, Bratulic said.

Cable Broadband in a Box is being sold in the range of $2 million to $5 million, depending on the number of modules chosen. Sigma Systems can be found at