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Portugal Telecom leverages infrastructure to grow at home and deep skills and knowledge to expand abroad.
No industry has seen such dramatic and unprecedented upheaval as the global telecommunications market. State-owned or monopoly operations have been sold off or broken up. The Internet blossomed, and television went digital. Investors have unrepentantly punished underperformers.
Data-hungry mobile phones have become devices of choice. Demand in emerging markets exploded. A large percentage of global communication today—including voice telephone calls—is an application on a converged digital network.
Portugal Telecom (PT) has not only survived, but has thrived through all this turmoil. In two decades, the company has transformed itself from a hamstrung incumbent in a small market into a flexible and increasingly global provider of converged communications, IT and cloud services.
In the process, developers at PT have created IT solutions that streamline and standardize business and operational processes to keep the company competitive. And it’s augmenting this intellectual property with investments in data centers and infrastructure to extend the company’s reach, both at home and in growth markets in South America, Africa and the Pacific.
In 1994 Portugal’s government began privatizing its century-old state-owned telecommunications enterprise. By 1997 the new company, Portugal Telecom, was 75 percent privately held—the most privatized European carrier at the time. But privatization was just one part of PT’s 1990s metamorphosis—the very business was changing. Leadership rolled out Internet access and mobile phone service—including MIMO, the world’s first prepaid mobile phone—in the first half of the decade.
In 1998 the company made its first overseas investment, in the Brazilian mobile phone company VIVO. These ventures confirmed what PT managers knew intuitively: communication networks were becoming virtualized, meaning that differentiation and competition would occur in telecom services, not in access.
To adjust to these market changes, PT’s leadership began planning triple-play services (television, Internet and telephone), expanding wireless offerings and building an IT services business within Portugal. But this expansion required business and operational processes that were radically different than what PT used as a phone company.
PT needed to integrate back-office IT functions such as provisioning, charging, billing and customer care to address customer demands and competitive pressures. Old systems that might take weeks to activate a new phone service simply wouldn’t suffice.
Collaborating with Accenture and Oracle, PT-SI developers devised a modular, integrated, preconfigured business support and operations support system incorporating customer relationship management, analytics, reporting and other key functions. Because it supported the rapid launch of new telecommunications products and services, they called this product “Instant Telco.”
The team and PT Inovação (the company’s research and development division) also created modules to support governance, change and campaign management; convergent service delivery; and online charging. This was on top of the system that already provides service to more than 130 million real-time users worldwide, including 75 million in a single installation. Together, the modules provide a global convergent solution that delivers “quadruple play” capabilities—television, Internet, mobile and fixed-line services.
Today, the company can launch a new product and align systems with the product in two months. And in cases where a rapid response is especially critical—for example, when a competitor launches a new offering—PT can move even faster, launching a competing offer within 24 hours. The overall solution was named “Telco in a Box,” and today it has 14,000 users within PT and supports 12.7 million quadruple-play customers.
PT launched its first Telco in a Box deployment outside of Portugal in 2010 in Cape Verde. There, Telco in a Box enabled a quadruple-play business with 430,000 customers. Two years later, the company deployed Telco in a Box at Timor Telecom in East Timor to support a triple-play network serving 700,000 customers.
In both environments, the company reduced time to market for new product bundles, services and promotions to as little as three weeks. And there are plans to launch Telco in a Box in the southern African nation of Namibia to enable a triple-play offering reaching nearly 2.2 million customers.
Simultaneously, the company’s footprint in Brazil expanded through investment in and partnership with Oi, that nation’s largest telecommunications provider. In Brazil, PT leaders have been leveraging their company’s success in developing innovative, technologically advanced solutions for corporate customers, fixed-mobile convergent offers, mobile broadband, pay TV and quadruple-play services. These offerings have improved Oi’s operational and financial performance and increased the poten¬tial for future growth.
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