How to create simplicity in telecoms

Far from exercising simplicity, in recent years it has been apparent that telecom operators’ business models, offers, networks and systems are nothing short of complex.

A mix of the surge of complexity, the very nature of the mobile industry and current business trends have all been impacting cost efficiencies, solution launches and customer service.

The industry was evolving at an incredibly fast pace with technology upgrades every five to ten years, which on the whole, were not entirely anticipated. This inevitably led to patchy layers of network technologies and IT systems, all implemented on top of the existing ones.

Added to this has been the competition amongst operators, the threat from OTT Internet content providers and increasing customer demands. The result is a panic to sustain the introduction of new products, services and tariff plans. All this ideally would take place without properly phasing out obsolete products.

Perhaps because of the perceived risk of losing customers, all these factors have contributed to the severity of the situation.

Time for simplicity?

It has not been unusual to find in a typical Tier-1 operator, more than 50 different IT service assurance systems, all managed by different teams. These systems have used varying information models, computation algorithms and data formats. In addition, the management of one domain, vendor or function indicate restrictions.

This often created silos within the workplace, impacting operations and employee morale. Not to mention, the potential to result in the overall failure of a company or its products and culture.

It was therefore very difficult to have an end-to-end view of network performance and service quality. MTTR became extremely long – sometimes days instead of minutes – and the customer experience was poor, putting pressure on workforces in terms of restricted knowledge and time.

Something had to change. The industry had to find a way to improve telecoms and bring them into the modern day, adopting a best practice mentality.

5 best practice considerations

Increasingly, businesses are now looking for ways to improve its telecoms to ensure they remain in the modern day. Here’s how it can be done:

  1. Your customers should remain your number one priority and their demands should dictate your portfolio. However, it’s necessary to strike the right balance between delivering what is asked for and remaining ahead of the product diversity game. Limiting any risks when phasing out legacy products is also crucial.
  2. Remember to strategise as short-term decisions are only good if they fit with long-term goals.
  3. Explore appropriate application programming interfaces (APIs), including RESTful APIs to ensure 3rd party users can connect and interact with cloud services.
  4. From the outset of each project, devise a strategy to manage hybrid networks. Review the importance of putting systems in place that can manage NFV and SDN. Consider making full visibility and quality of service control across virtualised and physical parts of the network a priority.
  5. Clean-up existing systems and remove dated and unused content. Enforce best practice standards across IT, IP and mobile networks, and manage them as if one fully integrated vertical. Adopt unified service and data models in an enterprise data warehouse that utilise the correct expertise and analytics.

Fast forward to 2018

Many companies need to analyse their systems to see what lessons they can learn, and potential hazards to avoid.

Over the last few years, we have seen a wave of mergers and acquisitions that have reshaped the sector. Many mobile, fixed and cable operators have teamed up to grow in scale, and offer considered and unrivalled services.

However, the exponential increase in data consumption has led to the inevitable increase in traffic on mobile networks. As a result, this has forced Communication Service Providers (CPS) to carry out continuous expensive capacity upgrades. This, in turn, has added another layer of traffic to the existing networks, exacerbating the problem further.

But through customer-centric analytics, CPSs can now manage the duplication of disparate products, technologies and systems. Organisations will undoubtedly have very different cultures and business processes, especially when the telecom verticals are different (e.g. Mobile vs ISP).

Industry innovations

NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) promises to fundamentally change the nature of telecom networks by completely separating the hardware from the software.

Network functions and services will be virtualised and delivered using standard IT hardware resources (processing, storage and bandwidth) from data centres in the cloud. New services can then be designed and delivered much faster. This will help many industry areas (transport, energy, smart cities, etc.) achieve digital transformation and to deliver new lucrative managed services.

The virtualisation of networks (NFV/SDN); the move to the cloud; the deployment of small cells and 5G; the new ecosystem of IoT; and digital experience offerings are all relatively recent technology upgrades.

This ever-evolving complexity means that customers need to have their best practices in place to remain up-to-date with upgrades.

Leading industry experts at Strategy& say that judging from several trends that have emerged in the telecoms sector over the past few years, the time for preparation is over. Even if you think your current business model has several years of life left, you can’t be sure — and strategic focus will help you, no matter how far away the time of change.

Next Steps

So, streamlining solutions and continuing to bring them into the 21st Century is paramount. Supporting modern workforces, planning strategies and agreed best practices should be shared with and embraced by all at management level.

A simplification index KPI can also be put in place and should be monitored. These should have a baseline established and regular reporting and steering actions enforced. This approach strives to provide simple, yet effective processes to help businesses operate using contemporary telecoms possibilities.