2021 Predictions: Four Things to Watch in Telco Ecosystems and Operations This Year

Andy Hicks, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Carriers will increasingly incorporate the public cloud into their infrastructures, requiring their partners to help them with hybrid and multicloud management as well as edge capabilities.
  • Greenfield transformation champions Rakuten, Dish, and Jio will have to show results in 2021.

2020 turned out to be a bye year in the predictions game. Having painstakingly teased out the incipient trends for the year, analysts watched as COVID-19 upturned everything, forcing telcos to reallocate their network CapEx and vendors to scramble to add cloud capacity, develop new analytics, and adjust their deployment services. While 2020 sped up operators’ moves toward cloudification, it also delayed non-essential projects as well as work on the standards that will help mobile carriers to monetize their extensive investments in 5G infrastructure. While the coronavirus will continue to affect telecoms transformation in 2021, it is now baked into telcos’ plans, allowing – we hope – more certainty about the events of the coming year. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Four Things to Watch in Telco Ecosystems and Operations This Year”

5G Services: Embracing 5G’s Benefits While Taming Its Complexity

Andy Hicks, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Carriers are coming face to face with 5G’s increased scale and complexity as well as the need to monetize network investments by developing many more services than before.
  • To design, deploy, and operate 5G networks profitably, carriers will need to increase automation, adopt AI, and select the right ecosystem partners.

With the July 2020 completion of 3GPP Release 16, we now have the first round of specifications for a full, end-to-end 5G network. Most wireless carriers have started to plan their journey to 5G, and a few are already providing 5G SA connections. During every stage of this journey, carriers are coming face to face with 5G’s increased complexity: more network nodes to install and maintain, more parameters to adjust, and more services to design and operate. Continue reading “5G Services: Embracing 5G’s Benefits While Taming Its Complexity”

TM Forum’s ODA Vision Gains Ground, but Vendor Partner Choices Are Still Critical

Principal Analyst, Global Telecom Technology and Software

Summary Bullets:

  • TM Forum’s ‘Open Digital Architecture’ (ODA) vision has received a major endorsement from several Tier 1 telcos and leading IT vendors.
  • While one of ODA’s goals is to enable best-of-breed procurement on a much more granular level, telcos will need to make a major vendor partnership decision to help them reach that goal.

This week, TM Forum announced that eleven new telcos and vendors had signed on to its ‘Open Digital Architecture,’ which incorporates cloud-native design principles as well as telco-specific processes and a focus on governance. In aggregate, these companies constitute a substantial industry endorsement: the telcos include BT, Chunghwa Telecom, DT, Telefonica, and Telenor; the vendors include major rivals Amdocs, Netcracker, Nokia, and Oracle. Continue reading “TM Forum’s ODA Vision Gains Ground, but Vendor Partner Choices Are Still Critical”

COVID-19: As Nations Stay at Home, Mobile Voice Makes a Return

Principal Analyst, Global Telecom Technology and Software

Summary Bullets:

• Even as COVID-19 keeps everyone at home, mobile voice and messaging use have risen across the board.

• The increase in mobile voice traffic underlines its continued value in an era of over-the-top collaboration applications.

As most of the United States and Canada has joined Europe in a period of strict travel restrictions and work-from-home arrangements, network loads are changing in the ways one would expect: conferencing tools, streaming media, and gaming are driving huge increases in home broadband usage. But traditional mobile services are also exploding: AT&T reports that mobile voice minutes are up anywhere from 25-41% compared to an average (pre-COVID-19) day. Even mobile text messaging has increased around 40% compared to the period before the crisis. In Spain, mobile operators banded together to ask customers to shift their calls to landlines after a 50% rise in mobile calls. Continue reading “COVID-19: As Nations Stay at Home, Mobile Voice Makes a Return”

DT’s Transport Network Transformation Works on the Harder and Softer Sides of MANO

Principal Analyst, Global Telecom Technology and Software

• Deutsche Telekom’s recently announced network and service automation project using Netcracker’s Domain Orchestrator demonstrates current best practices in management and orchestration.

• The project’s early success, however, also shows how many things need to go right to execute a true network transformation.

Deutsche Telekom is unifying and automating its German transport network with a state-of-the-art technical architecture. The new approach is already reaping benefits in efficiency and speed, but DT places as much importance on the vendor’s implementation approach as it does on the technology.

Since October 8, Deutsche Telekom and Netcracker have been touting the benefits of their transport digitization. The carrier is already live with IP trunk provisioning using Netcracker’s Domain Orchestrator approach, and says that it sees unprecedented speed in the area. Soon to come are unified network discovery, visualization, and trunk provisioning across the IP and optical domains. Using a real-time active inventory, the solution provides full-lifecycle management of services. The Netcracker orchestrator interfaces directly with the IP core, and all of the IP and optical layers are combined in a common visualization domain. It is also containerized, allowing for quick configuration of services and features.
Continue reading “DT’s Transport Network Transformation Works on the Harder and Softer Sides of MANO”

Diversity in Telco Transformation: Vendors Must Aid in Many Journeys

Principal Analyst, Global Telecom Technology and Software

Summary Bullets:

• Common telco transformation goals of efficiency, agility, and customer experience obscure a variety of interim approaches and roadmaps.

• Vendors must be prepared to support each telco’s diverse product, operations, and procurement strategies.

Telecommunications vendors talk a lot about digital transformation, mostly in similar terms: Customer experience must improve; OpEx must fall; cloudified 5G networks must be planned, built, and automated; services must get to market more rapidly; and organizational culture must become more agile. Worthy goals all, but after 20 or so meetings at Mobile World Congress or similar industry gatherings, they can seem like a catechism instead of a roadmap. Every telco is in a different position, and needs to set its own plan for transformation.

Often network and IT vendors rely on their global services departments to help customers transform, so services events are good places to see the actual work that telcos are doing. One recent example was Huawei’s Operations Transformation Summit, held the day before MWC. Four operators presented to the vendor’s Open ROADS community: Axiata Group, China Mobile Pakistan (doing business under the Zong brand), Sunrise Switzerland, and Viva Kuwait. All have made progress toward automated, efficient, and agile operations and great customer experience, but each is taking a different path. Each operator also exemplifies one or more real results that telcos can achieve today:

Agility enabled: Digital transformation must slash any new offering’s time to market and opportunity cost. Doing so requires a combination of technology and process work: in Sunrise’s case, process automation and resource modularization combine with a new abstraction layer between back-end systems and customer channels to enable scrum-based service development. Like cloud-native OTT players, Sunrise now provides frequent feature updates rather than aggregating changes into infrequent point releases.

APIs and ecosystems: For a few years now, it’s been an article of faith that telcos will someday use a platform ecosystem to bring more services to market a la Salesforce.com or Google. Axiata started in 2012. It began with the long tail, publishing simple APIs and using crowdsourcing to introduce 3,000 apps between 2012 and 2014. It then industrialized its APIs into a single hub and cloud-native architecture to accommodate larger partners, other telcos, and more complicated services, resulting in 11,000 ecosystem developers, 200+ service partners, and 17,000 apps developed. Just as important as the technological components is Axiata’s governance model, which requires code reuse, microservices, documentation, and APIs that can be exposed externally.

AI-assisted investment: Artificial intelligence is aiding improvements in both traditional capacity planning – where it can forecast cell-level traffic and performance three months in advance – and in prioritizing investment. Zong is one of the operators that uses AI to help it prioritize upgrades in a very low-ARPU market by analyzing which cells will be most used by high-value customers.

Procurement efficiency. Although rarely mentioned in industry discussions, procurement is the subject of renewed focus as traditional cost management procedures and per-component RFPs run up against software-style licensing models and the need for transformation partnerships. The improved planning we mention in the previous bullet combines with standardized equipment definitions to enable efficient capital use via just-in-time procurement: Viva noted that purchase order processing has gone from 15 to five days, while Zong has seen its contract approval time drop by 59% and its implementation time drop by 53%.

These are just four examples from one event, but they underscore the diversity of operator approaches: even if their goals are similar, a full-service vendor must be able to aid each operator on its unique journey. A comprehensive services approach is essential to handle this diversity.