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.

ZTE’s 5G Field Test with China Mobile and Why It Matters

Ed Gubbins – Senior Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • ZTE has completed a 5G New Radio (NR) field test with China Mobile in the Chinese province of Guangdong.
  • This tests demonstrates ZTE’s readiness to supply large-scale 5G rollouts and take advantage of the unique opportunities posed by standalone 5G in particular.

Network equipment vendors have been promoting their progress in 5G for years. So, when a vendor announces the completion of yet another 5G field test in early 2019 – many months past widespread industry pronouncements that “5G is here!” – it’s easy to casually disregard. It’s also easy to miss the real significance of this activity. Continue reading “ZTE’s 5G Field Test with China Mobile and Why It Matters”

MWC19: 5G Promises to Solve the Problems Caused by, Um, 5G

Ed Gubbins – Senior Analyst

Summary Bullets:

• At Mobile World Congress, radio access network vendors are likely to promote features that simplify 5G networks, ease their deployment, and optimize their energy consumption.

• Ironically, these features are necessary to tackle problems exacerbated by 5G itself.

Cartoon character Homer Simpson once called alcohol the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” These days vendors of 5G infrastructure are making similar-sounding claims, as 5G hype has given way to a more, ah, sober reckoning of its implications.

As the telecom industry gathers at this year’s Mobile World Congress, we’re sure to hear that “5G is here!” and “5G is real!” – just as we have in previous years. But as the real-world challenges of 5G deployments draw nearer for operators, RAN vendors will need to devote some messaging to assuaging operators’ fears. In fact, this has already begun, and it takes the form of RAN vendors emphasizing 5G benefits that are, in fact, more like remedies to problems posed by 5G itself.
Continue reading “MWC19: 5G Promises to Solve the Problems Caused by, Um, 5G”

Political Battles and Ongoing Restructurings Serve as Backdrop for MWC19

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets:
• The wireless industry prepares to converge once again in Barcelona at MWC19.
• In addition to new 5G product and service launches and customer wins, political and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops this year.

MWC19, the wireless industry’s largest event of the year, kicks off February 25 in Barcelona.

For network infrastructure vendors, MWC19 will serve as a launch point for a host of new products and services. Expect a number of 5G “plumbing”-related announcements from a host of vendors, including:

• Massive MIMO advancements
• Solutions designed to allow operators to support both 4G/LTE and 5G on a common core
• Similarly, flexible and programmable transport solutions that can support a host of to-be-developed 5G network slicing use cases
• Advancements in IoT platforms designed to help network operators do a better job of bringing the “connected X” proposition into a host of enterprises.

However, while 5G will obviously take center stage, as it has for the past three years, politics and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops for this year’s event.

Huawei has endured a U.S.-backed campaign against it over the past year that has threatened its 5G prospects across the UK, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. It will need to announce 5G-related deals at this year’s event to signal that it still has the support of a critical mass of the industry to thrive in the 5G era. Given the current urgency around this issue, Huawei will need to address security concerns more directly in its MWC19 messaging.
Continue reading “Political Battles and Ongoing Restructurings Serve as Backdrop for MWC19”

Ciena Sharpens Its Focus on Network Automation, Creates a Separate Blue Planet Division

Glen Hunt – Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Ciena can now promote Blue Planet as an independent automation solution which can assist operators to create new services, automate service orders, and reduce O&M complexity.
  • Separating Blue Planet’s priorities from those of Ciena’s equipment business, packet and optical transport, enables it to better address multivendor network transformation opportunities.

Ciena noted in its Q4 2018 financial reporting that several mega trends were affecting its business: an increased need for greater bandwidth and what it termed ‘adaptive automation.’ In a recent (February 2019) blog post, the company announced its intent to form a separate independent operating division focused on providing intelligent automation solutions. A key question is: why establish a separate operating division for Ciena software and services? Continue reading “Ciena Sharpens Its Focus on Network Automation, Creates a Separate Blue Planet Division”

Infrastructure Vendor IoT Strategies: What Impact Do They Have on Service Providers?

Kitty Weldon – Research Director

Summary Bullets:

  • Last week, Nokia announced a strategy to build out private industrial LTE networks, Ericsson carved out four cellular IoT segments, and Cisco offered solutions to bring ‘intent-based’ networking to the edge.
  • What do these announcements imply about the future of the IIoT and how should service providers respond?

Last week, three of the most powerful infrastructure and networking equipment vendors made IoT-related announcements, some in conjunction with their Q4 earnings reports. While this clearly denotes how strongly they view IoT as a key growth market, it also brings into question their relationships with the operators which in many cases have been their primary customers. Continue reading “Infrastructure Vendor IoT Strategies: What Impact Do They Have on Service Providers?”

Looking Into the Crystal Ball: GlobalData’s Most Intriguing Predictions in Telco Technology & Software in 2019

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets:

  • GlobalData recently published its comprehensive set of 2019 predictions across mobile and fixed access, transport and routing, and telco software and services.
  • The predictions here represent some of the most intriguing industry trends that vendors and operators will need to track closely in the coming year.

Shifting RAN Vendor Landscape: It’s too difficult to predict whether more countries will follow the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in erecting barriers to Huawei and ZTE’s participation in their network infrastructure markets. But, in any case, what has already transpired – combined with the cloud of uncertainty it casts over the future – will likely have several near-term effects in 2019. Continue reading “Looking Into the Crystal Ball: GlobalData’s Most Intriguing Predictions in Telco Technology & Software in 2019”