In the last fifteen years, as an executive in the Telecom Industry in the Americas, I have had the opportunity to speak frequently with CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs. Four recurring themes in these conversations have been how to be more effective, produce more with fewer resources, and differentiate offerings. In other words, achieving ROI, reducing both CAPEX and OPEX, and diminishing churn while creating incremental revenue.
Over time, we’ve witnessed a challenging combination of macroeconomics in the industry that has forced Telecom Industry executives to be creative and act quickly to keep up with trends. There has been strong price erosion, with Internet access dropping from a few dollars per hour to handle kilobits, to a few dollars per month to transact hundreds of Gigabytes. The complete replacement of the outside plant for the Incumbents became necessary, and five generations of cellular technologies brought several moving parts that needed updating without service disruption. Traditional voice services were replaced by IP-Native solutions, introducing video services, IPTV, and other forms of streaming. The boom of Social Media further accelerated with the growth of over-the-top players, impacting the already challenging economics for traditional Service Providers.
During these periods, we also witnessed several revolutionary technologies that did not live up to the hype, either because they were ahead of their time or because the entire ecosystem didn’t prove to be sustainable. For many years, especially during the 3G era, the industry sought the ‘killing Application,’ and later expected the promises of Network Transformation applied to the fixed network, evolving all TDM circuitry into an all-IP modernized infrastructure.
Not surprisingly, as we begin 2024, C-level executives at Service Providers are still seeking ways to achieve ROI, reduce CAPEX/OPEX, and retain customers while generating incremental revenues. Despite coexisting with known or new ‘revolutionary technologies’ like Metaverse and Blockchain, which will soon reveal their real impact.
In the pursuit of these four magical KPIs, as we may call them, there is now a significant focus on “Autonomous Network” Iquall Networks, a pioneer in this space, quickly understood that successful disruptive technologies have a couple of common elements:
a) They bring quick impact upon adoption, and
b) they exhibit small but continued improvements over time (it is a journey).
Therefore, we learned that a Network Automation journey requires an approach focused on accomplishing a series of small tasks and process automations, which, in a very short period, generate reductions in ‘Operating Expenses.’ In the same initial phase of the journey, CSPs must focus on incorporating, documenting, and integrating all standalone, in-house developed, and RPA-based automation use cases that provide Governance, ultimately mitigating a series of potential problems that CSPs normally coexist with.
Additionally, there is no Network Automation without a silent revolution in the underlying CSP Operations. A revolution that happens inside out, with a significant investment in training personnel, focusing on both upskilling and reskilling, to ensure they are equipped with the latest competencies and adapt to evolving technological needs., introducing the basics of DevOps and Agile concepts to a substantial number of collaborators who will embrace a new way of thinking and looking into their operations.
Once the two foundational efforts are consolidated—quick wins and massive training—the journey acceleration begins. At this point, CSPs should be at Level-2 of the TMForum Autonomous Network Framework, with most of its execution automated, and some of the Network Awareness and Analysis partially automated. The savings generated in the initial phase of the journey cover the needed investment to continue advancing. It’s a vicious cycle that we observe in some of Iquall’s customers.
With the dissemination of the CI/CD culture, the quantity of Automation Use Cases will grow exponentially, bringing the underlying network up to subsequent layers to achieve an Autonomous Network at the end of the journey.
Obviously, it is easier said than done; nonetheless, the good news here is that the northstar for all of this is here and is already being used. So, achieving the four key objectives of literally all C-levels in our industry—getting ROI, reducing both CAPEX and OPEX, and diminishing churn while creating incremental revenue—is not that far from their hands.
By Carlos Brito, EVP of Global Sales at Iquall Networks