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Operators are sitting on golden eggs but need help to hatch them

golden eggs

via Flickr © erix! (CC BY 2.0)

  • Can you future-proof the future?
  • Or is hype obscuring the reality of network transformation?
  • Operators have many advantages but don't always play to them
  • Connectivity is the key

Under cerulean heavens magicked into existence by massed marcoms teams whose role it is to promote only the bluest of blue-sky thinking, wave after wave of publicity and hype has been lapping seductively onto the shores of the global telecoms sector, beguiling the industry with its soft but insistent susurration and generating massive enthusiasm for, and commitment to, total network transformation.

The evangelists have been telling us the promised land almost in sight and a new golden age of telecoms is about to dawn. However, what if,  just what if, the sunny forecast turned out to be little more than wishful thinking and network transformation actually results in the construction and deployment of what, a few short years down the line, will reveal itself to be just another set of massively expensive legacy systems?

In the past we have seen many technologies and solutions sold as universal nostrums to cure all the industry's ills that later have been revealed to be quack remedies. Surely, we're not going to go round the same old and well-worn loop of over-promising and then under-delivering yet again are we? Hopefully not. In recent months the once over-inflated balloon of network transformation hype has leaked some of its hot are and descended much closer to the ground, where reality is visible.  

At the recent Mobile World Congress held earlier this month in Barcelona, the future of network transformation as enabled by Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) was much in evidence.

The basic theory of applied NFV is that the great majority of the network services that are currently processed in the core of the network will be moved out to the edge. This sea-change will be enabled by transforming many of the physical, hardware devices that at present are relied on both to process network services and also to secure them  into software that can run on commodity processors at the network edge. When that happens, service providers will be able much more easily, quickly and inexpensively to deploy turnkey platforms, predominantly, in the early years at least, in the form of virtual Customer Premise Equipment (vCPE) that can remotely manage solutions deployed at the edge of their  networks.

NFV usage is evolving even as the grand vision for Software Defined Networks (SDN), NFV's almost-but-not-quite-twin, is being substantially re-edited as some big CSPs and cloud providers have adopted a subset of the original premise of SDN which was to create a new, centrally-managed, flow-based networking architecture. The original concept of SDN did not include the notion or use  use of 'overlay' networks, but that is what is happening.

Operators now have an opportunity to hatch the golden eggs they have been sitting on for so long

So, how will things progress from here? Indrajit Chaudhuri, a Senior Vice  President at Tecnotree, a long-established and well-trusted telecoms equipment manufacturer and vendor headquartered in Espoo, Finland, told TelecomTV, "Service Providers want future-proofing. They don't want to have to re-visit network transformation in a few of years time when it becomes evident that what they have deployed isn't doing what it's supposed to. And they certainly don't want to spend yet more money on patching-up a network that was was promised to last a generation or more without them incurring any significant extra costs".

He continued, "Network transformation is a significant and potentially difficult journey involving huge changes in terms of technology, processes and corporate culture. At Tecnotree we ensure customer satisfaction and that their networks remain future-proof by being in continuous engagement with them. We do a lot of hand-holding as they strive to bring about the biggest technological transition in many decades. The operators are in a very good position and their strongest suit in an already excellent hand is connectivity. It's strange that some of them don't seem to realise that despite competition from the OTT players, that they are sat on a great big golden egg that network transformation will allow to hatch".

Indrajit Chaudhari added that CSPs are ideally-placed to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M). With the IoT market moving away from vertical, silo'd applications to horizontal solutions based on big data analytics. This highlights the importance of the increasing trend of partnerships and joint ventures between operators and other members of the ecosystem.

After all, the provision of connectivity solutions accounts for a fairly small proportion of the overall revenue opportunity that IoT provides, but, it has recently been shown that by providing an end-to-end services ARPU can be tripled. Furthermore. although the current IoT marketplace is undeniably fragmented, mobile operators and CSPs are in the vanguard of collaboration and co-operation in the definition and support of common standards.

The importance of the cloud, big data and analytics.

The user love-affair with smartphones is continues to intensify even as the number of connected devices is growing at a close to exponential rate. The result is an astonishing increase in volume and velocity of  both human-generated and machine-generated data which will simply overwhelm traditional network technologies and architectures. Simultaneously, new advances in big data analytics is massively multiplying the value of all that data. Thanks to their long history and positioning within society, operators are ideally placed to exploit these changes because they are trusted service providers that have immediate access to huge reservoirs of first-party data. The most responsive players are already demonstrating that operators can easily compete with (and do better than) the OTT players especially in areas such as mobile advertising and big data analytics.

Furthermore, although the cloud market is extremely competitive, on the infrastructure side of the equation it is dominated by small number of very large-scale providers. This market reality has more or less forced many telcos to focus much more closely on their core strengths and competencies - and that means connectivity services. Operators must leverage their network capabilities to allow s s cloud service providers flexibly. to deliver their services to end users. That's the win-win scenario for all interested parties.

Indrajit Chaudhari says Tecnotree's vision is "an online world where digital marketplaces offer personalised bundles of aggregated content products and services". Given that the company's products are used by more than 90 operators in 70 countries and its partners include global industry luminaries such as Accenture, Nokia, and Siemens, Tecnotree's industry analysis is evidently spot-on and its solutions are a suite of virtual Finnish down jackets and duvets with Tog insulation ratings high enough hatch golden eggs, provided operators have the vision and dedications to sit on them for long enough.

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