Regulators doing a high-wire balancing act as networks transform

Martyn Warwick
By Martyn Warwick

Nov 7, 2019

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Mansoor Hanif, CTO, Ofcom

This is a fascinating insight into the transforming telco industry from the point of view of a very senior regulator. Mansoor Hanif is the CTO of the UK's Ofcom and says that the industry will face some challenges as it as it passes through an inevitable and unavoidable period of hybrid transition towards virtualisation.
At the same time a range of players new to telecoms are emerging and Ofcom intends to ensure that the new entrants have the opportunity and space to develop new networks based on new technologies and expects particular emphasis to be placed on areas that are currently underserved. The regulator expects that some of the new players will have much more forward-looking network architectures that will be cloud native from the outset.
Mansoor Hanif adds that the regulator is necessarily heavily focused on the end result of transformation for consumers, citizens and businesses. The organisation is well aware of the advantages that virtualisation should bring and that the total transformation of CSPs into DSPs has massive potential benefits.
He stresses though that job of Ofcom is to ensure that the transition is managed properly and that consumers and their rights are fully protected over that period and beyond. Ofcom is also determined to ensure the security and resilience of the new networks. Mansoor Hanif says it is absolutely vital that network security is built-in upfront and networks are trustworthy begin to expand into particularly sensitive areas of the economy such as manufacturing and utilities,
He also says that the CNTT, (the common NFVi telco task force), is a solid foundation on which to build a common platform - at least as far as hardware is concerned. However, there are choices to be made in as far as how effective collaboration can be. He stresses that, from a regulator's perspective, such collaboration will be judged by how much  it is in the interests of consumers, citizens and businesses. 
There are also a number of areas that my turn out to be even more problematic, and orchestration and automation will require careful management because of the huge potential risks surrounding those areas and that is where there may be considerable wariness about common platforms.
A further area of concern, in the UK at least, is the lack of indoor coverage deployments for multi-operators or business cover for SMEs. Operators should be encouraged to agree a model for these areas that can extend coverage to under-served or unserved areas whilst still providing a competitive market for services to end users.
Ofcom is also looking deeply into network security and resilience and the EU has issued a high-level analysis of 5G networks and its supply chains. The three major areas of concern have been identified as virtualisation, open source and 5G itself with regard to its potential to spread into areas not currently integrated into a common framework.
Above all though, the regulator's role in this era of unprecedented technological change to achieve an maintain a  proper balance between CSPs/DSPs and consumers, citizens and businesses.
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Filmed at SDN NFV World Congress, The Hague, 2019

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