IT is key to telecoms transformation

Telecom Asia special projects team
05 Oct 2015

Telcos hear a lot about “transformation” these days – i.e. the need to transform everything from their networks and business models to their internal organizational culture. They’re hearing this for a good reason: their environment is undergoing similar transformations, and those who don’t keep up – or stay ahead of the curve – risk being left behind.

Consider: data traffic is expected to grow eightfold in the next five years. (SEA and Oceania alone will see 9x mobile traffic growth between 2014-2020.)

Source: Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2015

We’re seeing drastic technological advancements in areas such as cloud, M2M, devices and apps that pushing operators to be in control of these changes all at once. Even customer expectations are changing – more and more telecoms customers are demanding total mobility, faster connectivity, and personalized services. And their seemingly insatiable demand for such services is what’s driving that aforementioned data traffic surge.

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Telcos who want to succeed in that environment simply cannot carry on with business as usual. They’re being asked to achieve entirely new levels of performance, and achieving it will take massive transformations in nearly every aspect of the operator’s business.

And ironically it’s IT that’s going to make that transformation both possible and practical.

“Put simply,” says Ashwini Bakshi, head of Engagement, Managed Services & CS, Ericsson South East Asia and Oceania, “telcos have to become ICT players.

“They need to embrace horizontal software solutions, cloud ecosystems, analytics, industry vertical expertise and security and controls to be what they want to be,” Bakshi says. “A big part of this is achieving the kind of focused, results-oriented agility that the IT sector has gained over the past decade.”

The crucial role of IT in telecoms transformation seems obvious when remembering that infrastructure is moving to packet data networks, he says. “Packet data networks have always been the domain of IT.”

An easy example is VoLTE, which brings circuit-switched voice into the IT domain. A perhaps less obvious example is OSS/BSS, which will be a critical component for future networks and services. But it’s the IT department heads who are now being asked take more responsibility for its development, Bakshi says.

“By augmenting the network with IT intelligence, operators gain the agility they need to weightlessly address new technologies and delivery models. They move from being service providers to being experience providers; from being linear and legacy to being digital; and from being voice/data companies to being ICT players.CRM has always been in the IT domain, but the charging system, which traditionally belongs to the network side, has now being transferred to IT as operator adopt convergent charging and billing,” he explains. “Meanwhile, provisioning systems that need to be able to provision future services have also become IT’s responsibility.”

Visions of convergence

This is fairly revolutionary stuff, since telcos traditionally look at networks and IT as two separate paths. But this also puts a new spin on the concept of convergence, which is not just about blending of traditionally separate technologies and services, but also the marriage of expectations from the technology sector and consumers.

From a technological point of view, convergence has historically been about bringing together devices, software, applications and connectivity into product offerings designed to meet a possibly unproven consumer demand. From the point of view of the consumer, it’s about attractive, relevant services they can use and enjoy regardless of which device they prefer and without having to worry about the technologies involved in delivering those services.

Therefore, says Ericsson’s Bakshi, the goal of convergence is to enable the further digitization of consumer lifestyles, and all the accompanying benefits of greater connectivity, mobility, flexibility, and efficiency. “Only when these two visions come together felicitously – when the actual products and services offered do indeed match demand – can it be said that convergence is becoming a reality. That is what’s happening now.”

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