Back-office refurbishment is just as important as network advances if telcos are serious about digital transformation

A lurking danger for telcos is that network transformation outpaces operations support systems (OSS). Given network innovation enjoys a much higher profile than back-office refits, perhaps it’s understandable that OSSs tend not to command as much attention in the boardroom as SDN, NFV, 5G and Internet of Things (IoT).  

OSS transformation

This would be a mistake. If network and OSS advances are not done in tandem, telcos are storing up problems for the future. Rather than greater service agility – the aim of all digital telcos – the likely outcome is longer time-to-market (TTM) and higher total cost of ownership (TCO).

One reason is the projected sharp rise in network elements (and devices attached to networks). Take 5G. Next-gen networks using high‑frequency airwaves need many more base stations to achieve the same coverage as 4G networks that use lower-frequency spectrum. Then there’s IoT. As IoT spreads into homes, cities and cars, the number of devices connected to networks will be counted in high double-digit billions within the next few years.

All of this stretches human capability to manage well. As network complexity increases, relying on OSSs that require lots of manual intervention to launch and manage services is not a credible long‑term option.

Dynamic thinking

Talk of OSS transformation is hardly new. One approach gaining traction is cloudification. By using cloud-native technologies the idea is that aspiring digital telcos can make better use of cloud economics and computing resources, either on public or private clouds. In this way OSSs are in good shape to scale up and down quickly according to demand. The ability to flex like this, with little need for human tinkering, is exactly what the digital telco craves. TTM is shorter and TCO is kept in check. And by insisting that suppliers adhere to open APIs, telcos can take a best-of-breed approach. OSS vendor lock-ins become a thing of the past.

As good as all this sounds the success of any cloud-based OSS transformation strategy still depends on highly accurate and dynamic network inventory, which assimilates real-time changes in both allocation of physical resources and onboarding of virtual network functions. Without it, greater automation of service fulfilment and assurance will not be possible. Neither will telcos be able to move towards a ‘user-defined’ networking world, where customers and enterprises can tailor products and services to suit their own needs through self-service portals.

 

Let’s look at predictive operations and maintenance (O&M). Rather than trying to fix problems after a customer rings in to complain about a service glitch – reactive O&M – it’s much more cost-efficient if networks can monitor themselves and correct potential issues, such as faults and congestion,  before they impact the customer. This scenario clearly requires an OSS supported by artificial intelligence, data analytics and clever algorithms, but also one that is fed by a real-time view of network assets. Timely re-routing of data traffic, according to rules-based policies, won’t happen if  OSSs don’t have an up-to-date and holistic view of the network.

Predictive O&M is a happy spin-off from closed loops. This is when communication goes back and forth between different parts of the network, which continuously monitors service performance through a feedback loop. In this way networks can ‘self-optimize’, or, as some describe it, become ‘self-driving’. But accurate telemetry data is vital if the network is to look after itself in this way.

 

Lumbering OSSs that lag network transformation result in unhappy customers, lost revenue and disgruntled shareholders. Reactive O&M is not the best way to combat churn and there’s a pressing need for greater automation in service orchestration, fulfilment and assurance. The worrying industry trend of operational expenditure outflanking revenue growth will only continue if back‑office systems are not fit for digital purpose. Consumers want faster speeds, ultra high‑definition video and bigger data allowances, but don’t like spending more. Telcos can’t afford to overlook the TTM and TCO gains that dynamic inventory and under-the-hood automation bring.   

 

Start the OSS journey 

OSS specialist Suntech fully understands the operational challenges facing telcos. Better still it has solutions to address them. SunVizion Network Inventory provides real-time records and visibility of all network assets — through the physical, IP, and service layers — and across different silos and domains (mobile, home broadband, data centres, IP transport and enterprise services). This includes a wide range of legacy technologies, such as copper, coax, SDH/PDH and ATM.

 

SunVizion Network Inventory can give an end-to-end view of service orchestration and fulfilment because it gathers information from any network monitoring system in the marketplace. In-built workflows also help predictive O&M and service verification. Reassuringly for telcos the database is updated automatically almost the same time as new rollouts are implemented in the network.

There are other benefits of having a central repository of network inventory across different domains. Operations staff get a single view of both physical and logical and network aspects, which is geographically represented on a highly accurate map. The physical network inventory integrates infrastructure information from inside and outside plant, while logical resources are network connectivity and functions.

Suntech provides the building blocks of OSS transformation