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6 Challenges for Competitive Carriers

14 February 2023
Mike Dorland

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


National Grid
Open Fiber
TPX Communications
Ella Link
Red Iris
Surf Net

Rapidly increasing fiber rollout presents many challenges for operators, not least the acceleration of an already raging data storm. What issues do competitive carriers need to face as a matter of priority?

6 challenges for Competitive Carriers

The big push to roll out fiber is well underway. The latest study from the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA)[1] reckons that the number of US homes passed (by fiber) now exceeds 60 million, up 12% year-on-year from 2020. The drive to build networks, particularly to serve rural and remote communities, is a priority.

It’s not just fiber to individual premises, either. Fiber is also needed to connect new cell sites, to support higher levels of radio performance. According to Teradata[2], U.S. operators will spend more than $250 billion to deploy 5G wireless networks from 2020 to 2025, for example. Managing this exploding array of new assets for both end-user customers and for connected infrastructure is going to be essential. Effective telecom network inventory management is key to this. 

For carriers in an intensely competitive market and those delivering service to less populated and more remote regions, these realities will present challenges. In this blog, we’ll look at six examples of how the challenges will take shape – and how they can be met.

1. Consolidating the scattered data

In next generation networks, the assets involved in delivering each service need to be clearly understood, so that agile service delivery can take place. Historically, asset data has, been scattered and thus difficult to leverage within the carrier or operator infrastructure. This is no longer suitable if operators are to deliver services efficiently (and profitably) – and to provide the performance customers expect.

As an example of this, let’s look at an activity in the network, say the provisioning of a new service. When this happens, multiple usage records are created by different network components, as well as records from the control platform managing end-user communications, and billing procedures need to be completed. All this information is necessary for optimal network management, but it has to be captured and correlated. And the rapid increase in data volumes (more network events, from more things) makes it a challenge to do so.

As a result, both data and network inventory management platforms have become critical components of success.

These solutions allow the operator to collect and then differentiate how data is processed in many ways including, for example, by switching from real-time for urgent, high-priority transactions to batch processing for less-urgent data. They also aggregate all relevant data into a centralized repository and enable operators to respond to threats such as when data volumes reach levels that can affect the performance of downstream applications.

2. Breaking down OSS silos

Historically, operator OSS estates have been “siloed”. That means different IT components have performed the same function for different lines of business. For example, there might be one provisioning system for fiber, with another for the service delivered over the fiber, or different billing systems for residential and enterprise customers.  In terms of inventory management alone, this means there’s a lot to keep track of.

It also adds friction to service delivery. Silos are inefficient and create costs. To stay competitive, operators need to be able to connect their silos and ensure that data regarding, say, a physical fiber link and its location are available to a service engine that delivers a specific level of connectivity. Again, achieving this requires effective management of inventory.

3. Rebuilding infrastructures to support service innovation

The rapid increase in fiber unlocks new high speed service opportunities beyond different forms of connectivity. These new possibilities range from increased wholesale offerings to more sophisticated business-to-business services, new consumer services and bundles, and a wide range of use cases related to the Internet of Things. These new service capabilities will also be tied to the availability of specific connections – so we need to know what’s possible and what’s needed, to provide new services to the customers we seek to target.

Extensive change will be required across the entire BSS and OSS infrastructures alongside the ability to access a composite picture of the result.

4. Extending functionalities to enable partner enablement

Telecoms operators have long wanted to deliver more valuable and lucrative services to their customers. However, as networks evolve and service innovation has picked up pace, many telcos struggle to really capitalize on such new opportunities. One reason for this is an inability to develop the partnerships necessary for new services to really take-off.

There are many tiers of alliances here ranging from OTT players (for content and gaming, perhaps), to car dealers, insurance companies to banks. Each delivers its own use cases from advertising-driven, sponsored data, Loyalty Programs, connected cars, Bring-Your-Own-Device and others.

The challenge here is that revenue and usage must be managed for several physical and logical entities in parallel. From a network perspective, the charging and policy data flows must be intercepted, separated, and routed towards different platforms. Importantly, we’ll need to be able to understand where we can deliver any such new service and how to provision it seamlessly. Embedding these processes will be critical for future commercial success.

5. Using information to transform customer experiences

The promise of Digital Transformation is that it delivers an easier life. Today, customers should be able to deal with problems quickly and efficiently. 

This requires re-designing digitized customer journeys, increasing the speed and agility with which insights are accrued, driving the adoption of these new journeys by customers, and providing agility within the journeys themselves. 

To do this, carriers need the ability to track metrics and analyze operational performance data related to the customer relationship. The telco must be able to gain insights that let it optimize strategies and processes to achieve ever-better results. If this can be done, the reward is dramatically increased RoI.

6. Accelerating service delivery

Aligned with the above, we all know customer expectations have changed. People and businesses want services that perform – and, when they order them, they want them quickly. Service fulfilment must get faster – so when a new fiber connection or upgrade is ordered, it is delivered as quickly as possible, even if new devices need to be shipped.

So, we need to understand what’s required for any service, what’s missing and what’s needed to fill the gap – with workflows that are automated, so that we can deliver faster. 

That requires a 360 degree view of all the assets needed to support a service – all the way from the physical infrastructure and its location to the logical and virtual assets involved. Only with such a view can we truly link service delivery and activation to ordering, provisioning and accounting systems in automated, end-to-end processes.

There’s a seventh challenge, too, though it may be better framed as a consideration. That is whether the six challenges above are best met on-premises, or in the cloud. Given the breadth of infrastructure change in prospect as carriers seek to adapt to a changing landscape, there’s a compelling argument that inventory management solutions deployed as a fully managed service (SaaS) provide a logical path forward given that they can:

•    Be tailored to the size of the organization
•    Support OPEX models that enable efficient network evolution
•    Free CAPEX for network build
•    Lower IT costs

GIS and Network Inventory Management from VC4

In the telecommunications industry, numerous different platforms and systems will play a key role in meeting the challenges (and others) identified in this blog. One leading example of such a solution is VC4-IMS. 

VC4-IMS uses a rigorous set process to collect raw operational data, normalize and then reconcile it.  It’s also available as a fully managed service, both in the cloud and on-premise for operators of any size.

As a result, VC4-IMS delivers a critical, 360 degree view of all physical and logical resources in the existing network as well as possible obstacles to network expansion to provide the operator with a clear, unified understanding of live network assets, and their utilization and configuration at any given time. 

Crucially, this view is available to any other process – from assurance to data analytics engines, providing a centralized view of assets, status and more that can drive the efficient operations carriers need in this new environment. 

Want to know more? Why not download our guide to GIS for managing telecom networks, here?

Alternatively, if you’d like to explore our cloud solutions, you can find out more, here .