Mobile operators, it’s time to get your mojo back

Contributed by Ashwin Moranganti, Chief Product Officer, Affirmed Networks, a Microsoft Company

Mobile operators are about to become liberated in a way that they’ve never felt before. And I choose that word because what’s happening with the convergence of cloud, edge computing, and the everything-as-a-service consumption model is an unburdening for mobile operators that, for the first time, allows them to soar with the startups and service innovators.

The Old Approach

Until now, service agility wasn’t an idea you encountered in telcos; it was something that other companies did (the Facebooks, the Instagram, etc.). Because telco operators shouldered the burden of deploying and managing the mobile core, the RAN, and everything in between for each service they offered, service creation took a long time. First, you had to build the business case, then you could build the network. Meanwhile, over-the-top providers simply had to deploy an app in the cloud and scale it up (if it was a success) or down (if it wasn’t) without worrying about infrastructure costs.

Those tables are being turned in preparation for 5G. For the first time, mobile operators can deploy everything they need in the cloud: the infrastructure, the VNFs, the private network, even the network slice that manages the service. This allows operators to leverage the same cloud economies of scale and rapid deployment models that OTTs have used for years to quickly and cost-efficiently bring new services to market.

Taking Back Control with Cloud

Until now, mobile operators have focused more on the network than the service innovation that could monetize that network. They have had a very different experience leading up to 5G: they build the network and out come the OTT players to profit from it. But mobile operators are getting wiser. They’re now reaching out to cloud service providers and network equipment vendors and telling them to provide the infrastructure, the edge computing, and the APIs so that the operators can focus on delivering services and creating customer experiences. In other words, they’re not standing on the sidelines anymore and watching OTTs have all the fun; they’re getting into the game with the intent to win.

Unified Operations: Sharing Responsibility and Revenue

By shifting the burden of managing the infrastructure, product roadmaps, people, etc. from the telco to the equipment and solution vendors, will enable operators to reduce the high upfront costs and the risks of creating and deploying new services. This new disruptive (for telcos) approach entails moving to an as-a-service offering and is built on the four key principles:

  1. Managed Infrastructure

The shift to a managed infrastructure approach allows operators to focus on business outcomes and customer experiences while the cloud infrastructure providers focus on managing the different components of the infrastructure and network. Sharing the responsibility for SLAs and risks, lowers the burden of integration on the vendors, enabling operators to move their attention from “How do we build it?” to “How do we monetize it?” while benefiting the vendors with higher rewards.

  1. From Products to Services

By moving from a premises-based model to an infrastructure/network-as-a-service model for BSS, mobile core, RAN, orchestration of cloud-native network functions, operators can achieve their core business outcomes quickly, significantly reducing the time-to-market for deploying vertical-specific services.

  1. Leveraging the Power of Cloud

Telco operators now have the option to spin up a mobile core in the cloud rather than building a standalone core for a vertical service. Operators can also use the cloud to deploy services on the edge of their network or on the customer’s edge, and even move network slice management into the cloud.

  1. Single, Centralized Management Environment

Operators can manage all aspects of orchestration, lifecycle management, and service level assurance through a single, centralized management platform as opposed to managing multiple disparate systems through different dashboards and portals.

 Truly, the sky is the limit for mobile operators because they’re no longer tethered to heavy infrastructure investments, lengthy business cases, or complex integrations if they want to deploy and test a new vertical service. They can find everything they need in the cloud, operate it as part of their existing network, move edge processing where it makes the most sense, and do it with the same agility as any OTT digital native.

So, what will these new services look like? For manufacturing companies, it will likely begin as private 5G network services for automated factories that can process massive amounts of data and video to drive real-time decisions. For videogaming platforms, it could be seamless gaming services where the apps are deployed closer to the end consumer for better experiences—whether the user is on a console, a desktop, or on their mobile device. For sports stadiums, it could be in-stadium instant replay services that stitch together applications hosted on-premises for immersive experiences.

With cloud computing and the move toward service automation, the playing field between mobile operators and OTT has effectively been leveled. Game on!

Ashwin Moranganti is a speaker at the FutureNet World virtual event on the 20/21 April – register here

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