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BT – automating complex network functions will underpin emerging enterprise technologies

Greg McCall, BT’s new Chief Networks Officer, talked to FutureNet World about the opportunities and challenges of his role.

On 1 November 2022, Greg McCall became BT’s Chief Networks Officer, heading up Network Services, a newly created organisation which brings together the design, delivery, and operations teams across Networks. The organisation comprises almost 6,500 colleagues globally with teams leading in areas such as Private Cloud, Mobile and Network Applications and Services.

Please could you explain the rationale for the creation of this organisation?

It’s first worth noting that the creation of our Network Services unit is part of a wider change which rebalances the networks and security elements across the entirety of BT Networks – with the aim of both simplifying our organisation and ensuring security is at the top of our agenda. Specifically on the creation of Networks Services, bringing our core Networks teams closer together is helping us to simplify operations, create clearer accountabilities across teams, and ultimately deliver better services to our customers. At a time when the demand for connectivity is rising, we think these changes will not only better equip us to manage the technological challenges that this presents, but also to better maximise its opportunities.

Is the reorganisation also due to the way operations need to change to support autonomous (zero-touch) networks and the proliferation of DevOps practices like CI/CD/CT which sort of collapses the old model into many, much smaller stages?

Our cloud-native transformation is something we’ve spoken about a lot over the past year or two as an integral part of our network modernisation efforts. Much of this work has been successfully completed – for example our new 5G core is live with over 10 million customers already transitioned onto it – so the reorganisation isn’t directly related to this. We do though expect those benefits around simplification of processes and closer integration of teams to greatly benefit areas such as DevOps, where our cloud-native approach does of course focus on smaller, more frequent upgrades across what is a more intelligent network.

The same is true when it comes to automation, which is important across all areas of BT Networks, whether it’s through enabling us to upgrade and enhance our networks in a faster and more efficient manner or monitoring and identifying issues within the context of operational resilience.

How does the change in operations and the prevalence of network automation play into your wider cloud migrations and the shift to cloud-native techs? How much is this intertwined with/dependent on the progress of 5G SA deployment?

Everything is very much connected in this respect. We’re making great progress on our journey towards building the UK’s best converged network infrastructure, and both edge compute and network cloud are integral to achieving this, not least by enabling enhanced network capabilities including automation.

Everything is then underpinned by our new cloud-native 5G core, which is an essential platform for the deployment of nationwide 5G SA services in the future. Ultimately the combination of a cloud-native converged network powering 5G SA will enable us to offer exactly the type of capabilities and services our customers need, both now and into the future. While right now the 5G services ecosystem is still in its infancy, as network quality and accessibility improve with the arrival of SA, so too will innovation and the services landscape.

What do you see as the main drivers for automation now and going forward? For example, the provisioning of private networks through slicing, being able to offer companies connectivity with a specific set of parameters to match particular applications and workloads?

Having automation built into our cloud-native core allows us to quickly and easily optimise the platform to support 5G SA and the new services that we see this enabling. Network slicing is certainly one such application that we’re exploring, in which automating complex network functions creates the potential to unlock a range of emerging enterprise technologies which require the ultra-low latency of 5G SA – including IoT and edge devices.

Through our 5G core we’ve also created a platform for network exposure, and we envisage that this too will help drive automation in the future, bringing our partners into the delivery process by giving them the ability to develop their own products using our network.

What do you see as your long-term goal – let’s say to 2030 because goals will always change as tech and the market evolve? What major initiatives do you need to put in place or to take to achieve those goals?

We have set a number of ambitious goals that we want to achieve in the coming years. Perhaps the one most relevant to what we’re discussing today is our ambition to deliver high performance 5G solutions across the entirety of the UK by 2028, supported by a unique, fully converged smart infrastructure. We’ve invested heavily in our network and worked tremendously hard to ensure we’re well on track to meet this goal.

Last month we announced the arrival of EE 5G to almost 500 smaller communities across the UK, ranging from smaller market towns and villages through to seasonal rural hotspots and some of our national parks – meaning the service is now available to customers in over 1,000 UK cities, towns and villages. We’re also supporting this goal through continued innovation, aimed at improving the reach, resilience and energy efficiency of our networks. For example, our Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and stratospheric partnerships with OneWeb and SPL respectively are vitally important in paving the way for connecting ultra-remote communities, emergency responders and disaster recovery units.

Our 5G network already covers over 60% of the UK population, having last year hit the 50% mark one full year ahead of schedule. So, it’s not about implementing major new initiatives, but rather striving to maintain our network leadership through ongoing investment and innovation, which will enable us to realise this and other ambitions.

How will relationships with hyperscalers help you meet those goals?

Our relationships with hyperscalers are always going to be important in enabling us to achieve our goals and ultimately deliver the best services to our customers. We already work closely with partners like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, and – given the fast-paced and ever-evolving nature of the industry we work within – we’re continuously exploring the potential of how and where their cloud technologies can further support our networks infrastructure.

How can you prepare for automation at the edge, given that exactly where and what the edge is still evolving?

One of the most important reasons behind us wanting to become cloud native was that it enables us to bring 5G to the edge as we roll out new services. As such, we’ve invested heavily in building a converged cloud architecture, supported by automation, that we know can support services at the edge of the network, delivering the reliability, latency and scalability needed via an always-on connection.

We talked about the 5G services ecosystem being in its infancy, but there are early-adopter examples, particularly in an enterprise private networks capacity, which demonstrate its potential. Whether that is in allowing organisations to maximise edge computing devices such as sensors and remote devices, or opening up the practical use of digital twins by providing a route for faster and cheaper testing and remote collaboration on complex, expensive or mission-critical equipment – we know the capability is there, but what’s also crucial is that we’ve created an infrastructure with the built-in scalability and reliability to support the widespread adoption of such technologies.

BT, is a host operator of FutureNet World, 3-4 May, London and Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer is a Keynote Speaker

Orange automation reinvents operations, powers innovation

Laurent Leboucher talks to Contributing Editor Annie Turner about automation’s pivotal role in network evolution and service innovation

Laurent Leboucher is Group CTO at Orange and leads Orange Innovation Networks.  Automation has existed for many years as a way to simplify human operations and this is particularly true over the last few years as telecoms networks have become increasingly complex.

More recently, “with our data and AI experts, we have worked to optimise, automate and avoid many repetitive technical tasks with different use cases,” Leboucher says. He cites using machine learning to track and fix faults in voice over IMS and LTE as a favourite example. Problems can occur on the transport side, in the core or the RAN and it used to take five to six hours, on average, to identify the root cause, and when it’s in the RAN, find the exact radio site. Applying machine learning to data drawn from across the network has reduced this to minutes, and some of them can be fixed automatically.

“This is extremely powerful, and gives us good hope to extend these techniques to many other use cases. Our ‘AI empowered network’ programme’s main goal is to reap the benefits of using network data to become much more predictive,” he explains. “Even if we are not completely predictive, we can be much smarter in the way we seek out root causes from all the alarms”.

“We want to move to a smart network operating centre that needs no lighting as it doesn’t need people to watch alarms that are handled in automation. We need smart people to handle complex cases who can focus on the issues that need to be solved. Our new job is to design how to automate the resolution.”

Leboucher continues, “Around operations, we have made significant efforts in the past few years sharing NOC – network operating centre facilities both in Europe and Africa. t’s not just a question of monitoring from a central place but how we interface central monitoring and the field operations within the different countries, allowing them to become more efficient.”

Different as well as better

Moving network functions, network services and workloads to the cloud is another critical evolutionary step for networks, and an industry-wide phenomenon, Leboucher says: “This is extremely important and not just about disaggregation; it’s how we move to a new industrial model. We need to apply DevSecOps to network workloads, to make savings and gain the agility to provide new kinds of network services, in particular for Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), mobile private networks and slicing.

Leboucher considers NaaS first for “fixed global connectivity for companies across the world. We have a large international backbone that we continue to invest in, transforming it step by step into a very powerful platform. This will allow us to provide customers with network on-demand connectivity – including Ethernet, MPLS and SD-WAN – and combine it with additional functions like cloud connectivity and security including SASE [secure access service edge]. We can also extend it to IoT and other added value functions.

“We strongly believe that this is a very important enabler for revenue growth and we need agility to bring in new partners and to enable customers to use digitally this network capability. That’s one part.”

The other part is deploying mobile networks’ new capabilities on demand, such as network slicing within country markets. The slices will be delivered for private mobile networks, “at large scale and in significant numbers, on the same infrastructure.” he says.

“We are working on the deployment of 5G Standalone in all European countries; the first will go live very soon. We need to automate the lifecycle of network functions, to have the same practices on the network side as we use for digital IT. We need vendors to be part of the same pipeline.”

One homogenous pipeline

Orange aims to automate all the downstream activities via the CI/CD pipeline, including security requirements which “we need to fulfil across the whole chain. This means there is a considerable impact on processes and people: it’s not something we will manage in a few weeks,” Leboucher acknowledges.

To help with this important transition, Orange has applied TM Forum’s autonomous network maturity model in several countries.. “It was extremely useful and produced a lot of information, so we want to extend it and use it as a way to monitor progress of that transformation,” he says.

Leboucher continues, “Our long-term vision is a homogenous telco cloud but today that is not yet the case.” The main issue is some vendors insist on vertical mode operations, delivering workloads into their established distinct cloud infrastructures, even when there are several from the same vendor, they do this for each function, resulting in too many clouds operating side by side. He believes network vendors cannot stay in this vertical mode in the long run because it creates friction and slows down the end-to-end GitOps pipeline. “The telco cloud needs to be shared for all functions in the same network service,” he says, “and there are two ways of doing that.”

“One way is to work with hyperscalers, which will become even more relevant to the market for some use cases especially when national sovereignty is not required. The other way is for operators to come up with a common reference implementation and this is what we do with the Linux Foundation Europe through Project Sylva.”

The project was launched in November 2022: Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone are to create an open source, cloud-based, software framework to lessen infrastructure fragmentation in Europe. Leboucher notes, “We are bringing as many operators and vendors [as we can] to join this initiative because we don’t only want to rely only on hyperscalers; we want to keep the choice and the capacity to do it ourselves.”

For some B2B use cases, Orange may work with hyperscalers to deliver connectivity plus IT functions, “but we need clear accountabilities,” Leboucher says. “We want to keep our core business as an integrator and operator of networks”.

Getting GitOps

Orange also wants to apply GitOps to “the distributed telco cloud, the infrastructure itself and, importantly, the workload to move to something much more intent driven,” he explains. “The beauty of GitOps and the Kubernetes style is defining what you need in a declarative way then the underlying mechanism automates everything by reconciliation with the desired state.”

Laurent Leboucher, Group CTO & SVP Innovation Networks, Orange, is speaking at FutureNet World, 3-4 May, London

Kubernetes’ original use was to containerise resources like CPU and storage, so work is needed to expand the model to network resources and apply it in a more holistic way. Linux Foundation’s Nephio project, announced in April 2022, is working on this with Google Cloud and Orange is fully involved.

Leboucher states, “Currently we are focused on how to containerise network functions; moving to cloud network functions, CNFs, is becoming a reality. The new network functions, mostly for the core, are made with containers. It’s not yet completely cloud native, but going in that direction and getting much better than a few years ago. We are really optimistic. Next, to get all the benefits, we need to implement the full end-to-end GitOps pipeline. If we learnt that DevOps was the operating model of the Cloud, GitOps will be the one of “cloud native” connecting Day0 to Day2, shifting from CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment) to CI/CD/CO (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment / Continuous Operation). Having this in mind in terms of coverage, applied to network applications, infrastructures, security or even energy consumption, and including the native resiliency and auto/self-healing of the kubernetes platform, will lead to new operating ways and models that will make us more productive and competitive.”

Network Integration factories

Orange is creating network integration factories to onboard each function individually then orchestrate the full network service, integrating from end-to-end then automating all integrations so that every time there is an update – maybe something that needs a security patch for instance – the process is automated and can be deployed in minutes.

Leboucher continues, “We start with network services which can get immediate agility benefits from becoming truly cloud native and network functions not too complex to begin with: typically routing and switching functions on the backbone, overlay functions such as SD-WAN, signalling, IMS, EPC and extending progressively to new 5G core. They must be virtualised or preferably containerised but also become part of a completely automated delivery process via the CI/CD pipeline. We will extend it later to RAN and fixed access network.”

Open RAN, cloud RAN

How does Open RAN fit into this? Leboucher says, “We expect to move in this direction with Open RAN, which includes cloud RAN, but that will take more time. We will start small scale very soon then introduce it more globally. In the end, the pipeline will include network services with core functions and access functions, at the same time, in the same pipeline.

“With Open RAN you have to integrate components from several vendors We are on a learning curve in an industry today which is going pretty fast. We’ll be showing some concrete developments very, very soon.”

Orange will initially deploy Open RAN commercially in Europe at small scale to understand how the model compares with the traditional one. “Then we will increase automation and extend it to more complex sites with massive MIMO.” Leboucher says.

The cloud element of Open RAN is just one other step in the automation journey: “We will also use the RIC, the radio intelligent controller, for automation benefits,” he adds. “Just think of it as the new way to do C-SON [centralised self-organising networks] closer to real time, in less than a second for very innovative use cases”. Orange launched C-SON in more than 20 countries several years ago, automating radio configuration via a 30mn closed loop.

Telefónica’s network automation: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

Enrique Blanco talks to Contributing Editor Annie Turner about being close to completing the foundations for NaaS and the massive implications of what it will bring.

As Global CTIO for Telefónica, Enrique Blanco is one of the best known faces in telecommunications. He has had a long, illustrious career so far, and shows no sign of running out of enthusiasm or ambition for his role or the future of the telecoms industry.

We start by referring to a three-year network automation programme focused on legacy operations, which put in place in mid-2020 and described in a FutureNet World interview with Juan Manuel Caro Bernat from early 2021.

So, has the programme gone to plan or gone awry? “Better than even we thought it would,” Blanco says without hesitation. “Now 95% of all tickets are fully automated. It is a very similar [situation] in all big operators – we cannot survive without this kind of automation.”

Only one out of every five of the remainder requires analysis by equipment providers or software experts working under maintenance contracts. The rest are dealt with by staff at level one or two. Blanco explains, “The tools that helped us achieve this almost full automation are built with parts from the OSS and newer tools.”

Programmable access

“Now we are building a new paradigm and a new subset of tools to help us fully automate the software solutions previously done by the traditional monolithic approach,” he continues. “We have moved away from monolithic platforms for functions like PCRF [policy and charging rules function] and billing but the original tools for managing the platforms were not designed to work in a softwarised environment.”

Open RAN is front and central in this evolution. “We are testing up to 20 base stations in Germany but will soon be scaling this up rapidly. The new generation of tools enables the new software layer to break down siloes and generate data lakes to which AI and machine learning are applied to build use cases. “We’re progressing quite well, using CI/CD/CT [ methodologies] and so on,” he says.

Telefónica is taking the same approach to “open” broadband. There are only three big GPON providers in the world and the operator works with two of them, Nokia and Huawei. Blanco explains, “We want to create pure laser capabilities – similar to the radio within Open RAN – so FTTH’s intelligence is provided by the OLT [optical line terminator] and we can manage millions of FTTH customers because the multi-laser capabilities are controlled by a server in central offices.”

Telefónica España manages a very small percentage of its FTTH customers this way, but Blanco explains, “We started with the optics and are progressing very fast with broadband and the OLTs, but just implementing it in Open RAN. Why is Open RAN slower? In FTTH, the equivalent of the antennas is the customer premises equipment which we control. In Open RAN, you must evolve the antennas which is a different beast.”

Failure is not an option

Automation in the access networks must be matched in the backbone: 5G and FTTH are sending traffic to the transport network that is growing at 55% or 60% year on year. “We need a bold answer to how we manage and evolve the backbone”, Blanco says, which is to translate traffic into IP, disaggregate it from the optic infrastructure and add a layer of software-defined networking [SDN] which feeds actionable data into data lakes for analysis the application of AI, from which to build automation use cases.

This is critical: “If I fail in the access [network], it impacts maybe 20, 30 or 50 base stations. If I fail in the backbone, I collapse the network. Failure is not an option. This is why the first software we built was for the backbone. Once we had it, we moved to the server layer I mentioned already, which must be managed and guarantee full automation”.

Network-as-a-Service is the key

These many strands of automation and intelligence in the network will together form the foundations for the most radical change of all – Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). Blanco points out that in a way nothing has changed in planning, provisioning and delivering telecoms networks and services in the 40 years he’s worked in the industry. Networks and services have always been built on the principle of best effort via shared assets, guided by statistics and averages.

“With 5G Standalone and the network structure functionality that we designed eight years ago, we can reserve capabilities in the network to give customers what they ask for – guaranteed quality on demand, whether they’re going from Madrid to Barcelona or through London to Paris,” he says.

For instance, a customer could ask for 30 or 50 Mbps with a latency of 30ms, for the next three or four hours, even if they will be moving from antenna to antenna while travelling on a train. To achieve this, “Means that we need to learn in a different way – we need algorithms to help us define the network… and help us at every moment,” he explains.

“It is a new paradigm that will help us monetise faster and better, offering customers the experience of quality on demand, regardless of the services or devices [because] I can know, exactly, the status of each device. In all this, the privacy of information, of customers’ data is an obsession for us,” according to Blanco. “We manage data about our customers, so it must be under our control. Softwarisation is an extraordinary opportunity to keep it even safer. Centralisation puts it at a single point which is fully protected.”

Blanco believes this “obsession” is foundational to Telefónica’s success, making privacy intrinsic to how every service is built. “This is part of the automation and a significant part of the complexity of what we’re building in the network and IT,” he says. “We are fighting to create a supercomputing network from all the assets – the antennas; the routers at home; the optical capabilities; routers for B2B; and whatever else – and building software over them all that gives the whole those supercomputing capabilities.”

Exposing supercomputer capabilities

The network and IT assets have many cloudified pieces which Telefónica “will offer through a single window that can be embedded in a different service provider, Blanco continues. “This has extraordinary momentum. We have the technology, the optics, the IP, the software and the cloud pieces, so, in short we have everything. I think that in the next three to five years we will be much more closer to what we dreamed of 10 years ago.”

In 2023, Telefónica will implement the 5G Standalone core and be able to offer static slicing based on 5G Standalone’s native properties, which makes our networks flexible platforms to provide specific capabilities to different services and customers. Static slicing was possible with 4G, he agrees, but immensely complicated.

Blanco insists, “These services will be extremely attractive and 2024, we will include dynamic pricing in the roadmap, combining dynamic slicing and the edge so we can offer whatever we decide on. Beyond slicing, to help us monetise and really offer value to customers, we can maximise the opportunity by working with hyperscalers and the industry to reach into the developer community.”

The end is in sight?

“We have crystal clear plans and my personal opinion is we are building the foundations of the network that will be

Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer , Telefónica, is speaking at FutureNet World, 3-4 May, London

massified between 2025 and 2030, but not before because we have still a huge legacy that we need to evolve and manage. Telefonica is in the best position though, as it’s switching off its copper network in 2024 in Spain, as the entire population will have access to FTTH.”

He predicts, “Soon 100% of the software pieces will be available; the velocity of implementing it in the network will depend on CapEx capacity which is linked to revenues. Now it’s time to deploy as we come to the end of the technology momentum and begin operational momentum.”

Why being data driven is a must to give customers what they deserve

As part of our data-driven blog series, we spoke to Alaa Malki, Chief Technology Officer, Mobily, to discuss the CSP’s journey and how it empowers them to better meet the needs of their customers. Being data driven is making an enormous difference to the operations of communication service provider (CSP) Mobily today, while also paving the way for the next generation of services.

Etihad Etisalat Company offers fixed line, mobile and internet services in Saudi Arabia under the brand name Mobily. Its CTO, Alaa Malki, has worked at the company in a variety of network roles since 2005 – the year after the company was set up.

Like many telcos, Mobily has striven to become data-driven to emulate the success of digital native companies. However, while many failed because they focused on new technologies rather than the desired outcomes, this is not the case with Malki.

He states, “First you have to set a goal and from that goal, you can set the journey wherever you want, or multiple journeys, but you have to have at least one target goal. For us with mobile specifically, the goal was very clear: customer experience.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time now and we’ve been recognized by the [Saudi] regulator CITC in 2021 as the best customer experience operator, when it comes to mobile and fixed. The mobile has also been recognized by Ookla as the best experience…operators are sitting on a huge lake of data and if we could monetize this data, through improving customer experience, then our customers’ journeys, the output will be great.”

He adds, “Being data-driven is becoming a must. For example, today, Mobily has the largest IoT network in the Middle East, which is extremely complex. You cannot manage this huge IoT network of around 10 million smart meters in the legacy way, with an engineer who looks at dashboards and those kinds of things. We need to look differently at the whole subject…networks become more and more complex as we add layers, 3G, 4G, 5G and who knows what’s going to come next year? From all these kinds of transport and layers, you need to find a single source [of truth]. The way to do that is via a data-driven journey, where you can look at all angles.”

Three birds, one stone

He explains how, over time, the goals for Mobily’s data-driven efforts have evolved: “At the start, we were thinking about it more as maximizing efficiency – you can introduce more automation and use things in a more efficient way.” Malki’s change in thinking “turned on a very interesting fact: the more you automate things, the greater the efficiency, but you also improve customer experience.

“Usually when you cut costs for efficiency, it’s seen as not caring so much about customers. The interesting situation here is that if you focus on customers and become more efficient, you do a very good job. AI used to be  [seen as] science fiction, but it is becoming a reality you can really depend on. We have multiple cases where we could monetize the network, reduce costs and improve the customer experience with just that one stone.”

The Hajj journey

Achieving multiple goals by being data driven was powerfully illustrated in 2022 by Mobily’s determination to give its customers the best possible experience during the Hajj. The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims’ holiest city. All Muslims who are physically and financially able are obliged to perform the Hajj at least once.

This year the Hajj took place from the 7th to 12th of July. In April, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that 1 million international and domestic pilgrims would be given permission to perform Hajj. Given that Mecca’s usual population is about 1.6 million, it is an immense challenge for Mobily to ensure the best possible service during this period.

Malki stresses, “It’s not only important from a revenue point of view, it’s also   a pleasure to provide the kind of program they experienced and that they deserve: connecting to family, live streaming from the locations and if they have an emergency, they need to make calls. For all these aspects they need data.”

He adds “I want to thank Ericsson for the support so that we could use this data-driven concept whereby we can do all kinds of changes and optimizations in what was a very limited time. Every minute counts when within two or three days you have millions of people moving from location to location. You need these parameters adjustments and load trafficking – and you need to do it per minute.

“That’s the beauty when they’re using this open system to create algorithms so machines can start implementing in minutes, checking it and adjusting it by the minute. This mechanism can dramatically reduce the total cost. We did this with Ericsson this year as proof of concept and the outcome was very good, showing a major improvement for our main goal: better customer experience achieved with minimal resources. I am sure if we scale up this, it will definitely improve the [overall] TCO.”

Already, he explains, “We have wonderful examples where we are using automation for ticketing on the network, to detect a ticket or send it to the technicians who go to locations. It’s all automated. No-one takes the ticket, writes it up and puts it here or there, so you reduce a huge amount of cost. You have information in the right place in a second, and it chooses the right teams in the right locations, because it can see who is the nearest with the right equipment. It’s all in the algorithm. If you manage to optimize and implement it correctly, you get fantastic customer experience.”

Going back to the Hajj, he says, “If we take all this data and analyze it, we can predict what’s going to happen next year at certain locations – if this is a bottleneck street, or if there is a certain problem situation there. This information is very important for people in the field, to predict how they can do what. How they can evaluate their equipment, predict how much maintenance they need, to have a spare part and other factors.”

Doing magic

Achieving multiple goals is helped by “another big change,” he says, in “that network and IT are becoming as one session and from there, you can do magic…moving to cloudification, going to open architectures, using off-the-shelf products, and so on. You can even expand network sites quite fast; you can develop other things quite fast, but not in a legacy way. Agility is becoming an important factor.”

As networks evolve, it can be difficult to gauge or predict the total cost of ownership (TCO) although it is often a crucial element of the business case for new operational and business models.

“You need to start building it as layers,” Malki says. “First, you build the right digital infrastructure then you can build all kinds of smart and intelligent operations on top of it, so you build digital customer engagement. You have a customer-centric system and you can derive new services, whether they are digital services or upscaling a service – you name it, but in my view, it has to come in that sequence. It needs to be systematic.”

What should TCO cover? “This is a very important question,” Malki states. “It’s very hard in our industry to keep investing without [realizing] all the beautiful things we expected. There are difficulties with this in 5G today. We have the fixed wireless, but there are tons of other, promising things – more automation, private networks and network as a service – that we don’t have yet, or not in an easily scalable way that could generate major revenue. There are a lot of trials, but I don’t see it as a goldmine.”

In Malki’s view, this unpredictability and lag in expectations makes “being data-driven very important” because it aids agility, efficiency and preparedness for whatever happens. He points out the industry expected video calls to become mainstream then failed to foresee the explosion of social media on 4G which resulted in unimagined traffic growth. He says, “Now, with 5G, we are expanding the pipeline and creating better customer experience, but we are still looking for killer applications. It should not scare us. I have been in this industry for 22 years and seen this repetitive [pattern]”.

Readiness is all

Currently, 10 to 15 percent of Mobily’s mobile traffic is 5G, but the proportion is growing rapidly but, he cautions, “The network needs time: you cannot do this [transition to new services] in six months or a year, so you need to start this investment and experience now to enjoy the future”.

Malki is not moved by hype about the metaverse and various kinds of ‘reality’, but advises, “Let’s look from a different perspective. I recently saw the military is starting to use augmented reality-type technology to ease [the soldier’s] job on the field – militaries are often the first adopters”. GPS is a good example: “No-one can live without today; a lot of industries depend on it. Technologies require time. The technology is ready now, but perhaps not for end users – maybe they don’t have the best experience [yet] with this kind of gadget,” he adds.

He concludes, “TCO is an extremely critical factor. All operators need to invest in these new technologies. We see a lot of cases where people hesitate and wait. These things need investment now with a focus on customer experience and new devices, and things that will enlighten us in future. A data-driven transformation journey is a must for all operators… you need to adopt new technologies to reduce the complexity and improve your total cost.”

This article was originally published on the Ericsson website here on the 17th of January 2023.

STC enables Network Automation to propel and disrupt markets

Haithem M. Alfaraj, CTO, stc, is a keynote speaker at FutureNet MENA, 20 March, Dubai. In the lead-up to the event, he talks to FutureNet editor Annie Turner about the group’s constant focus to implement the objectives of network automation and evolve the corporate culture to propel and disrupt markets.

Haithem Alfaraj has been stc Group CTO for nine months, while previously he was the CTO of stc Saudi Arabia, since December 2018. stc Group was established in 1998 and operates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as in Bahrain and Kuwait. stc is the leading digital enabler in the region. The group has won the Speed Test Awards for the fastest and best mobile network coverage in the Kingdom, among many other accolades. It was also awarded the fastest mobile internet and mobile coverage in the Kingdom for five straight years, emphasising its commitment to assuring customer experience.

Network Automation

Alfaraj explains how STC Group propelled network automation. He said: “For the last seven years, the group prioritised network and operational automation, which underpinned the group’s achievements. The automation journey started in 2014 when we recognised the importance of reducing operational costs, which helped improve our customers’ experience”. “At the same time, the operational environment was becoming increasingly complex with 5G on the horizon, and customers sought to have the best provider who meets their expectations. As customers’ engagement and experience are of great importance to us, we adopted a two-prong strategy to reduce human interactions, providing automation, avoiding errors, and improving efficiency. That made our services and products to be fully digital”, he clarified. Alfaraj added: “The Kingdom’s demographics have a population average age of 31.8 years old and more than 55% of the population are under 34, which implies to say, they are all digitally enabled with extremely high expectations. Hence you cannot expect customers to visit a store or office to validate their ID. This is just a sample, of the importance to digitise everything. Accordingly, stc Group enabled the automation process for such matters.” Alfaraj highlighted how digital identities became a part of everyday life in the Kingdom, and how the overall social system demanded automated networks. He said, “Digital fingerprints became essential for verification and authentication processes, and the Saudi Government provided intense support to enterprises to support this digitalization”.

Aligning automation and business goals – Seven years is a long time in the digital world. How has stc’s thinking about automation changed over that time?

stc Group has a growth mindset. We have evolved our mission. In 2019, we established our DARE 2.0 strategy and vision to deliver ICT in the region, not only telecommunications. We pursued to achieve our automation objectives, exceed customers’ expectations and accomplish future growth. Consequently, stc Group directed its multiple subsidiaries to look into certain technologies including cloud computing, IOT, cybersecurity, software development, and Data centres as well as international connectivity, Towers set up, E-sports & Gaming, along many more technologies, in order to provide a fully-fledged digital enablement for the local market. We never had a single point on the roadmap for automation. One of the main reasons for changing the objectives was the benefits and outcomes we recognised in the automation process, and it created momentum and trust for stc Group.

Beyond success – What are your major success areas across the automation process?

stc Group extended automation beyond mobile network operations, making transmission less costly in fixed, transport, and optical networks. We expanded the automated domains and set more aggressive targets, to achieve higher goals. So, over the years, stc Group changed its operation to become more digital and more automated. We provided automatic ticket opening, ticket correlation, resolving network problems and self-healing in some of our technology domains. We reduced outages by 30% and the time to resolve problems by 27%. stc was always ready to perform better across the industry. Some parts of stc’s network are legacy and we are in the process of updating all our networks, to become “next-generation networks” so that stc can achieve its ambition of attaining the highest possible level of network automation everywhere. Yes, our network automation goals changed because once we have next-generation networks, we can do a lot of things much faster.

Pragmatic approach to cloud

On migrating to cloud technologies, Alfaraj confirmed the stc’s cloud technology advancement, as it started relatively early, with the group’s telco cloud in 2017. He explained that the maturity of hyper-scalers and telcos was different in the old days, yet stc’s cloud strategy and objectives changed during the journey. “The group decided that any core functionality should be in the cloud. And due to the readiness of the cloud version and as it made a financial impact, we immediately migrated to the cloud. From that perspective, we are not looking at saving every penny, as we consider the other benefits, such as injecting technologies, swiftly into the market, enhancing customer experience and digitalization”, Alfaraj emphasised.

“The latest figures, from November 2022, show that about 70% of the pure core telcos functions are already operated through clouds, through the packet core, packet gateways, the HLRs (Home Location Registers), the AAA’s as well as firewalls and BNGs (Broadband Network Gateways). The Majority of IT loads are on clouds, which is where we started, with an internal cloud cluster, as well as hyper-scalers in IT”, Alfaraj explicated.

“stc maintains its telco cloud and is adopting a multi-cloud strategy. We are working with Alibaba, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Amazon, and Google so that the cloud workloads will not only run on our clouds but also on hyper-scalers’ clouds. We are having partnerships with hyper-scalers, where both parties mutually benefit. We tend to widely reach to the developer community and develop agility and resiliency meanwhile, hyper-scalers are accessing proximity to consumers to complement closer edge services that they provide”, He stated.

Moving towards programmable networks

“Our ultimate aim is that, at the click of a button, a 5G mobile packet core, can be shifted in 10 minutes with all the associated automation from one hyper-scaler’s cloud to another, or from stc’s telco cloud. We will not be integrating data, instead, we will only be migrating it with automated activities. To be able to fulfil the high expectations of our customers, we prefer avoiding time spent when doing a manual integration, hence we will only migrate data as it all will be conducted through automated activities.” Alfaraj explained.

As the strategic focus on automation began about seven years ago, how does Alfaraj see stc after seven years, in 2030?

By then we might be far ahead of what we envision today because we are accelerating our implementation process. Having said that, in 2030 I see telcos being fully programmable with Autonomous Networks and API-based integrated marketplaces. We cannot think of 5G without automation, with its technological advantages of speed and latency. We are able to create the future mobile network for enterprises with 5G network slicing, without human hands-on. Customers can go to the telco’s marketplace, select where they want a virtual network, define the latency and bandwidth parameters, and start using the services. Our sales partners, using our API Marketplaces, can develop and sell products using our API-driven programmable network provisioned through digital channels in every domain.

Haithem M. Alfaraj, CTO, STC, is speaking at FutureNet MENA, 20 March, Dubai

Countering culture –  What has been the most difficult part of stc’s automation journey?

We have challenges such as digital-native disruptors, customers’ changing behaviours, and other competitors. The main answer to these challenges was the mindset of our people, the internal culture, and innovation. All are important factors for telcos in the continuously changing landscape. Innovation and automation were being deployed at many levels in different operational areas. In the consumer sector, for example, stc won multiple awards for its digital customer experiences, through its My stc app & Jawwy platform by which consumers have access to the operator’s range of services, and self-services. One of the biggest issues telcos and other vertical industries face regarding field engineers is the consistency and quality of their work. Standardising these activities can’t be done if digitalisation doesn’t lead to supporting the increasing demand for technologies. stc Group believes that augmented reality technologies can help standardise quality in the field and is running proofs of concept whereby engineers can receive everything from step-by-step instructions to schematics showing the location of gas pipes, electricity cables and many more, if they are trying to find a problem with a cable in the street, for instance. We are working hard in terms of education, training, onboarding people, hiring consultants to teach design, and helping us adopt digital-first and agile practices. This is not just to compete, but to become leaders of disruptive innovation ourselves. We are constantly working through proactive approaches to the markets’ changes to be the one brand creating disruptive innovation.

Strong focus on customer experience pays many dividends for dtac

In the next data-driven operations related blog DTAC’s CTO, Prathet Tankuranun, talks to Contributing Editor, Annie Turner about how smart can beat scale regarding profitability, through a focus on customer experience and the best use of all assets, including through Ericsson Managed Services.

Prathet Tankuranun is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (known as dtac), which is part of the Telenor group and Thailand’s third largest mobile operator. The communication service provider (CSP) has had an interesting and challenging evolution.

It started as a concession in 1989, renting or buying the use of spectrum from other operators before it began deploying its own network. Once those original spectrum contracts ran out, it was obliged to acquire new licenses to spectrum, which did not provide the ideal amount of spectrum in all areas of operation.

Four years ago, dtac realized it had network issues, although it had good network utilization and its key performance indicators (KPIs), such as dropped call rates, gave no cause for concern. Yet it had declining Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and received direct complaints from customers. Prathet says, “Given the limited megahertz we had then, we wondered what else we could do to improve as much as we could.”


Power of partnership

dtac took a strategic decision to partner Ericsson Managed Services which was charged with implementing customer-centric network operations from January 2020. Ericsson now manages dtac’s network operations across the country with the Ericsson Operations Engine – an AI-powered platform that supplies, maintains and updates all the tools the operations’ team needs. The blended managed services team – which comprises the former dtac team and Ericsson personnel – ultimately reports to Prathet, who works closely with Amitava Saha, Managed Services Chief Operations Officer at Ericsson Thailand.

The operator is responsible for the network’s strategic planning and retains ownership of its assets. So, as a first step to improving customer experience and getting maximum value from assets, Prathet says, “We allocated NPSs [net promoter scores] to specific sites, to see which is good and bad, and updated the scores daily. Previously, we looked at the scores quarterly or maybe monthly and the same with complaints. Now we look at the complaints every day too.”

The galling thing was, “We found out about issues from customers, not from all the super-duper systems we’d invested in,” Prathet says. To address the issues, “We started out from fault management, to see what alarms are in the systems and which equipment was [generating] false alarms, then fixing them.” He also wanted to identify network issues that might not trigger traditional alarms.

dtac scrutinized the performance KPIs for different network aspects. Prathet says, “They are sufficient to provide OK customer interaction and a good service but to take it up another notch, we have to look further.” He wanted to see beyond the network to what its customers experience by developing more and different insights to deduce what to fix and where.

“We started with a different set of data besides the alarms or whatever is coming from the OSS and what our systems are looking at,” he says. “We have the DNA, which are fantastic tools that have got all the [information about] what is happening in the network and what customers’ experiences are. Instead of defining KPIs based on the network part, we used KPIs based on the customers’ view.

“We coined a term ‘bad experience subscribers’ or ‘bad section customers’ and used it to measure how good or bad a particular site or segment is by coming from different angles. We’re also looking into different types of customers – prepaid and postpaid, and even within prepaid we have different types of customers with different behaviors or different likings.”


Roaming experience

For example, many of dtac’s customers are migrants from neighboring countries who come to work in Thailand. “They often like different kinds of applications, like different chat applications, than we Thais use, and we even look into roamers,” Prathet says. Roamers coming onto dtac’s network via a number that originated in another country might have a poor experience, “but you would not see it from the network point of view because it is like a drop in the ocean,” he explains.

“But if you look into different types or categorize customers into different buckets, then you know a migrant has this issue because their behavior is different. Maybe their network of origin had issues because the pipe linking to their home network is congested, which could not be seen from data at the corrective level. Our approach allows us to see the customer’s view and pinpoint the areas for improvement.”


WATCH ON-DEMAND. In this live & interactive panel visionary speakers from TDC NET, Ericsson and Omdia explore how data, streamlined processes & automation can transform data-driven operations.


Speed is not everything

dtac also avoided being preoccupied by its network’s speed, unlike many operators. Prathet says, “Speed is not the most important thing, given the investment we would need to have that fastest network and perhaps that money could be spent elsewhere, or differently, to achieve greater satisfaction.

“For most things you do on a mobile – browsing, watching Netflix, listening to music or podcasts, doing emails – 200Mbps is the sweet spot for 95 percent to 99 percent of that stuff on small screens. That’s why we’re focusing on experience, reliability and stability. For example, when you click ‘start’ on YouTube, you notice how long it takes for the moving screen to come up. Those are the things we’re focusing on, not ‘If I have the fastest download speed then I’m the best network’.

“We are very disciplined when it comes to investment in the network. We want to make sure that every single dollar is well spent, and to maximize those dollars.” In other words, throwing intelligence rather than money at the network to get the maximum return.

Another strength is dtac asks its engineers to go into the call centers and sit with the agents to hear from customer how they experience the operator’s services and where improvements are needed. dtac staff listen to customers’ complaints and comments, then dig down into what’s behind them. This is also a powerful way to see customers as individuals rather than statistics, and how they are personally affected.


Smart beats scale

The three years have been tough for the telecoms industry at large due to the pandemic, with many losing revenues, most obviously roaming, while investing in capacity. Yet as Prathet says, “Compared to the other players in the market, we are doing well for the amount we’ve spent and the returns on it. The kind of additional insights that we’re gathering from the customers enable us to utilize what we have to the maximum extent.”

Hence while Thailand’s biggest operator operates on a far larger scale, dtac is on a par profitably wise, and doing better than the second largest player: smarts can still trump scale, and automation is the key. dtac started out with simpler approaches like the robotic process automation (RPA) to replace some manual tasks at the operations level.

Then to drive awareness and adoption of new ways of working, in 2021 it launched a campaign inside the company that challenged everyone, not just tech employees, to create a single robotic process to help them in their work.

The results underlined the fact that innovation can come from anywhere in an organization. An administrator responsible for making payments, such as to utilities, and emailing suppliers, “took training on how to use robotics and created fantastic, simple robots to relieve her of manual tasks. She won the competition and a small bonus,” Prathet says


Energy efficiency

He and his team are working on how best to deploy AI. He notes, “We are so buried in our day-to-day work, with just enough time to carry out our daily tasks…but if you spend a little bit more time on improving your skills, then maybe in future, instead of spending eight or 10 hours on email you could spend six of your eight hours doing something more interesting. That is how we are improving skills at the employees’ level.”

dtac wants to apply AI to better energy efficiency: “We’re working on that as rising energy prices are a global phenomenon. We are using AI to learn about the utilization of estates, and where there are things we could turn off or reduce the power during certain periods of the day,” Prathet explains. These measures will be introduced shortly and run by the team, which will acquire the necessary new skills such as neuron network programming, Python and so on.“

He concludes, “All these steps are in good collaboration, working alongside Amitava Saha and Ericsson Managed Services. His team members work for me – it’s not like we have a customer-supplier kind of relationship; it’s a one-team relationship with everyone working towards the betterment of our network for our customers. That is about collaboration and leveraging global skills. I think those are the contributing factors that are that are a big part in this success.”


Read more

Explore the Operations Data-driven transformation blog series

Blog#1: Data-driven operations: does it pay off? – Ericsson

Blog#2: TDC NET powers a world-beating network through managed services and AI


This article was originally published on the Ericsson website here on the 7th of December 2022.

TDC NET powers a world-beating network through managed services and AI

Michael Fränkle, Executive Vice President and CTO, TDC NET, talks to Contributing Editor, Annie Turner, as part of the Ericsson Data Driven Transformation series.

In October 2021, TDC NET outperformed operators around the world by delivering the best mobile experience in the world, based on Tutela’s Excellent Consistent Quality metric which rates networks on overall mobile experience. In our second data-driven blog post we explore how data-driven operations played a key role in helping TDC NET achieve its highest-ever network performance. We spoke to Michael Fränkle, Executive Vice President and CTO, TDC NET, about TDC NET’s operational and business changes, and ambitious plans for the future.

Michael Fränkle has held the role of Executive Vice President and CTO at TDC NET since November 2017. During this period the leading Danish communication service provider (CSP) has undergone some seismic changes. The most obvious of which was in June 2019 when the operator decided to split its business into two legally and operationally individual subsidiaries: TDC NET and Nuuday. The two companies began operating separately on the 1st of January 2022.

The idea behind this decoupling was to allow each subsidiary to excel in their respective areas. This has resulted in TDC NET focusing on the provision of digital infrastructure, especially fiber and 5G, to service providers on an open access basis. Whereas Nuuday is Denmark’s largest provider of connectivity, communication and entertainment services.

TDC NET’s desire to push the boundaries and unleash the power of 5G was the catalyst for the 2019 decision to expand their long-standing partnership with Ericsson, this time through a network performance-focused collaboration.

This kicked off a new chapter, with the partners agreeing to collaborate on three elements: a move to Ericsson Managed Services, the complete replacement of the RAN plane and an agreement to transform the core; meaning the mobile core plus parts of the fixed, wireline services.

We asked Fränkle: “How much is using Ericsson Managed Services a case of ‘just’ handing over responsibility?”

Fränkle smiles wryly and says: “It’s not that easy when you talk about national critical infrastructure and a NOC [network operations centre], which in Ericsson’s case is located in Bucharest, Romania. They have lots of security rules to respect and to comply with, but also there’s the cultural barrier – how we tackle things, especially when the heat is on and things reach a crunch point when we are running an incident.”

When the closer collaboration began, Fränkle explains, “We saw we were sitting in the same boat – our goals were the Ericsson team’s goals and the Ericsson team’s goals were ours and this has continued right up to today. In the beginning, for the managed service part you have to make some adjustments – to ramble, form, norm and storm – but it went fairly well, with a mutual understanding of the objectives.

“We rapidly gained a mutual understanding of our processes, our measurements, our monitoring procedures, and things like that. This was a critical task, and a critical part of our success was the ability to sit in the same boat without rocking it.”


Shared objectives

As a multi-access operator, TDC NET runs fiber, coax and copper broadband networks, which contain a lot of legacy solutions. The combination of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks also created extra complexity during the switch out process.

“The biggest driver of all [to improve network performance] is to manage that complexity and transform our operations from an incumbent operator, with had lots of manual interventions, into a more automated, resilient set-up which is competitive for customers,” Fränkle says.

Paradoxically, the two big inhibitors to deploying automation are the very complexity Fränkle is striving to tame and handling customers and their experience.

“Operations-wise, we are looking at the entire network plane as a single domain. This is how we run it because the customer doesn’t care if an incident is in the mobile or transport network or the IP core. It’s all the same to them.”

So where did TDC NET apply automation first?

“We started on the entire Ericsson Managed Services part [so] the radio and core networks, but we are expanding the automation, scoping it to our backbone and backhaul monitoring on the fixed line side. This is our vision,” Fränkle says.

More specifically, the operator started with the Ericsson Operations Engine, a component of its Managed Services, which processes massive data sets using AI and machine learning to provide a high-resolution image of the network.

“We looked at mobile, especially when we switched on 5G, but used it also for 4G and the other mobile technologies. Our desired end state is automation covering all technologies, [both] fixed and mobile.”


WATCH ON-DEMAND. In this live & interactive panel visionary speakers from TDC NET, Ericsson and Omdia explore how data, streamlined processes & automation can transform data-driven operations.

Network optimization

Fränkle and his team set about optimizing the network to reduce downtime and the number of network incidents. They also focused on implementing ways to minimize their impact on customers, for example, by making the mean time to repair as short as possible.

To achieve these objectives the team focused on good analytics, good monitoring and a good incident-management process.

“Automation is the only way to avoid human error. If you have an automated plane from network elements to the NOC [network operations center], it helps improve performance significantly.”

The most significant improvement so far is reflected in the key performance indicator (KPI): service impact. Service impact measures the ratio of hours of service to the number of incidents. The results so far are impressive: over the last four years incident reports have fallen 10 percent and are at the best level they’ve been at for 25 years; when the network was a far simpler proposition.

“Clearly we are on the right track, but we’re not finished yet,” Fränkle continues. “In the last four years, we have been rated as providing the best mobile network experience in the world, a rating that was measured by drive tests. From a device point of view, crowd-sourced measurement reports have also rated TDC NET as the best provider of mobile Android experience in the world.”

As TDC NET’s customers are service providers, mobile operators, with some exclusive arrangements on mobile and fixed, and some open access arrangements, this brings major benefits to the service providers and their customers.


Backhaul and the backbone

Now the plan is to achieve those accolades close for backhaul and in the backbone as TDC NET still has some systems that need to adhere to the Ericsson Operations Engine.

Fränkle says. “The biggest challenge here is ensuring the systems are in that one network domain, so that the different IT and monitoring systems can talk to each other, and we can adapt to needs and have an automated plane in these systems. Some are older, some newer, but we want to bring them all into the holistic view of the Ericsson Managed Services.”

“Using the Ericsson Operations Engine is a data-driven transformation journey for us. We know it has been a success story for other operators in other countries with different priorities and as a global partner, Ericsson can help us innovate. In the last years in our partnership, we can clearly see this.”

Automating backhaul and the backbone in the fixed infrastructure is something of a different kettle of fish to what has been achieved in the mobile network.

“We are learning different dimensions; this is where we meet the software world. Coming from a big hardware manufacturing company, Ericsson is learning with us how to integrate with the software, in fast cycles.

“The idea is not only to do upgrades every half year or so, but to do them in DevOps mode. We’re working hard to get there on the SA [standalone] – to play out the full game of scale-driven automation with a single man or woman [running the] NOC is the journey we are on. We have manual processes in place and that needs to be overcome in the months, not years.”

TDC NET Operations is still running some AXE systems from Ericsson from the 80s and 90s.

“The people who run them are retiring before the machines, which is big kudos to Ericsson,” Fränkle observes. “But power technologies have improved over the last 40 years, which is why I’m saying take them down as fast and aggressively as possible, but on the revenue side, we need to watch how we migrate these customers into a meaningful future with new, replacement products.

“This is where we need the core transformation to make sure that we can capture existing customers and revenue lines with new technologies. This migration is critical because if we lose them, we will harm our business.”


New services

Fränkle believes that the commercial model and the time-to-market for new services is critical: “I will give you an example; we had a Tour de France in Denmark over summer, and we a local TV production gave us very short notice to ensure they could backhaul the TV stream over the 5G network. We had hours not days – our team working with Ericsson’s. This technology enables it.

“The next thing is for us to find products, and revenue generation and monetization mechanism to capture good income from it. We have shown the technology works by slicing 5G and in the right configurations. The next step is to scale it and monetize this fantastic technology.”

He acknowledges enterprises don’t fully understand the potential of 5G yet, but says, “The appetite comes with a meal. We see this now with 5G and… I’m 100 percent sure we will have a success story as we did with previous generations of mobile. The difference is you’re also changing parts of the business model. It’s not only about bigger bandwidth and a new SIM card, but about slicing and serving local providers with high reliability networks so they can address groups other than consumers in a B2C model.”


Read more

This article was originally published on the Ericsson website here on the 2nd of December 2022.

Data-driven Operations: does it pay off?

Ken Tan, CTO of Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), talks to Contributing Editor, Annie Turner, as part of the Ericsson Data Driven Transformation series.

As the world is racing towards an all-connected era, powered by technologies like 5G, IoT and concepts like Industry 4.0, reliable, secure and robust connectivity are imperative. Telecom networks increasingly serve as the backbone for all digital society placing new demands on operations. In our blog post series, we will embark on 5 data-driven transformation journeys with customers and Ericsson experts to address some the tangible benefits of data-driven operations in action.

Nope, this is not going to be a biophysics blog post, but I like to think of telecom networks as a living organism that follows the natural tendency of things to get more complicated. The second law of thermodynamics states that the degree of disorder or randomness (entropy) of a closed system will never decrease. In the long run, nothing escapes this fundamental law of universe and networks aren’t the exemption. Like many other ’organisms’ in the telecom ecosystem, they need to constantly address the intensifying complexity of operations driven by the increasing volume of devices, multiple new technologies, and more diverse service requirements.

As the possibilities multiply unlocking new monetization opportunities across enterprise and consumer segments, the need for communication services providers (CSPs) to transform their operations is not even open to debate. To add people around legacy processes is not sufficient to deliver the needed volume and speed of change. A new look at data is the foundation, but CSPs are uncertain on how to go about this transformation spanning beyond data & automation into multiple other dimensions across organization, competence, processes and governance.


WATCH ON-DEMAND. In this live & interactive panel visionary speakers from TDC NET, Ericsson and Omdia explore how data, streamlined processes & automation can transform data-driven operations.


The recurrent dilemma: To outsource or not to outsource

The real challenge lies in how to get there. Experience shows that it can be tricky for long-established CSPs (and service partners) to strike a balance between the operational consistency of ongoing legacy business and developing a new mindset. Success demands a profound cultural shift within traditional organizations, requiring teams that are historically focused on precision to embrace speed and incremental development, underpinned by an agile mindset of fail fast and succeed faster.

For some, relying on a partner to operate and transform their network operations with guaranteed business outcomes is the most attractive option – considering current macro-economic trends with increasing inflation rates and rising energy prices – than doing it by themselves. When you engage in an outsourcing model predictability is high, both in terms of committed service levels and cost, over the next three to five years. Risk is also low, as an experienced partner delivers the transformation faster and carries the risk change as well as associated with initial investments. A solid partner invests in key technologies like cloud-native and artificial intelligence (AI), to stay relevant into the future while delivering today with a solid track record of field-validated results.


In data we trust…

The essence of the data-driven transformation of operations is the shift from the traditional network resource management model, based on a reactive incident-centric approach, into a new approach that revolves around turning data into predictions.

Model adoption, however, is, no guarantee of success. Being clear about the vision of the transformation and having tangible and measurable business outcomes are practically even more important.

Data-driven operations transformation main benefits:

  • Highest network performance. Network stability is the foundation of good user experience, which can translate to a 15 percent ARPU increase for frontrunner CSPs.
  • Lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). By optimizing the incident management in the NOC, data-driven operations are able to notably reduce the volume of work orders and site visits, focus the field force with surgical precision and resolve issues much faster from a remote location.
  • Best customer experience. Together with the improved performance contributes to a better quality overall experienced by the subscriber and is reflected by a notable reduction in customer complaints related to network or service quality.
  • Less energy consumption. Leverages AI and advanced data analytics to optimize energy consumption across network infrastructure for CSPs, while also reducing site visits and curbing CO2 emissions.
  • Highest security standards. With 5G increasingly turning mobile networks into a backbone of the digital society, telco-specialized security expertise is paramount for preventing, simplifying handling and accelerating remediation of incidents.


Figure 1: Quantitative benefits of the data-driven journey based on aggregated figures from 20 CPSs from Q1-2019 to Q4-2021


Field-measured data from 20 CSPs transformation journeys powered by Ericsson Operations Engine between Q1, 2019 and Q4,2022 clearly answers our initial question: “Data-driven operations: Does it pay off?” Yes, it does, and it has a significant impact on CSPs operations business outcomes.

From a network performance perspective, data-driven operations reduce network unavailability by 34 percent while decreasing customer complaints by 21 percent. On the network efficiency side, the transformation led to a significant 12 percent reduction of work orders (WO) and 24 percent less truck rolls per node which had an important impact on CO2 emissions.


Data-driven infrastructure delivers 5G to six national operators in six months

The chief technological officer of Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) Ken Tan, and his team, worked with Ericsson to launch Malaysia’s 5G infrastructure – just nine months after DNB was set up!

DNB is a special-purpose vehicle company, owned by the Ministry of Finance Malaysia. It was established in March 2021 to drive the development and adoption of 5G services in the country, offering its 5G network on a wholesale basis to the six established telecom service providers.

Tan says the pandemic highlighted the importance of digital connectivity globally:

“In Malaysia we have a digital divide we need to bridge so that connectivity is accessible to all – it has become a basic need. DNB was set up to accelerate building that bridge. It is a great ambition.”

He continues, “5G will deliver the next step change not just for the mobile industry, but the whole country, to transform it into a digital economy riding on the Industrial Revolution 4.0. DNB is set up for that purpose with policies to ensure that 5G connectivity is affordable…to all and to make it a commodity in the market that should transform and accelerate innovation for society.”

Malaysia’s 5G services are perhaps the cheapest in the world, costing the same or less than 4G. The government estimates 5G will deliver MYR650 billion (about $139.845 billion or €140.356 billion) in additional gross domestic product (GDP) for the economy by 2030. With so much riding on DNB’s success, the tender process for selecting partners was stringent, with three key criteria regarding the technical, commercial and socio-economic benefits for the nation. Ericsson was found to be first in each category after scrutiny by an expert panel drawn from around the globe.


An ambitious approach

DNB’s approach was ambitious and unique – to provide 5G infrastructure by the end of 2021, although the tender was only concluded in July.

“Also, the multi-operator core network has to support up to six other service providers’ cores that could contain components from any vendor,” Tan points out. “This not proven anywhere in the world, especially for 5G which is so new.”

Given this extraordinarily tight timeline, “I thought the managed services offered by Ericsson are great, because rather than DNB build up its own operations teams to manage the network it built, we can leverage the managed service team from Ericsson, and that global scale of expertise that Ericsson has, to help us to run the network in the shortest time frame it could be ramped up,” Tan says.

He adds, “We’ve introduced a lot of new technologies to make the network as efficient as possible, adopting the principles of an autonomous network and zero touch. When the managed service requirements came in during the tender, all of these things were incorporated.”

That determination to embrace autonomy, enabled by AI including machine learning, also allows DNB to introduce new skill sets to the nation: “When we introduce new AI and machine learning technologies, we need fewer people to run the network. This is not a bad thing because then we help transform those with a low skill set into highly skilled operations teams – including their income. Instead of people physically going out [to fix or install things], we turn them to programming applications or software.”


Spectacular results

DNB built the first 5G site on 10 October 2021, then the live production connected to six of the operators’ 4G networks on 10 November, followed by a soft launch with one of the operators in December.

“In that sort of timeframe, it had to be zero touch: the team was able to build up the NOC/SOC, not just the tools, but set up the whole process, escalation procedures and the operations within that really, really strict timeline. It gives us visibility of how the NOC is run, any issues and how to react. It’s a managed production network that we’re not running blind,” Tan explains.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of being data driven in this regard. “With data comes insights which mean you know what’s happening inside the network. Having those insights is a cycle: you apply remedies to ensure things are improved, then add more data to see that the improvements you make pay off, or if not, we can take the necessary action. We monitor growth into a seamless cycle, continuously driven.”

This is particularly important and no small undertaking as DNB is both a greenfield and brownfield operation. The new 5G infrastructure has to interoperate with the core of other operators’ networks, but Tan says that this complexity was embraced on day one, led by the Ericsson Managed Services team, which understood the challenge.

Tan observes, “Everyone operates [networks] on the grounds that you’re ‘innocent’ until proven ‘guilty’ [that is, fault is attributed based on evidence] but here in this set-up, you’re guilty until you prove your innocence.” This means the whole team needs to be proactive, always on the ball to be ahead of the game and the curve; to manage and capture issues before they become a problem for the mobile operators in the market. Prevention is always better than treatment.

“That’s the mindset and that’s how the team went about building the tools and how it uses the technologies like data and machine learning to automate all the processes and ensure they have visibility of how to prevent issues.” It has also delivered spectacular results: DNB started with 500 sites in November 2021 and had about 320,000 alarms per day. By August 2022, with the same size team, the alarms had reduced to 1,200 per day with over 2,000 sites live.


The operations brain

At the heart of DNB’s operations is the – a central platform which contains all the tools the teams need. It applies processes to data applications and manages how they operate and run the networks. The tools are managed centrally, dealing, for example, with software upgrades and swapping out bugs, relieving engineers of that responsibility: they simply log into the platform to access the tools.

Tan calls the Ericsson Operations Engine “the brain that allows people to work and program”. With those tools in place, people can use [the engine] to introduce the machine learning data, the value add and manage the network so that it is becoming a programmable network, run by software. Without these capabilities, we’d have to revert to old ways of running networks. Now you can centralize all of it with the NOC/SOC in one place.

The manual processes of logging into different components and network elements in the systems are gone. The data logs process and analyze data. Tan says, “When you multiply that by the number of sites and pieces of equipment, and especially equipment that is not within your control, you really have to automate the process. Then all information can be provided in real time for analysis, and you get that sort of capability [whereby] the team can react in close to real time, rather than days and days later, to apply the treatment. That sort of transformation is how to prove your ‘innocence’ from day one.”


Complex relationships

“DNB provides radio-as-a-service to six operators and when you get that service to them, they’re all part of one team, but now you’ve got another entity – Ericsson Managed Services – running the radio network for you and they need to gain the trust of their counterparts in each of these operators. Trust is not won through ‘Oh, here’s the data’; it’s more about providing self-serving capabilities to those operators and that’s what the Managed Services team have to do so they are part of the team.”

He elaborates, “It’s more than just providing data, it’s making those six operators part of the process including the escalation process, part of the day-to-day running of the analysis, being integrated into one team. The complexity comes once you integrate six other, different teams, but somehow this managed service team is able to manage all these things in parallel.”


Caring for your customers’ customers

Tan believes the most critical part of his job is enabling his operator customers to provide the best and most affordable 5G service to their customers. He comments, “If you have no issues, everything’s working fine, and the six mobile operators don’t complain, and if we can manage issues all the way to the end customers seamlessly, that’s the ultimate goal. We’re going to continuously upgrade the networks to support all the new features and capabilities for 5G and all the other use cases, plus the complexity that will come in.

He concludes, “Hence automations will continuously learn and improve to make sure we free up the people to do the high end, high value sorts of process and get jobs right…avoiding repetitive, mundane jobs. If people are engaged, they love what they’re doing, it’s a repetitive cycle, trying to find out how to keep improving and do more and more.“

To sum up, Tan says: “To me, that’s a win for all!”


Interviewed CSP: Ken Tan, Chief Technology Officer, DNB

Ken Tan has more than 20 years of work experience in the telecommunications industry and has successfully delivered on network and IT transformation programs. He was a key member of the Senior Leadership team that deployed the world’s first 5G Fixed Wireless Access Network and Australia’s Mobile Speed Leadership. His most recent role was Head/VP of Digital Networks with Singtel Optus. Leaders of DNB (Digital Nasional Berhad)



Learn more

Explore how Ericsson are unlocking the true potential of your network

This article was originally published on the Ericsson website here on the 22nd of November 2022.

Automation: Moving CX from engaging with service providers to deep interaction with products

Telstra’s Angela Logothetis explains to Contributing Editor Annie Turner how the next phases in automation are to constantly evolve customers’ experiences of using cloud, edge and network products.

Angela Logothetis is Executive Group Owner of Edge, Cloud and Industrial Networks at Telstra, which encompasses dedicated and private networks. Her job is to accelerate the adoption of these technologies by enterprises in parallel to and stimulated by the convergence of “the best of global compute with Australia’s best connectivity”. Although she has only been in her post at Telstra since February this year, her rounded CV has prepared her as well as any could for her pioneering role into crucial new territory for Australia’s biggest telecoms service provider.

“We are really looking at automation from the aspect of how we best deliver an amazing product experience to organisations across Australia. Our automation goes all the way from our network through our IT stack and to the way we build strategic partnerships, including with cloud hyperscalers. We want automation around all those capabilities and to make them modular and expose them through APIs,” Logothetis states.

She stresses the importance of decoupling the architecture “to build a highly digital, highly automated, amazing product experience using those capabilities. This enables us to be intuitive and agile in what we can deliver to the market: quarter after the quarter, we’re getting more and more product experience out to the market. The [decoupling approach] gives us a high degree of reuse: I can reuse the capabilities in edge products. I’ve used them in cloud products and private network products. We are starting to get that consistency of experience across products as well.”

The modular, API-enabled operating model is also fundamental to being able to collaborate efficiently and effectively with partners. Telstra works with cloud hyperscalers as its cloud compute and edge compute partners, plus some of the large data centre vendors and dominant OEM-type vendors. In this ecosystem, Telstra takes on either part or all its partners’ technology stacks in this modular way via the APIs, then figures out “how we bring that together into a product we can market to our customers,” Logothetis explains. “Luckily I work with partners that are building technology natively in this way”.

She clarifies that “natively” in this context means both cloud native and softwarisation – building offers as-a-Service using APIs. She continues, “We are doing that inside Telstra and relying on our partners to do it so we can create this experience for the customer.”

Automation beyond self-service

People tend to think about automation as being about how a customer buys something from and engages with an organisation; the order-to-activation process has always been key for telcos…Once we start to build automation, we look at the onboarding experience to make it faster and simpler for customers, so it’s just a clicking this or swipe that type of exercise.”

Logothetis stresses, “We have very good digital portals, in the consumer and enterprise spaces, and will continue to develop them, but more the recent innovation we’re working on with our customers is

understanding how they use our products and what they want,” including using telemetry data.” For example, if a Telstra customer has a cloud tenancy, how can they scale it up or create a new tenancy? How can they add AI on top of it? How can they move the tenancy closer to them? In other words, “It’s less of an interaction with us through a digital channel and more of an interaction with the product itself.”

While in the first instance automating this product interaction is geared to the enterprise market where Telstra expects “really deep engagement with products,” according to Logothetis, “I think as we look out into AR and VR [augmented and virtual reality], immersive experiences, and the metaverse –depending on it ends up being – it becomes a very similar sort of scenario, right? It’s about how consumers engage with the product or act inside the product versus engagement between them and our organisation.”

Cloud matters

In the meantime, she says, “We talk about key things, like hybrid and multi-cloud, which enable our customers to put their workloads in the place that best meets their demands. Some are best placed in the public cloud with any one of a number of public cloud vendors. For sovereignty and security reasons, some might need private cloud. For legacy reasons, some might run virtualized technology on a public or a private cloud. Other customers want private cloud workloads. We offer that spectrum.”

Telstra has multiple partners at all layers of the cloud stack and this where edge compute comes into play. Logothetis says, “We start to talk about distributed computing, because customers will have more and more applications and data workloads with unique sets of requirements. Some they’ll want to have much closer to them because it’s data intensive – they want to collect, store and process the data close to where it is, or because they need actionable insights from it to correct a safety issue, say, or change a manufacturing process.”

Distributed compute

However, these needs might only apply to during the day, not overnight when instead some applications could run at the network edge or in the cloud. Logothetis explains, “I think this notion of distributed compute, with very good connectivity between it, and some smart software sitting on top, for an enterprise or a government organisation, places workloads in the right place at the right time.

That’s what we’re working on. We already offer all those components today but where we see this industry and demand heading is that all those components work seamlessly together.”

This is not an easy undertaking, so where are the challenges in this level of automation and are the limitations of AI an issue? Logothetis’ view is that it depends on what you’re trying to automate and why. She says, “From my role, the trickiest thing is to establish what we are trying to deliver to the customer – a better experience of something they have today or using automation to come up with a fundamentally different experience, maybe something that didn’t exist before?”

Starting with desired outcomes

It’s refreshing to find an organisation at starts by thinking about what they want to achieve and then pans backwards to where it is today to figure out how to get there. It’s more common for telcos to alight on a shiny new piece of technology then figure out what they can do with it and how to justify the investment. This common wrong-headedness is often compounded by technology becoming ‘legacy’ at the fastest rate ever.

Logothetis agrees, and says, “That all comes back to the principles of decoupled architecture with the the APIs around it, then building this product experience we’ve talked about on top of that – that architecture and that way of interacting will enable us to be really agile in getting things to market and changing things quarter on quarter, based on what we see the customers doing with it.”

Internal ops enable external experience

Telstra is also working on AIOps, because as she says, “If you have a highly manual back office or operations, it is very difficult to automate the experience. Even if it looks great on the surface. underneath it’s like those images of swans sitting serenely on the surface but their feet are moving frantically under the water. So internal automation and customer experience absolutely are linked, but not tightly coupled because we take a modular approach that is API-driven then build this experience layer on top. As things change in the underlying organisation, or in the capabilities of ecosystem partners, we can bring things in without having to build a brand new product from scratch.”

Logothetis emphasises how important this is and that the ecosystem is “developing very quickly, particularly around the edge cloud and in private networks. The customer facing parts are very much an ecosystem play because customers want a broad spectrum of capabilities and there’s no single vendor that they want to be totally tied into. Customers want multiple different things and a big part of our role is to work as a part of that ecosystem and make it easy for our customers to work in that ecosystem as well.”

She concludes, “We need to build the ecosystem from the experience for the customer and the engagement with the product, as well as building automation behind scenes, which is probably what you hear most about in the industry – things like automating provisioning and billing? That’s happening but what we’re doing is really interesting – the automation of experience and interaction with products.”

Bring it on: leading telcos are upbeat about facing the future

Some of the speakers at next week’s FutureNet World event discuss their strategic and commercial priorities regarding the future network with Contributing Editor Annie Turner.

Mallik Rao, CTIO, Telefónica Germany
Mallik Rao, CTIO, Telefónica Germany

We all know that network operators are under pressure to speed up their digital transformations, but what are the main drivers? According to Mallik Rao, CTIO, Telefónica Germany, “Telcos need to manage increasingly complex network and IT architectures to handle the diversity of mobile communications standards and applications. This creates an urgent need for transformation and using new ways for deployment and maintenance.

“Open networking, automation and disaggregation enable telcos to better manage their network and IT services, meet customer expectations and become future-ready. At Telefónica Germany we see ourselves as one of the pioneers in this transformation phase, for instance regarding Open RAN, disaggregation and cloud deployments.”

Get a good start

Terje Jensen, SVP, Head of Global Network Architecture, Director 5G Readiness Strategic Program at Telenor
Terje Jensen, SVP, Head of Global Network Architecture, Director 5G Readiness Strategic Program, Telenor

Terje Jensen, SVP, Head of Global Network Architecture, Director 5G Readiness Strategic Program at Telenor, has distinct ideas about how to speed up their transformations. He says, “Clear ambitions and directions must be set for activities to deliver a coherent result. This [comes from] defining scopes and objectives at the start as well as following up on outcomes, while execution should be flexible. During the initial phase, all personnel need to be onboarded about the purpose [of the transformation] and the planned achievements.

“When activities have clear scopes and expected outcomes, they can run in parallel, which naturally speeds up the overall execution. A condition [for success] is that interfaces are set so each activity relates to an environment as anticipated. Hands-on management is implied to swiftly clear blockers.”

Data difficulties and getting smarter

Data management has presented a huge challenge to operators for years: they have immense volumes of it, the question that has proved hard to answer is how to extract value from data. Jukka-Pekka Salmenkaita, VP AI and Special Projects at Elisa, says, “Many of the AIOps use cases require data across multiple operational systems. Traditionally the data has been very siloed, making use case development and deployment a very slow process. A solid data foundation across source systems is key foundation for AIOps development.”

Jukka-Pekka Salmenkaita, VP AI and Special Projects at Elisa
Jukka-Pekka Salmenkaita, VP AI and Special Projects, Elisa

A reason for many telco failures regarding data management is taking “a very centralised approach,” JPS says, because it “tends to become too rigid, slow to evolve, and fails to engage all required stakeholders. This is key reason why ‘data lake’ initiatives fail to deliver the expected value.” He recommends a more modular approach that distributes responsibilities closer to domain experts and adds that the so-called ‘data mesh’ is a promising approach to operationalise data management in more modular, distributed manner.

A data layer that can handle operational use cases, not only reporting and business intelligence (BI), is a key enabler JPS says, and stresses the importance of fully closed-loop automation. He states, “Our approach has been as follows. First, pilot closed-loop automation in specific domains. Second, add value by moving from heuristic and deterministic use case implementations to machine learning-based implementations. Third, set up fundamental DataOps and MLOps practices shared across the domains. Fourth, expand [the number of] domains covered and cross-domain use cases.”

Jenson notes that currently in the industry, “Smartness gained from AI and machine learning is used to various degree in processes, and gradually we will need to improve that level of smartness as we gain additional insights. End-to-end perspectives are captured by connecting different processes, while process re-design is also done to simplify the overall flow and remove inefficiencies. New technologies often allow higher degree of automation and use expert and learning algorithms. These are part of the modernisation that gradually expands the automation of more end-to-end processes. This is also key for digital interactions with customers and partners.”

Filling the skills gap, stretching the budget

Data management aside, other “blockers” referred to by Jensen can also include what look like intractable problems of lack of the right skills and investment constraints. Jensen is nothing daunted. “Most of the activities involve partners in some ways. Therefore, leveraging each others’ capabilities and capacities is important: [it] is a proven way to gain synergies [and] lower costs as well as improving the speed. This is an option in many cases as partners and customer want to co-create for innovative and sustainable solutions. The approach further strengthens the trust in the solution as it is built to bring value to the customer and society at large.”

Juan Francisco Redondo, Senior Manager Network Strategy & Architecture at Three UK
Juan Francisco Redondo, Senior Manager Network Strategy & Architecture, Three UK

On the subject of the common good, sustainability is embedded in almost every telco’s strategy. Juan Francisco Redondo, Senior Manager Network Strategy & Architecture at Three UK, stresses that for operators, sustainability is “not a question of cutting costs, but of actively managing the incremental traffic demand in a sustainable manner from financial point of view. Therefore, the ethical imperative and the responsible costs management of the networks that support our services marry nicely.”

Sustainability by design means “that the resources utilised to deliver products and services are part of the value chain in a way [that] their value is maximised and their cost and environmental impact is minimised,” he adds. “Bringing the sustainability dimension into the decision-making process across different business areas not only addresses the sustainability objectives, but allows the operators to operate ‘at scale’, which is definitely needed in an industry with stagnant revenues and margins under pressure.”

Redondo also highlights the fact that the investment community takes into account the maturity in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) journey as a key metric when making investment decisions, “so the focus in this area for telecommunications companies is a win-win from multiple fronts, including the financial one”.

Jensen is also upbeat about matters financial, saying, “In the case of any investment crunch, several financing models [can] address this, although they have to be aligned with…ownership and accounting rules. While partner and customer collaboration may complement skills, [you can] also systematically work on internal upskilling within key areas.”

Dynamic partnerships power the future

Even so, he thinks that dynamic partnerships will become more crucial, which “makes it even more important to reduce the threshold for engaging and benefiting from collaboration.”

Rao concurs: “Telcos are the central enabler of digitisation and the driver of a connected society. A strong ecosystem is our opportunity to create more value for our business and customers alike. We drive business growth with better network infrastructure and new services, tailored to customers’ needs, without having to develop and operate all those services and features on our own.”

Telefónica Germany’s partnership ecosystem includes IT service providers, hyperscalers, consultancies and start-ups for its “own fundamental IT transformation, further network roll-out and for providing new connectivity solutions to our customers,” Rao says.

In particular, hyperscalers are becoming really important partners for telcos. For Rao, collaborating with cloud providers is all about bringing technical innovations to market faster, flexibly managing its computing capacity and delivering new 5G applications to our customers with more stable services and better connectivity.

He adds, cloud “provides an optimal basis for industrial 5G networks and the necessary APIs to the world’s leading development tools. Network functions can be implemented fast and seamlessly, for example to automate production and logistics processes. Overall, the cloud is a gamechanger for our industry. I am convinced that partnerships between telco operators and cloud hyperscalers will get closer in the future.”

Edging closer to customers

Joanna Newman, Global Edge Computing and 5G Principal Manager at Vodafone
Joanna Newman, Global Edge Computing and 5G Principal Manager, Vodafone

Joanna Newman, Global Edge Computing and 5G Principal Manager at Vodafone agrees. She points out that Vodafone was first to launch Distributed Multi-access Edge Computing with AWS Wavelength in Europe – in the UK in June 2021 and in Germany in December 2021. Vodafone also offers Dedicated MEC, in partnership with Microsoft. “This technology is now changing the landscape of what is possible for businesses in these countries,” Newman says.

She says that Vodafone sees use cases across range of areas, from healthcare to gaming, sports technology, autonomous transport, biometric security, remote VR, and factory automation.

Rao expands on this saying, “Our connectivity solutions can give corporations and SMEs a huge boost in growth, innovation and efficiency. We provide the technological framework for companies to implement their processes, whether via an IoT marketplace, such as our Telefónica KITE platform, or a private 5G network.”

Redondo concludes that to meet wider ambitions, the collaboration that already exists in the industry for the creation of end-to-end solutions, with significant interdependencies between chipsets, hardware and software elements, will have to be strengthened to incorporate new sustainability angles and frameworks, even beyond energy efficiency.

He says, “All players in the value and supply chains of mobile industry have a role to play in the design, delivery and operations of sustainable products and services.

Initially that happens at individual company level, while working against businesses objectives and considering sustainability aspirations. A good example is the successful efforts by the equipment manufacturers when offering new generations of efficient hardware products that are utilised in mobile networks. This is very positive, but it will not be enough.”

He remains confident that telcos will step up to the challenges, and “Meanwhile, the mobile industry continues delivering fantastic capabilities that enable other industries in their own sustainability journeys.”

You can hear more from the executives in this article at FutureNet World 2022 on the 10-11 May. Find out more and register here.

Futurenet World Interview with Dr. Piyush Sarwal, Oracle

We recently caught up with Dr. Piyush Sarwal, VP, Product Management, Oracle to get his thoughts on Oracle’s strategy and the topic of Future Networks: Injecting intelligent automation into network and service operations.

Can you tell us about Oracle’s approach to network and service operations automation?

The traditional operations environment is still largely manual, siloed, and offline, and in many cases relies on a workforce that may soon retire. The key business processes are performed by a fractured IT estate and owned by different departments. This model is not fit for purpose for the new generation of networks and services that are expected to be inherently more complex, more diverse, and much more demanding in terms of customer expectations and performance requirements. Status quo is not an option.

We are tackling these challenges head on with our Unified Operations suite where we are working on the principle of ‘automate everything that can be automated’. Using our solution, CSPs can achieve significantly higher levels of operations automation by (a) increasing the level of automation within assurance, inventory & topology, and orchestration, and (a) building the right level of integrations between these three key solution areas. With these approaches, CSPs can achieve both top-down intent-driven automation for digital services as well as end-to-end service lifecycle automation.

How are you making your automation solution ‘intelligent’?

We are employing a multi-pronged approach to intelligent automation across our Unified Operations portfolio and there are different facets to it depending on the solution area. For example, in our Unified Assurance solution area, we use the RCA3 model to significantly improve the efficacy of operations. It combines machine learning, supervised event correlation and unified network topology to eliminate noise and quickly triangulate the root cause of the most relevant network incidents and their service impact. This automated correlation and compression of events into actionable ones, enables operations to prioritize customer experience and service impacting incidents.

Another example of intelligent automation is the use of intent in our orchestration solution where the desired end state of the service and network is captured. An internal intent engine computes the steps to go from the current to the target state. It is akin to using a GPS where it lets the users specify the destination and the system computes the best possible route to get there. The user can also specify the service and network constraints, for example, what the service performance should be, and even which data centers should the resources reside in etc, like the travel conditions we would typically place on the GPS, such as the quickest route or the shortest route.

How are you helping customers to alleviate the perennial issue of managing legacy tools while modernizing the operations for the 5G era?

CSPs have a built up many operations technologies over the years which are doing a perfectly good job at keeping the lights on for existing networks and services. But they have limitations when it comes to supporting 5G as the technology was developed for older generations networks and services.

Our unique proposition is that with the Unified Operations solution CSPs can bridge the legacy to the new, i.e., pre-5G operations to the 5G-era operations. They can do this by introducing a unification layer on top of existing assets to automate the operational processes. When the time is right, they can standardize our solution and retire the legacy tools. With this approach, CSPs can achieve 2 key goals: (a) significantly reduce the business risk, sustain operational continuity, and reduce TCO and OpEx, and (b) operationalize new telco cloud and SDN-based networks and digital services.


Oracle Communications sponsored and participated in the panel below at FutureNet World on the 10/11th May 2022 in London.

Opening Keynote Panel – Future Networks: Injecting intelligent automation into network and service operations

  • Leveraging ML & AI to manage networks and services: defining the roadmap
  • Hype vs Reality: What has been achieved to date and what does success look like?
  • How can CSPs leverage existing assets to increase automation? – rip and replace is not an option
  • Opensource vs partner solutions: Assessing the options
  • How are hyperscalers supporting telcos for automation: What are the terms?


  • Amy Cameron, Principal Analyst, STL Partners (Moderator)
  • Juan Manuel Caro, Director Operations Transformation, Telefónica
  • Jean-Benoît Besset, VP IT & Network Strategy, Orange
  • Azhar Mirza, Group Vice President, Applications GBU, Oracle Communications