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O2 powers customer-centric network with Nokia AI

Mobile operator O2 claims Nokia’s AI-driven Service Operation Center platform will help it anticipate its customers’ problems before they know they have problems

Telefónica, the parent organisation behind the O2 mobile network, will implement Nokia Software’s Service Operation Center (SOC) platform in its UK business over the next 18 months as it transitions towards a so-called “customer-centric” operations model for its 32 million subscribers.

The Nokia platform incorporates advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques to help O2 accomplish mission to “delight” users by moving away from a model that assures the network, to one that assures the services running over it.

“The SOC we’re going to be building is another important step on our journey of customer-centricity,” said Telefónica chief technology officer Brendan O’Reilly.

“We provide service to all of our customers 24/7, 365 days a year, and it’s in those moments of truth that the service becomes really important – you realise the effect connectivity has on you when it’s really important, and what the SOC will allow us to do is continue that journey of customer-centricity.

“Our service is vital, it’s become how we live our lives and run our businesses, and the SOC will allow us to focus on individual customers much more. Rather than making engineering-led decisions on our network, we’ll start to make customer-led decisions.”

Fundamentally, the SOC platform works by taking data points from multiple sources, such as the network itself, the customer experience platform, the billing platform and even social media sentiment, and crunching this through a mediation platform that renders the data into the same “language” that the operator can use to draw better conclusions and automate decisions about how to remediate problems, eventually before they even occur, or to otherwise control how customers experience the network.

“SON [self-organising networks] in conjunction with the SOC will allow us to start making real time decisions on the network which will allow us to affect customers second by second,” said O’Reilly.

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“It will allow us to look at new tools and new metrics – we’ve been working on network customer experience [NCX] as an individual metric for each of our customers on how the network reacts for them but also how they feel about the network, because how we feel about the network is a direct link to how we feel about the service, and it’s just as important as the actual service that we get.

“Bringing all of these together will allow us to focus on individual customers, allow us to focus on geography, and make really important decisions for our customers based on what they are seeing, feeling and experiencing,” he said.

O’Reilly went on to demonstrate an example of the sort of dynamic service adjustment that the SOC will enable for O2’s customers. For most people, using location-services (such as Citymapper or Google Maps) over a 4G mobile network is something they will do whilst in transit, maybe when they have just got off the train in a new city and want to find their way to their hotel.

“What SOC and SON in conjunction can do is maybe prioritise map services around stations,” he said. “I see that as a really clear benefit.”

However, some service problems on the network from time-to-time are inevitable, and referring to the December 2018 outage that downed O2’s entire network for 24 hours, O’Reilly said the SOC would not have prevented the extended downtime – and he did not expect it to prevent future outages – but that it might mitigate the effects of these when they inevitably occur.

For example, this could be by helping the operator move to reduce disgruntled customer churn by standing up new services or optimising existing ones by way of compensation.

Services to be made available to partners

The services provided through Nokia’s SOC will also be made available to O2’s mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners GiffGaff, Lycamobile, Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile, as well as to internet of things (IoT) and other smart devices running on its network, said O’Reilly.

“As we move into massive IoT, it’s much harder to measure ‘delight’ for a device,” he told Computer Weekly. “What’s important though is that we understand what good looks like in terms of service for that device.”

“Using data from that device will then help us trend what those devices need and help us be able to provide that service for them. We’ll be able to do it on a bigger scale, so the SOC is just as important for IoT as it is for consumers.”

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