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Telecoms industry at major tipping point

Communications service providers should gear up for a software-driven operations model and embrace microservices and DevOps to thrive in the digital economy

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Asia-Pacific: CW ASEAN: SD-WAN helps find best route to cloud

The telecoms industry has reached a major tipping point, with the way it currently operates limiting its ability to keep up with the growing demands of customers in the digital economy.

Anil Rao, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, noted in a study commissioned by Huawei that although telcos have embarked on digital transformation initiatives, with software-defined networks, the internet of things (IoT) and 5G still to come, they remain constrained by their prevalent operating model.

Rao called on telcos and communications service providers (CSPs) to gear up for a software-driven operations model that not only supports today’s physical networks, but also adapts to the transition towards hybrid and virtual networks.

“The new operations model must be underpinned by highly automated processes, enabled by analytics-powered operations software, and supported by a workforce with the software skills to continuously enhance operational efficiency,” he said.

This will enable telcos to automatically pre-empt and tackle service quality issues before they occur, he added.

Rao also highlighted what telcos can do to ready themselves for a software-defined world. For example, they could move away from proprietary hardware-based networks to a shared cloud-based resource layer with virtual network functions.

“At the heart of this transformation is the goal to achieve business and service agility, and reduce the cost of delivering services,” he said.

The adoption of DevOps software engineering principles and microservices is key to achieving agility, and to speed up development of new services, said Rao. “Furthermore, the microservices architecture is most conducive for developing applications in the cloud, which paves the way for CSPs to implement a cloud-based operations platform.”

But the challenge for telcos and CSPs in their transformation efforts is not related to technology, said Rao – workforce transformation is the hardest to execute because people often resist change.

“Companies that embark on organisation-wide change require sponsorship, commitment and direct governance from one or more c-level executives,” he said, noting that all-round stakeholder management is needed to keep all stakeholders informed, especially those affected by the transformation.

Read more about telecoms in APAC

  • Adoption of 5G across the Asia-Pacific region will be led by China, South Korea and Japan, but telcos will need to find the right pricing strategy to compete with IoT connectivity upstarts.
  • Australia’s Telstra has trimmed its workforce as it faces cost pressures from the roll-out of the National Broadband Network and aggressive rivals.
  • Intel and Nokia are among others that have been working with telcos across the Asia-Pacific region to test 5G technologies and applications.
  • Singapore-based MyRepublic has outlined its ambition to become a regional broadband and mobile service provider as it looks beyond its existing markets for growth.
  • The Indigo submarine cable will provide additional capacity to mitigate disruptions caused by fibre cuts, as well as meet the growing demand for internet services in the region.

One CSP in the Asia-Pacific region that has transformed itself is MyRepublic, a Singapore-based fibre broadband service provider. A few years ago, the CSP replaced its legacy infrastructure with OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage and networking resources throughout a datacentre.

The new infrastructure has enabled MyRepublic to scale up and add resources to handle spikes in demand, resulting in higher system availability and lower latency. It has also been able to fully automate the on-boarding process for fibre broadband customers, with just two people now managing problems with new orders.

The CSP is also a fan of containers and microservices, which it has used to develop a more cost-effective business support system that meet its needs, rather than pay millions of dollars for one.

“We roll out new enhancements and features every week,” said MyRepublic group CIO Eugene Yeo. “And it takes just a single click of a button to publish our code on our staging environment with zero downtime.”

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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The Telco space like others will be challenged by newcomer cloud providers who deliver more function and alignment to today's customer experience expectations and operational needs of the business than traditional legacy providers are able. The Telco space is rife for mass disruption across business models, function, technology and customer experience.
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