Guest blog by Gabriele Di Piazza, VP Products & Solutions, Telco NFV, VMware.
With Mobile World Congress just around the corner, it is good time for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to reflect on a growing shift in the market and embrace new opportunities that a software defined approach is presenting to increase their value in the eyes of their customers.
They can look at Skype, WhatsApp and Netflix, who all saw an opportunity and swiftly land-grabbed as much of the market as they could. They’re not here to simply take small bites from the revenue streams of CSPs, they are here to stay and have become firmly entrenched into the wider telecoms ecosystem.
So CSPs need to react; they need to be seen as valuable by their customers; providing timely services that enhance the customer experience. To do this, they need to be faster and agile – but also be able to make more of the vast amounts of data that they have at their disposal. This is only achievable by using a software-defined approach.
Becoming software-defined and virtualizing compute, network and storage, enables firms to deliver new services and features fast, for example high definition over LTE could be achieved in days rather than months. An operator in India has been able to ramp up more than 50 million subscribers in just over 75 days with a new service offering, thanks to a Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) architecture – what many see as the missing piece of the puzzle of moving to a network function.
The software-defined approach can help to facilitate the collection of data, transmission, storage and processing – effectively aiding the company’s big data strategy. The result is better engagement with the customer and greater visibility of the areas in which the CSP can improve.
But attempting to evolve from a traditional service provider to a software-defined operator can be complicated and no one case is the same. However, my conversations with CSPs tell me that there are three common elements that must be considered if the transition is to be made smoothly.
Innovating existing infrastructure
The first step is to make sure that the right infrastructure is in place. For CSPs, this means introducing an open, virtualized service delivery platform, which acts as the foundation layer upon which this agile environment is built. This allows the operator to change at both speed and scale, with economics that work.
Legacy IT can be a stumbling block for many organisations, and can leave them wondering how they can innovate their business with the existing technology they have in place. The practical and most effective option is to build out a new virtualized network alongside a legacy network in a modular fashion: mapping investments to revenue potential and taking incremental steps.
Shifting structure, skills and culture
Once the right infrastructure is in place, the next stage is for CSPs to re-imagine their operating model: evolving related roles, organisational structure, skillsets, processes and culture to reflect the reorientation of the company.
This means switching from a siloed, functional-based organisation to an infrastructure run by a ‘convergence’ of IT experts with a broader view of networking IT and cloud services. It also requires a cultural shift from a hardware-oriented focus to software-defined IP networks; making sure testing cycles don’t last months or years before new features are released.
CSPs need to change this way of working to keep up with nimble OTT operators who can create content and offer innovative customer services at great speed.
It’s time for CSPs to be more daring, more inspired and more innovative to ensure they remain competitive. Moving to a software-defined approach will undoubtedly help them to do this.
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