What’s driving demand for automation in the telecom industry?

The road forward in the telecom industry is dotted with both opportunities and risks, presenting an uncertain future for service providers that fail to innovate and evolve. Telecom consumers are using more data than ever before, while telecom service prices are quickly eroding. Looking ahead, CSP CIOs are becoming much more involved in business model changes to support digital transformation initiatives that include new delivery capability to accelerate revenue, drive total automation, and enable digital experiences. To support those changes, they are leaning on niche software vendors and platforms to drive that success quickly and cost effectively.

That’s easier said than done, of course, especially considering the infrastructure changes that need to occur to revamp telecom capabilities and meet current challenges. Automation is an all-important piece of the puzzle, establishing the technological foundation to pursue any number of revenue-generating telecom services. What market forces have made network automation essential to telecom success?

The Internet of Things & 5G ramps up

Futurists and other technology experts have discussed the forthcoming Internet of Things (IoT) for quite a while now – and as we are seeing in 2020, IoT is now developing into a mature industry with attractive growth opportunities. The basic idea driving IoT is that anything, from a refrigerator to a car to a HVAC system to parking lots to water sensors, can be designed with a network connection. The consumer, business and sociological implications of this technology are immense, but so too are the ramifications for telecom networks. 

When everything becomes a connected device –  driven by expanding cloud infrastructure and the rise of 5G – it is even more important for networks to be prepared to support the increase in traffic, bandwidth, and quality of service requirements.

Technology writer, Gilad David Maayan, shares that by 2021, there will be 35 billion IoT devices installed worldwide – and more than 75 billion by 2025. – representing an incredible increase in network activity.  And that is just the start.

The larger IoT becomes, the more strain will be placed on existing networks, impacting telecom service delivery. End-to-end network automation can help ease this burden and offset the impact that IoT devices have on network capabilities.

IoT will continue to have a major impact on telecom networks. And SDN controls in the network to adapt and work with that software is becoming increasingly important.

Data usage continues to rise

IoT is just one facet of the rising data usage trend. Across the board, telecom customers are consuming more data and using up more bandwidth. This is especially true of enterprise clients, who rely on data-intensive applications, platforms and devices for a number of everyday operations. Video conferencing tools, cloud-based collaboration platforms and bring-your-own-device policies all require a great deal of data to support, and networks as they are currently arranged may not be up to the task of providing optimal service delivery at all times.

Enterprise customers won’t stand for dips in service quality, meaning telecom providers need to implement solutions that maintain quality delivery standards regardless how high user demand gets. Vendors need to find a way to support features like Bandwidth-on-Demand (BWoD) that can increase network performance to match enterprise usage spikes. Network automation allows for that kind of provisioning to occur on an as-needed basis – and is proven to reduce CAPAX costs and create OPEX efficiencies.

As we read about AT&T’s SDN Program on SDxCentral, they explain the benefits AT&T has been seeing over the last few years as they prepare for a 5G network and how software-driven network automation not only created large capex savings, but in the long run, the performance of opex efficiencies really stood out – proving short and long term savings and efficiencies.

As we read further into the very well done interview transcript (JUNE 18, 2020 / 1:10PM, T – AT&T Inc at Wells Fargo Telecom 5G Forum (Virtual)), Andre Fuetsch, CTO & President AT&T Labs, goes on to share a use case related to the surge of working from home due to COVID-19 (and on a global scale).  He states that AT&T was quick to prove the benefits of a software-defined network to be able to quickly spin up more software instances to meet that demand, instead of physically going out and having to deploy more boxes.

Better customer experience needed

Recent digitization and consumerization trends have been both blessings and curses for enterprise service providers. On one hand, customer expectations have increased significantly, placing an onus on organizations to match consumer-facing platforms in terms of usability, navigation and self-service. On the other, there is an incredible opportunity here to provide a better overall customer experience, increasing satisfaction metrics, reducing churn and bringing in new clients.

Telecom service providers should be looking to the development of self-service portals that allow customers to freely manage their accounts. These interfaces can go beyond simple tasks like finding billing information or submitting customer service requests and incorporate on-demand service provisioning.

Advanced cloud-based platforms allow customers to build out their network capabilities with virtualized network functions like load balancers, intrusion protection, firewalls and routers. To provision these services quickly upon request, telecom providers need to have network automation in place throughout their ecosystem. Once up and running, this technology can open up fresh revenue streams, enabling telecom companies to add new features to their service menus – creating an entire Amazon-like marketplace experience.

End-to-end network automation is essential for successfully reshaping telecom service providers and meeting the demands of tomorrow. The earlier companies embrace this technology, the sooner they can capitalize on growing demand for better network performance, end-to-end automation, delivery speed and overall customer experience.