In an era of unprecedented changes driven by technology, the telecom industry today is at an inflection point. The smart phone and new innovative devices that takes advantage of the smart phone ecosystem is changing everything. Gartner predicts, there would be about 25 billion connected devices by 2020. 70-80 % of the world’s population is expected to own smartphones by 2020 and data usage per smartphone is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30%. This huge explosion in the number of embedded devices exploding with increased adoption of IoT, requiring ubiquitous connectivity is leading to a paradigm shift in the telecom ecosystem. Network operators are evolving their offerings, they are evaluating new business models and at the same time end-user is demanding a more personalized experience.
From a cost standpoint – User expectations and the intense competitive environment that defines the telecom industry today is leading to constant margin erosions and ever increasing demand from the network. From a revenue standpoint – owing to emergence of faster connection speeds enabling VoIP calls, ever increasing options around messaging; voice & messaging centric strategies are dead and buried. With the device mesh proliferating and getting bigger day by day, telecom operators will also need to adopt new paradigms with respect to the infrastructure investments. Hence the charter seems quite clear for the telecom industry, which spends $55 B annually on R&D – transform before it’s too late!
Disruptive technologies – overhauling the networking landscape
Various disruptive technologies such as Software defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), 5G, Cloud-based services present telecom OEM and service providers the possibility to provide users what they demand and even more, that too profitably. These technologies, which have the potential to completely overhaul the current networking landscape, are drawing investments worth billions of dollars today. According to a recent research, the SDN/NFV market alone is expected to be more than worth $45 Billion by 2020 with a staggering CAGR of 86.1% from 2015-2020. More than 90% of CIOs & CTOs of leading telecom operators classify NFV as their major focus area for implementation within the next three years.
Enough of the hype, so how does one monetize? Evolving Cloud RAN architecture where the hardware and software is being decoupled will have profound implications on the future cost structure of wireless networks. Consolidation of network hardware equipment’s through NFV is leading to reduction in capital expenditures and as majority of the network becomes software controlled – it will be much easier to deploy and maintain leading to reduced operational expenditures. Cost. Check. What about revenue? SDN makes use of a centralized software based controller, which helps in programming various network components – this enables more flexibility to the service provider leading to faster deployment cycles and ability to provide new services such as “bandwidth on demand” resulting into increased revenue for the service providers.
What more? Network transformation can enable much more value when coupled with leverage of evolution as IoT. One of the biggest challenges that IoT brings along is managing the humungous amount of data traffic leading to additional data center investments and load on the network. With a programmable network, data center investments for IoT such as additional switches can be rationalized. Also, the extremely agile programmable network can dynamically provision bandwidth and balance spikes in IoT related network loads. It’s clear that the time is right to think 21st Century and get set to transform to the software defined future.
Challenges loom large: Taming the Complexities
Network transformation is anything but straightforward. System complexities across the networking domain are increasing due to virtualization, integration with third parties and open source. The complex ecosystem is further plagued by complicated relationships between operators, manufacturers and other technology partners for very natural commercial interests. Ensuring portability and interoperability, managing hybrid environment, multi-vendor system integration, automation, security and stability are some of the critical challenges that operators are facing. The maturity period for services and offerings has gone down considerably leading to the need for constant technological upgradation.
Enterprises will need to be agile while innovating constantly and look for new means to meet the increasing demands placed upon them by customers and investors more efficiently and effectively. To ensure accelerated rollouts, TSPs will need to redefine the scope of core vs context while choosing the right engineering partners to support the surge in demand for operations support, unified communications, customized solutions, validation and cloud enablement. According to a recent study by ISG, operators today are increasingly partnering with engineering service providers (ESPs) who have strong capabilities and are making significant investments in this space. ESP’s are enabling the operators with a cost-effective network transformation while monetizing new revenue streams at the same time. For instance, at HCL Technologies, we are already witnessing the increased demand for these services from key telecom players and we have been able to deliver the real business value enabling the next-gen mobile ecosystem with significant reduction in implementation costs.
MWC 2016: Network to Transform the Networks
Technology has always played the pivotal role as a disruptive force in reshaping industry boundaries and redefining business strategies, leading to new revenue models and eroding the traditional profit formulas. There is a huge growth opportunity provided we deal with this transformation aggressively, collaboratively and boldly. To ensure that the costs of adopting these technologies does not exceed the benefits, it would be worthwhile to engage in strategic partnerships. We are looking forward to witnessing many such game-changing ideas and solutions in this rare coming together of technology players across the globe at MWC, Barcelona.
It’s time for software to start eating up the Networking world!