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Ben Allwright, CEO
Today’s Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are surrounded by competing forces. The exponential growth in multimedia content, the evolution of cloud computing and the impact of increasing mobile usage, brings huge opportunities, new entrants and enormous pressures. Migration can help with flattening revenues and rising consumer expectations, where traditional business models have been stretched to breaking.
Conventional CSPs are being forced to revolutionalise their networks. With huge investments needed in Access and Core Networks and game-changing developments in Software Defined Networking (SDN), CSPs must adapt quickly to provide more capable, dynamic and secure services, whilst simultaneously consolidating and densifying their systems and operations.
In addition, these same market pressures underpin ongoing CSP consolidation, with Analysts estimating that most EU national markets will have a 3-operator landscape within 10 years – one where ‘Quadplay’ is the norm.
For established multi-service CSPs the costs and complexity of operating multiple legacy networks are staggering. Technical buildings alone, of which CSPs can be managing 100s, can have CO2 footprints to rival the airlines. Many of these facilities are located in prime commercial and industrial centres too, with costly leases that CSPs might like to exit, or are operator-owned buildings with increasingly attractive resale values.
But the transformational challenges are considerable:
1) The very physical nature of those networks, with so many buildings, underground duct systems, overhead cables and street-side apparatus. Ironically, where the considerable assets of the biggest CSPs were once a major advantage, they now pose significant barriers to major upgrades.
2) The old Voice & Data technologies (Sys X, SDH, PDH, TDM, etc and associated OSS) are still making money and most are operating well beyond their expected life, but that won’t continue perpetually.
3) There are the migration risks, with the immense traffic volumes underwritten by increasingly demanding service level guarantees.
4) CSPs are plagued by poor records. Years of mergers and performance initiatives have pushed operators to centralize their operations and emphasize logical inventory systems, with scant resources up-keeping their physical data.
5) CSPs themselves simply don’t possess the necessary internal resources, as they balance the need for laser focus on their immediate client demands and simultaneously rationalise their organisations to stay competitive.
With new CSP entrants unhindered by these challenges and able to rapidly deploy new technologies to offer service differentiation, inaction can be a costly choice.
When the time is right and the case stacks up, CSPs will commonly turn to the vendor community for support for major technical programmes. With significant technical, human and financial resources, CSPs expect them to assume risk, unravel complexity and achieve rapid results. But this approach is often flawed, as CSPs knowingly transfer considerable project ambiguity to those suppliers; Without a solid starting point, projects can fail to meet expectations and realise the intended benefits.
All too often major projects are pushed into life prematurely by overstretched CSPs with inadequate scoping and providers bid for ‘turnkey’ work based on numerous assumptions
The inherent uncertainty and assumptions generally attract increased costs, with vendors building-in significant contingency budget. Or worse still, they can result in failure if the underlying assumptions are too far adrift, and as things start to unravel the management overheads and business ramifications can be huge.
So, what’s the solution? Well there’s no silver bullet, but more time and effort spent creating a good ‘baseline’ can pay dividends. Conducting thorough audits and documenting those findings illuminates problems and opportunities, enabling far more accurate designs, migration plans and costings to be created, both before and during the tendering of work packages.
A collaborative, multi-stakeholder and phased approach brings increasing clarity and certainty, considerably lowering risk and improving the chance of better value outcomes. The benefits of thorough planning are very well proven.
Where CSPs lack sufficient technical and project resources they should seek expert support. Some scenarios will favour the addition of temporary personnel, many will better suit the engagement of a specialist service supplier. Alternatively, CSPs can elect to work with their technology vendors in a more progressive and partnership fashion, whilst being mindful not to compromise any future project awards.
So, how do you eat the data elephant?
One Byte at a time, perhaps?
This article was originally published on LinkedIN. Click here to read the comments.