The Service Assurance Company
14 February
2017

Which Network Operators will Survive 5G?

Beginning in 2020 we will live in a 5G enabled world. 5G will deliver huge benefits for users and numerous opportunities for new services and their providers. But delivering 5G will not be easy for network operators. Delivering 5G services will require network operators to make fundamental changes. Some network operators will not be prepared. So which operators will survive the arrival of 5G?

Complacency may lead some to think that survival is not an issue; they may assume that they’re too big to fail. However, history has taught us that failing to prepare for technological change can bring down even the largest businesses. In 2002 alone, 23 telecom companies went out of business costing half a million jobs – including the biggest bankruptcy in US history.

Today’s markets are competitive and managing the networks is challenging, but they will appear arcane and relaxed when we look back from the 5G world. Data volumes and the number of connected devices are just two of the measures which will multiply – seemingly overnight. In the 5G world, the network won’t matter to users – they will simply expect it to be available everywhere. When a HD film can be downloaded, anywhere, in the same time it takes to read its title aloud, winning customers will be about services and not networks. And yet the services we’ll use in the 5G world – the killer apps of tomorrow – have yet to be conceived. Which is why 5G is a huge opportunity.

But 5G is also a threat. Consumers, content providers and the makers of the killer Apps of tomorrow will simply expect excellent service and move, swiftly, to another provider if they don’t get it. Networks will have to thrive while handling much larger volumes of data and connected devices interacting with layers of services old and new. This will require new thinking, clear planning, design and transition strategies. The ultimate goal for operators will not be survival, but to be competitive in this changing market. But survival is the first objective.

Survival requires action now. Network operators need to find ways to Unify system management and Simplify its visualisation and control. Some proactive Network Operators are already discovering that these two steps bring immediate benefits including huge cost savings as well as increased capabilities.

They are now looking to step further ahead by adding intelligent automation to eliminate repeated processes and deliver even more efficiency savings. In addition, they are preparing further enhancements to Enable their new customer solutions that are flexible and agile.

Our advice, and our mission, is to enable our customers so that they can seize the opportunities and thrive. Not everybody will heed the advice. But to those who want to thrive – those who recognise the challenges and want to be prepared – I say: Unify, Simplify, Enable.

Eirteic CEO, Patrick Buttimer


21 December
2016

“We’ve Always Done It That Way”

Switch

“We’ve always done it that way”. This is the most common response that we hear when we propose the concept of automating manual processes to our customers, regardless of the industry that the customer occupies .
We ask our customers to take a step back and look objectively at their Network Operations C entre (NOC) and how it is run day to day. From this, we can identify and speak to NOC staff who carry out inefficient practices such as manual processes that could in fact be automated. For example, we still find customers logging into servers manually to check configuration or status. We still find customers manually correlating event data with trouble tickets, all slowing down MTTR (Mean Time to Resolution) of events and increasing costs.
It is often the case that NOC operators follow long established and out of date processes. When acquisitions or mergers are thrown into the mix, such as when teams take on new staff or monitoring of new infrastructure, problems arise that can go unaddressed for many years. When a company grows, the number technical team members often grow with it. As a result, maintaining a view on efficiency and how teams operate day to day can be difficult.
These practices are tolerated to maintain old and often inefficient processes. The potential for slower resolution time, wasted work hours and the unseen knock on effects of not automating processes is real and can be very costly for an organisation.
One customer we partnered with had a major problem. Operators had no way of knowing if events from HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coax) cabinets were legitimate or caused by maintenance work being carried out on the cabinets. The data relating to the status of the cabinet maintenance was held in a separate system that was not accessible to the operators. This caused confusion for all involved and slowed down the time of resolution for the events. This issue also caused a knock on effect where operators were unable to authorise truck rolls (deploying a service team) to fix non-existent issues. This was extremely costly.
To tackle these issues, we implemented a simple automation solution to correlate the events with the relevant reference data and to populate the events with maintenance information. This allowed operators to easily identify if a cabinet was in a maintenance window or if an engineer needed to visit the cabinet. It also updated the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, allowing their customers to check on outage data in their area, further reducing the number of trouble tickets opened.
In just 6 months, the customer saved over 250K.
So the next time your NOC processes are up for review, be wary of someone saying “We’ve always done things this way”.


3 August
2016

How Proactive Communications Can Impact Customer Experience

Digital Service Providers (DSPs) are increasingly focusing their efforts on improving customer experience. Understandably a lot of this effort goes towards measuring and improving the buying and sharing stages of the Customer Lifecycle[1]. From my viewpoint, Usage is arguably the most important for customers because it’s about their experience with the product, yet in this stage, DSPs tend to focus on how any problems are handled. Obviously how (and how often) a DSP interacts with a customer at this time is key, but this means they’re typically starting from a point of weakness; the customer’s dissatisfaction. So, what if there was another way to improve the customer’s usage experience, before they become dissatisfied?

Pre-emptive communication with customers in many industries, especially around planned works, is well known to reduce the need for customers to reach out in anger via some communication channel. This approach doesn’t necessarily speed up resolutions to problems, but it does foster a level of understanding and in some cases forgiveness with the customer. In the past, I worked in the technical support department of a large telecommunications vendor, and regular and informative communication with our customers was an accepted way of diminishing any possible escalation, while we resolved problems. The ongoing communication process fostered a sense of teamwork or probably more appropriate in this case, partnership.

Yet separated network and customer-focused departments – often geographically – can make this pre-emptive communications model complex, or often impossible. The Network (or Service) Operations Centre (NOC), is primarily focused on ensuring network resources are available. Some maturity exist to help DSPs understand how these resources affect the overlying services that the business depends upon, yet very rarely is customer impact truly understood. Generally, the exchange of information between the NOC and Customer Services is limited to a context-free few lines of text digital transmitted from a fault management system to a helpdesk/CRM solution.

To address this, it’s important that DSPs unify data from both network and customer centres into a single (possibly shared) application, with network/service faults directly mapped to affected customers and level of impact. Not only would visibility of problems improve on both sides, but also pre-emptive communications could be initiated directly at the time of detection.

Engaging directly with customers, with informed communications, be they governments, corporate or end customers will lead to a reduction to incoming calls and other communications. This reduction will lead to more efficient use of customer service resources, with staff will be freed up to deal with other issues or better still drive other business initiatives. Furthermore, the additional time allocated to staff for these other tasks will be less constrained, leading to better quality of work produced and potentially happier staff.

By maintaining this communication throughout the resolution process, customers will be able to work around the problem, and particularly in the case of governments and corporate customers, follow any necessary processes to allow for business continuity.

Taking such an open and transparent approach to customer communication can help reduce the chances of customer dissatisfaction and help build a better customer supplier relationship.

Eirteic’s software development company Galileo Software recently demonstrated the benefits of such a customer-centric concept at TMForum! Live 2016 in Nice, France, as part of a Customer Centric Service Assurance catalyst. If you’re interested in talking to us further about how a more customer-focused approach to service assurance could benefit your business and improve your customer experience, please contact us at sales@eirteic.com.

[1] As defined by the TM Forum


16 June
2016

Orchestrating 5G

Switch

Weekly conversations with customers, partners and others about telco challenges and opportunities of SDN, NFV, analytics, customer care proove that 5G is a lot closer than we had anticipated. There have been significant developments in the nuts and bolts of 5G, which promises high-speed, on-demand data services, intelligent systems, powering more and more connected devices, cars, homes, clouds as well as connecting industries such as e-health and fintech.

But what’s less clear is how telcos will implement and manage their 5G infrastructure. For many, there’s already complexity from different systems and services, disparate networks and legacy OSS platforms.

Telcos need to start preparing for 5G now by simplifying processes, unifying their infrastructure and retiring legacy systems to create an end to end view of the network and services from a single point, to provide predictive analysis and better customer management. predict service issues. Orchestration automation tools are also important to speed up and simplify planning and deployment of new services, and freeing up IT staff to focus on higher value activities.

Orchestration automation creates a more agile environment and helps telcos more quickly react to market challenges expected with 5G – connected cars, Smart City IoT devices and so on – and speed up time to bring new services to market. The key is dynamic delivery of 5G services and management of the network through orchestration, to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

At Eirteic, we’ve recently partnered with Cortex, which provides real-time automation to give companies a distinct competitive advantage. Cortex is already helping organisations like Vodafone shift over 80 per cent of their team to customer facing roles and realising triple revenue; and Thomson Reuters saving hundreds of millions of dollars per year in real cost.


29 April
2016

Preparing networks for 5G

5G is one of the most anticipated trends this year. It promises a new era of connectivity, with seamless broadband, billions of IoT devices, HD voice, faster data speeds, ultra-low latency as well as significant revenue opportunities. It’s a way off yet, so what do service providers need to know about planning for and managing a 5G network?

While there’s been a host of announcements from major players Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, Nokia Networks, SKT, Samsung and Qualcomm all testing 5G and demonstrating the possibilitie, but the reality is that there’s still a lot of work to do.

The industry needs to agree what the 5G standard will look like, and iron out the uncertainties about what future problems it might solve. And while that’s happening, the network and infrastructure guys need to figure out how it will be integrated and deployed. These teams are already battling with increased pressures of providing more complex and on-demand services, meaning existing infrastructure and management will need to change.

A typical CSP infrastructure is complex, consisting of a range of legacy network management tools and services, which are ageing, siloed and costly to maintain. They have created an inability to support end to end visibility, complex integration points across the OSS stack and ultimately, an exposure to not being able to support new technologies and services such as SDN, NFV or 5G. In fact, according to TM Forum, CSP’s are stuck spending too much time managing legacy OSS environments, so are unable to focus on the future; “21.4% of CSPs believe their operations/legacy OSS/BSS infrastructure are not agile enough to support new service offerings and silos are required.”

It’s no surprise then that some telcos are looking at new technologies to unify their OSS architectures, which provide an end to end service-centric view of the network and the agility to deploy new services quickly and efficiently. An example is eir, Ireland’s largest telco provider and the first to launch 4G in the region, undertook a project to unify voice, data, Internet, value-add services and IT (for example internal help desk) into a single management platform. The project resulted in a 65% reduction in OpEx as well as a significant reduction in time to market because of streamlined service management capabilities.

Projects like eir’s are already helping telcos achieve a service-centric environment that helps them improve reliability and customer experience (and reduce churn), better meet SLAs, increase speed to identify and respond to faults, and importantly be able to quickly deploy new services as market demand changes.

It’s a few years until 5G will be fully understood and ready to roll. In the meantime, CSPs have their work cut out creating more agile, flexible environments that answer industry problems of today, while paving the way for a smooth transition of 5G and other technologies in the future.