In my last blog, I discussed the conundrum facing telcos in relation to how to respond to the rise of Google Fi and other network agnostic services: they can either go with the flow, fight fire with fire, or stick their heads in the sand and hope it goes away.
The latter option is no option at all though in my opinion; once Google Fi-enabled handsets become more prevalent and the subsequent consistency will become the preferred choice of consumers, there will be nowhere to hide. So this leaves us with the options to either collaborate or combat – here, we will examine the best way to collaborate.
T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, recently called the company’s move to partner with Google on Project Fi as “a no-brainer”. Yet agreeing to partner, and getting the full value from that partnership are two different things. For a partnership to be profitable, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) need to ensure they are always the network of choice; the more traffic that is going to their networks, the greater profit they will make. In this context, providing a consistent customer experience and the fastest connections are vital. So how can operators gain the service assurance needed to put them in poll position?
Technology holds the key for CSPs to gain a competitive advantage, and there are three core technologies in particular that will be crucial in the next five to ten years:
Network Function Virtualisation (NFV): NFV relates to the process of virtualising entire classes of network node functions into connected blocks, in order to replace hardware aspects of the network. This allows CSPs to gain greater flexibility and efficiency, meaning that customers benefit as CSPs can respond even faster to issues like a spike in bandwidth demand and adjust their capabilities without dropping service.
Software Defined Networking (SDN): The emerging architecture of SDN enables operators to manage their network with surgical precision, scaling up and down immediately, where and when needed. SDN gives network administrators the ability to directly programme the network from a central control point while simultaneously increasing agility, meaning that network upgrades are easier and faster to complete, resulting in less downtime for customers.
Real-time operational intelligence analytics: CSPs will need to deploy advanced operational analytics in order to guarantee that all the relevant information about the health of the network, such as traffic flows, areas suffering poor signal and the physical state of crucial hardware is available in real-time. They also need to provide usable feedback about creating further efficiencies, such as faster response times to faulty routers or using predictive maintenance to pre-emptively replace soon-to-break parts, thereby increasing the consistency of service and cutting outages down to a minimum.
The combination of these three technologies must be at the heart of any strategy based around optimising service assurance in order to become the preferred partner of the network agnostic services. Of course, this preferred partner strategy isn’t the only route telcos can go down. The final article in this series will look at the other option that telcos have open to them: tackling the competition head on!