Upfront deployment of 5G analytics is essential to the operational and cultural transformation that 5G migration requires – and that requires buy-in from the top down
By now, network operators have realized that 5G architectures are complex and fundamentally different from those of previous mobile generations. As such, 5G requires traditional telecom companies to transform themselves, not just from an infrastructure perspective, but operationally and culturally, as well.
While big changes can come as a shock to organizations with decades of deeply ingrained processes, operators have little choice but to bite the bullet. Here are a few success factors that can help network operations (NetOps) leaders meet their operations goals and optimize their organizations’ returns on the billions they invest in 5G.
1. Support analytics-driven network operations at the outset of 5G deployment
Analytics lie at the heart of 5G. Built into 5G radio access, core, and transport network standards, they’re a necessary component for managing 5G infrastructure, which is highly distributed and multivendor in nature. 5G networks require data-driven insights and automation—both real-time and historical—to function properly.
Agreement at all levels of your company is necessary to enable analytics adoption at the outset of 5G deployment and optimize its value. That’s because using 5G analytics tools drive a foundational shift in how network operations teams function. Ensuring that process changes are carried out across regions requires everyone to agree to invest in and support the tools, working toward a common goal of using them to optimize operations.
If deployed early, 5G analytics can start your operations staff out on the right footing. Teams across all service regions, for example, can begin cashing in on 5G’s promise of automated operational efficiencies and savings from Day One. Similarly, you can realize other 5G data-driven rewards early and grab a competitive edge, using analytics to drive new ways of serving customers and to create high-value services.
These big gains can’t happen without company-wide commitment. It doesn’t work for the IT department to deploy 5G infrastructure using 4G processes and tools, for example. Likewise, if IT unites on 5G operations but executive management remains focused on low-margin wireless connectivity services rather than innovation, 5G efforts will flounder.
Here are two examples of how different levels of buy-in affected operations and business outcomes. They reflect Guavus engagements with heads of operations in different telecom companies that both adopted the same NetOps-centric analytics tool.
The first operator had executive buy-in to modify its processes around the AI-driven analytics tool. The executive sponsor assigned process owners from multiple departments to collaborate on end-to-end implementation. Each process owner was required to report on the progress of tool adoption and changes to the existing processes required to optimize the impact of the tool. The company embedded the tool into everyday operations, training thousands of employees to use it for remote digital troubleshooting and remediation.
Result: annual savings of $12 million through the reduction of expensive truck rolls.
The second operator had deployed the tool in one sales region when it was acquired. The operations executive at the acquiring company had no interest in changing its processes and tried to shoehorn the tool into older practices. Teams were not provided any direction on how to implement the tool and thus usage was erratic and suboptimal.
Result: the tool remains stove-piped in the one region, which is saving $450,000 per year in truck roll reduction. However, had the organization expanded its use company-wide, the annual savings would have jumped to over $4 million.
Executive sponsorship and understanding the value AI-driven analytics tools can add to the organization was the difference between these two outcomes. The first operator saw a significant ROI from their investment in the NetOps analytics tool. The second operator not only wasted significant investment with little to no ROI but also missed an opportunity to improve organizational efficiency and customer satisfaction. It’s not enough to invest in an AI-driven analytics tool; an operator must commit to embracing the organizational and workflow changes which allow the tool to be used to its full potential.
2. 5G is an ecosystem play – seek objective consulting partners and telecom experts for help bridging expertise and integration gaps
Disruption from the top down is no small feat for established companies. It can be invaluable to engage a consulting partner that speaks the language of stakeholders throughout your organization, including those in your network operations group, in network design, and in executive management, to get full 5G commitment.
The partner should understand your telecom business inside and out but not have a vested interest in a particular vendor, solution, or technology. This liaison can bridge the gap between business functions, processes, and tools needed to fully exploit 5G.
NetOps personnel, for example, tend to be skeptical about change that can’t be shown to streamline operations today.But as telcos migrate to 5G, goals shift. The 5G-savvy partner can help educate your NetOps team on how to merge new 5G tools, processes, and associated training into your environments-in-transition for near-term payback.
The expert might also help you with the integration needed to maintain hybrid networks that consist of 4G, VoLTE, and new 5G components for a period of time.
3. Avoid “faster 4G” strategies – instead, address end-to-end 5G infrastructure, analytics, and training in parallel
Some NetOps leaders have opted to introduce 5G New Radio networks into their 4G/LTE core and transport infrastructures. While 5G radio-access networks (RANs) offer higher speeds and are slightly cheaper to operate, alone they don’t take advantage of 5G’s unique advances and potential. Their companies get “faster 4G” but at a huge cost and with no boost in competitiveness or to their razor-thin connectivity service margins.
You can get ahead of your 5G rivals, however, by building out RAN, core, and transport infrastructure components; analytics; and associated tools in parallel. This approach lets you start capitalizing on 5G’s flexibility, intelligence, and support for low-latency/real-time services from the get-go.
While analytics have been difficult for some operators to master, they represent 5G’s greatest opportunity. The 3GPP Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF) standard for 5G provides a centralized function for data collection and analytics, easing data operations even as you face unprecedented growth in the volumes of data you must store, manage, analyze, and correlate.
Building RAN, core, and transport infrastructure, adopting analytics, and training users on the 5G tools simultaneously makes the tools part of the new processes from the outset. That makes the learning curve less overwhelming. Deploying them later discourages user acceptance, which can sabotage ROI.
No more ‘business as usual’
The diverse opportunities of 5G far offset its complexity. But to take full advantage of the rewards 5G has to offer, you must embrace operational and cultural change. Organizational transformation and adoption are important and often overlooked pieces of the implementation process. These activities require senior leadership support and a willingness to change. Integrating analytics early in the network build-out process will ensure an easier transition for your entire organization.
5G means no longer business as usual, from network operations to marketing to strategic planning. Success with 5G transformation requires implementing end-to-end infrastructure, analytics, and training in parallel with top-down alignment on new business goals, operations processes, and tools. Those who take this approach and engage the right consulting and integration expertise to manage the transition will get a jump on the market and achieve the valuable business outcomes 5G makes possible.
By Kevin Keschinger, VP of Customer Success at Guavus (a Thales company)