Telecom network operations and infrastructure planning: Outsourcing the challenge

Next-generation network complexity is causing heavy increases in telecom network operations costs, and finding the skill set needed to integrate and maintain network infrastructure are is increasingly difficult. Telecom carriers are exploring new outsourcing strategies to help integrate and manage their networks as IT resources increasingly become part of telecom infrastructure as carriers create flexible service lifecycle processes.

Editor's note:. Providing customers with flexible "experiences" rather than long-term services has changed the way telecom service providers connect their telecom infrastructure planning to service deployment. This article looks at why carriers need to change their network operations planning and management to fulfill the promise of next-generation networks. Then in LINK: Outsourcing solutions for next-gen network integration and operations, author Tom Nolle looks at how carriers are changing their network operations strategies and processes to get around a lagging standards process and address technology interoperability challenges.

Telecom network operators have always faced the challenge of matching their technology and infrastructure to

The challenge is to match customers' short-term demand cycles with infrastructure planning cycles that can be 10 times as long as the demand for a service.
Tom Nolle
CIMI Corp.
related services opportunities in order to generate revenue. But the Internet has changed the planning requirements for infrastructure and network operations planning, and service providers must adapt quickly.

In the past, the challenge of matching services to technology deployments was easier because the project lifecycles and capital cycles of telecom service providers were typically very long (seven-to-20 years), and the corresponding services evolved over a long period of time.

Consumer broadband changed telecom infrastructure and services balance

In terms of major change, the most important service lesson the Internet has taught is that consumer broadband services aren't long-lived extensions of traditional telecom services. Instead, consumer broadband services are linked to the creation and delivery of experiences. As such, services in the Internet era are linked to consumer market trends and fads that often develop and die within a year.

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In fact, the Internet's worldwide reach created the perfect platform to develop and socialize new opportunities, which shortened the cycle of consumer interest and opportunity. Over-the-top (OTT) Internet companies evolved to meet customer needs and built a "soft" infrastructure made up of services and software.

This new structure was nimble and highly flexible, and as a result, most Internet opportunities went to the new players, creating "disintermediation" that cut traditional telecom carriers out of the revenue stream.

Traditional carriers face next-gen network operations issues

Today telecom carriers are competing with over-the-top companies that don't have enormous investments in infrastructure and are highly flexible. In light of these competitive pressures, the challenge for facilities-based carriers is to match customers' short-term demand cycles with infrastructure planning and capital cycles that can be 10 times as long as the demand for a service.

The solution is to integrate more IT resources into infrastructure—servers, software and service delivery platforms (SDPs)—and to create and sustain flexible service lifecycle processes that can provision long-lived enterprise services and support Web-delivered experiences that may last only a matter of hours or minutes.

The technology that can provide these capabilities is understood, and most operators are already deploying next-generation networks based on the paradigms of hosted service features and opportunity-driven service plans. Sorting out telecom network operations issues are next on the agenda.

Tackling telecom network operations issues and rising costs

Direct telecom network operations costs worldwide average 1.22 times more than carriers' capital equipment costs, and operators report that between 25% and 45% of these costs are related to dealing with errors made by operations personnel while performing configuration management, problem resolution, upgrades and additions to infrastructure, and other routine network operations tasks.

As the infrastructure that can deal with the new pace of opportunity becomes more complex, these cost points can only rise. The new complexity demands a skill set that blends information systems technology and network technology with some hard experience and applies both to NGN problems. Those skills are in short supply.

Continued: Outsourced solutions for next-gen network integration and operations

About the author: Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal addressing advanced telecommunications strategy issues. Check out his SearchTelecom.com networking blog Uncommon Wisdom.


This was first published in September 2009

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