The current world situation proves to be a testing time for Communication Service Providers (CSP), as they are facing many new challenges. The main are:
- a visible slowdown in revenue and new subscribers in developed markets;
- investors pressuring to reduce costs and introduce more agility;
- many technology changes at once: 5G, public cloud adoption, moving workloads to the edge, increasing automation and machine learning usage.
Although the above can be a real problem for many CSP’s, it’s also an opportunity to expand and improve, because there’s a way to tackle these issues – Cloud adoption.
Cloud Adoption is Growing Across All Verticals
Mobile Network Operators have by now established many commercial relations in the industry and thus are one of the key players in Cloud adoption. Public cloud providers are hardly a competition, if MNO’s operate as a cloud broker, which can offer end to end value and a full service with much better user experience and more personalisation.
First of all, there are many internal benefits of Cloud adoption.
Better Cost Structure
Shifting from the traditional CapEx heavy model to OpEx driven introduction of new services improves TCO and moves a lot of risks related to a new offering away from the operator.
A More Flexible Infrastructure
Which allows to achieve business agility and greatly reduces time to market new services. This is realised not only by faster and much more automated development, testing and productization, but also by opening for more 3rd party providers, who may not be experts in SS7 and Diameter but experts in IT traffic monitoring and security solutions, providing high quality solutions faster than ever seen in closed environment of MNO.
No Vendor Dependencies
Currently, a typical operator has tens (if not hundred) of different hardware and software vendors, providing specialised platforms for a particular network part. Fortunately, ATCA times are over, and most workloads in the back of CSP datacentres now run on standard IT architectures.
This, however, didn’t remove the problem, but simply moved it one layer up.
Now, when buying a new NFV from a certain vendor, CSP’s are tied to his NFVI, MANO etc. even if in theory they should be multi-vendor capable. On the other hand, if CSP run their vMME on AWS, they’re using all standard and familiar tools for deployment, management, monitoring. You can also observe all major vendors already cooperating with cloud providers and making their network elements ready to be run on a cloud.
From an external business perspective, Cloud adoption provides a few major opportunities.
Wide MEC Adoption
You can already hear whispers in the conference lobbies, that “edge is a new cloud” and I think that there is a lot of truth in that.
Currently almost every big business considers moving (at least partially) to a public Cloud – benefits are obvious. Last month, some major providers had to “ration” their services due to demand overgrowing their capacity. I foresee that edge, thanks to Multi-Access Edge Computing and wider 5G adoption, will be the next most wanted resource.
There are many new business use-cases enabled by low latency and close to the end user platform to host applications. I see a great synergy here between an MNO (experienced in RAN, 5G and general maintenance of base stations) and a public cloud provider, who brings a very efficient way of re-selling computing capacities to many users in a self-service mode. Imagine that a developer deploying his app is not choosing between Frankfurt and in London, but rather selecting a certain area where his app should operate, making it a truly distributed service.
Becoming An E2E Solution Provider
Mobile operators already have a huge customer base, since literally every business needs a phone and a mobile subscription. In addition, there is a huge network of physical service points in every city in the country. This is a much more convenient way of delivering E2E IT services at scale, and also very attractive for public cloud providers, extending their reach even further.
User experience is much greater if customers can go to one place, buy phones, office software subscription, cloud subscription, automated call centres on the cloud and a sales prediction engine, put all of this on one bill (and in case of trouble, have a single point of contact). Such an approach would also allow to introduce industry specific solution ie. furniture factory IT, containing all necessary services, tailored to business needs of a targeted vertical.
Repackaging Existing Capabilities
MNO’s have a lot of software-based services they provide to subscribers, from simple corporate voice VPN’s to IoT platforms, dedicated for oil pipelines monitoring. All of them are very valuable pieces of IP. Migrating them to the cloud is not only giving typical benefits mentioned in the beginning of this post but also allows to package it and provide in a Cloud marketplace available to others.
A small operator from a developing country would not be able to invest into building such solutions but might use a stable and proven product from a major player available for him in one click. This generates a new revenue stream, which could cover the migration costs and make migration “free”.
Although the list of challenges can seem overwhelming for a single organisation, Cloud adoption may solve most of the issues and provide some added value.
Ultimately, current issues very often work as a kick-start for changes, which will bring benefits for many years to come.