Delivering the future: Reimagining how we think about access and core
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role a telecommunications infrastructure plays in running governments, businesses, health, and communities. According to UNESCO, by mid-April in 2020, COVID-19 had impacted 1.57 billion students due to school and university closures. Centers for diseases control and prevention (CDC) reported, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50% during the first quarter of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
The pandemic may have prompted the surge in telecom networks’ need to be robust and reliable, but the demand for broadband access has long been waiting in the wings and will continue long-after COVID-19. Automation, connectivity accessibility, and customer experience will hold the key to the service provider’s survival and growth.
Automation is the path to autonomous networks
Service providers are always under pressure to reduce operating costs, maximize existing investments, continuously innovate and generate new revenue streams. Service providers have invested in some siloed automation deployments to deliver the expectations above, which have only provided incremental benefits. Nevertheless, varying degrees of maturity around virtualization, machine-learning, and telemetry coupled with network automation rules have shown significant promise for industries and businesses as technology enablers.
Operators have already started to test concepts like “intent-based networking,” which is a new way of automating the network to ensure that it works the way as intended. Vodafone recently launched an “intent-based infrastructure” where they automated and simplified their network and IT systems to enable full automation of their transport connectivity services to provide greater flexibility and control on how their customers want to configure their network. Automation capabilities in the network would shorten the service provisioning timeframe, expedite quote-to-order processes and provide more self-serve capabilities to customers. It will enable customers to automate mundane tasks, create experiences that deliver competitive advantage, and add intelligence so they can work their way towards self-healing autonomous networks.
Connectivity for all: 5G, FWA, and CBRS
World Economic Forum reports that approximately 3.7 billion people, mostly in developing countries, still don’t have access to the internet. Many of this population will be unable to take advantage of critical health, education, and infrastructure-related innovations. The inaccessibility to connectivity also extends to North America. According to Microsoft’s Airband project update, approximately 157 million Americans do not use the internet at broadband speeds. Many governments have established programs to fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural areas, such as the Connect America Fund and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. What can service providers do? Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and the recently auctioned C-Band frequencies offer a silver-lining solution. Service providers are using CBRS to deliver home broadband in locations where wired broadband is challenging to reach. In Q3, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluded its spectrum auction (Auction 105) for the CBRS spectrum. Light Reading reported that the auction raised more than $4.5 billion. While Verizon led the way as the biggest spender ($1.89B for 557 licenses), cable operators Charter, Comcast, and Cox were also significant bidders who won many spectrum licenses.
Another technology enabler that will drive operator growth will be 5G. Most of the 5G talk has centered around mobile. But 5G home internet, or Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), are proving to be game-changers. Operators worldwide have launched their 5G for home broadband initiatives to deliver faster, more secure, with lower latency internet connections at home. Incognito’s APAC customer Globe Telecom launched the first 5G FWA home service in emerging markets where fiber optic cables’ roll-out presented some challenges. 5G will also open the floodgates for industrial-scale internet-of-things networks in factories, ports, and more. 5G will continue to deliver coverage quality by allowing operators to set up a private 5G network. The evolution at the core has started to take shape and will take the industry by storm.
Capitalizing on the Internet of Behaviors’ (IoB)
Reimagining subscribers’ experiences to deliver the unmet human need and drive growth is at the core of ‘IoB.’ Real-time monitoring, telemetry, bulk collection of device data will enable service providers to gain immediate visibility into the subscriber eco-system. The access to the data, management, and enablement of third-party services will allow service providers to play a larger role and create new value for their customers. They can now respond dynamically to their customer’s needs and provide a hyper-personalized quality of experience with actionable insights.
It will be exciting to see what lies ahead for the service providers in this race of delivering competitive advantage. They need to remain proactive, continue to realign, and add creative offerings to maximize revenue to be ready for the future. Whatever the future holds.