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The Telecom Conundrum and the Cup of Coffee

Posted by: Raj Sahakari On November 02, 2016 07:12 PM

Raj Sahakari, Principal Consultant – Network Services, Tech Mahindra

During one of our recent coffee table chats, a friend asked me, “From violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, what colour would you choose, and why?”

At the outset, I thought he was out of topics to talk about and was making small talk. Nonetheless, I gave his question some thought. And the more I thought, the more the answer eluded me. Why would I choose red over green? After making a few ‘colourful’ comparisons, I admitted that I could not pick one colour over the other. But my not-easy-to-please friend continued, “And can you tell me why you are struggling to make a choice?” I pondered a little more before confessing, “It depends on the context. I like different colours in different situations. It’s not a blanket choice and so I cannot place a finger on ‘one’ colour”.

“Precisely!” he said with his smile broadening. “And you were the one who said that Standard-A would score over Standard-B back then”. I realized that my telecom-to-the-core buddy always wanted to get back at me for the fiery debate we had had on two competing telecom standards, many years ago. But I still asked, “Are you referring to our conversation from last decade? I don’t even remember when that was!”

“Yes”, he interjected. “It was in 2009, and I had told you that it would not be an easy choice. And that probably both the standards would continue, with adaptations for both of them, depending on the context.”

“But why are we discussing this now?” I asked, a little puzzled. He was quick to reply, “Because we are in a similar situation again and have been so on many occasions in the past too. I am referring to the network changes that telcos globally are facing currently, in light of options related to virtualization, agile service launches and new revenue streams”.

I understood. My friend was referring to SDN/NFV, 5G, LPWA technologies and the new kid on the block, NB-IoT. He knew that I was dabbling with some of these technologies, trying to make business sense for my customers, and he probably felt that he should share some wisdom to help ease the maze in my mind. Given that my friend is a Telecom Guru, I did not want to miss this opportunity. “You spoke my mind”, I said, and exclaimed excitedly, “All yours Sir! It would be a pleasure to hear your views”.

He said, “The number of open source and standardization initiatives especially around SDN/NFV, is overwhelming! Be it OPNFV, Open Source MANO, ECOMP, Open-O or Gohan. From a standardization perspective, there are efforts by ETSI-NFV, TMForum-ZOOM, MEC, ONOS and OpenDaylight. Similarly, for LPWA, we have LoRA, SIGFOX, Ingenu and NB-IOT, to name a few.

“However, neither the carriers nor the supporting ecosystem can afford to ‘wait and watch’. It is important to get the ball rolling because learnings will come out of actual deployments. The cost dynamics would most possibly work in the carrier’s favour once a “fail-fast” approach is adopted. The quick course-corrections based on what works and what doesn’t, will help chart a clearer implementation roadmap for carriers or operators. Hence, this would have to be an iterative process, whilst keeping a tab on the progress made by Standards bodies and Open Source organizations. Hence, the tyre has to hit the road, and earlier the better!

“So, for a company like yours, which sits pretty on account of its software pedigree coupled with networks expertise, you have all the opportunities to tap into, out there. However, you would need to strategise and prioritise carefully. There are 4 things I can think of where you could score.

  • Ecosystem Creation. Strong partner collaboration is required. One that puts together an end-to-end solution, backed by a flexible framework to accommodate various use case scenarios. No better player to make it happen than you, given your healthy relationships with the vendor community.
  • Test & Certification. Operators need a neutral body to validate and guarantee the functional and performance criteria of the solution they wish to deploy. This would help increase their adoption confidence. You have been vendor agnostic all along and that’s a big plus. It would score hugely in your favour.
  • Anchoring Point. You could be a one-stop shop which also serves as the only face to the operator, for all implementation and operations activities.
  • Process Changes. You could help identify and re-design various processes for the operator, be it across procurement, deployment or operations. You could introduce aspects like automation to facilitate that change.

That’s what I think. Hope my 2 cents would be of some help”.

His 2 cents had already begun to feel like a million dollars!

“Wonderful! …. and spot on!” I said, and went deeper into thought.

I pondered - and while I also enjoy the rainbow that the colours that my friend had thrown at me over the coffee chat create, I realized that the rainbow is only a momentary phenomenon that finally merges into one colour. I had found some answers at the end of the conversation that evening.

Have you, too, found some answers that you would like to share?

Tags: Leadership Talk
 
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