Do it yourself or outsource: What’s your best option for scaling fast?
Communications service providers (CSPs) need flexible, scalable networks to support today’s dynamic, hyperconnected society — a fact underscored by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. But those networks can’t come at too high a “complexity cost”. For CSPs that want a fast, manageable way to scale, the business case for outsourcing network expansion and operations is getting stronger by the day.
Most networks were built to serve tried-and-true user patterns — 9-to-5 workdays (more or less), with network traffic concentrated in urban centers, at industrial sites and along main commuter routes. It’s now well observed that COVID-19 completely turned that around. Now people work from home and conduct more of their personal business online, too. They engage in data-intensive activities that require high quality and speed such as videoconferencing, streaming and gaming — often outside of network high-coverage zones.
Other use cases are adding to network traffic, too. Companies such as Amazon and UPS are exploring drone-based delivery systems that require network connectivity. DHL and other couriers have already used drones to deliver blood samples and medicines to remote islands and villages. Connected ambulances are out on city roadways in some jurisdictions, and many governments are using communications networks for COVID-19 contact tracing.
All this traffic is dispersed over wide areas at relatively low densities. There’s no sign of returning to the old patterns anytime soon, nor is network growth expected to slow down.
The average CSP anticipates 73% growth in the number of base stations in the next five years and will have to deal with refarming, legacy decommissioning, the rollout of 5G and an LTE refresh. All these are large, complex projects that require high levels of automation and digitalization in operations to ensure costs don’t get out of control.
Choosing the way forward: do-it-yourself or outsource your NOC?
So what’s a CSP to do? One option is to scale up their networks themselves by transitioning toward digital and automated operations — the foundation of which needs to be a digital network architecture.
This do-it-yourself (DIY) approach ensures CSPs retain full control over their networks. But it can saddle them with the entire burden of network evolution, and building and managing a digital network architecture is no simple task. It requires significant upfront investment, and the returns can take a long time to materialize.
When network expansion tasks and operations are outsourced, CSPs can gain the benefits of existing digital architecture and cloud-based operations without having to build or manage them themselves. Instead, they can focus on managing and delivering their core offerings.
With an outsourced network operations center (NOC), new products and services can be delivered rapidly and with minimal capital investment. They can also be deployed where and when they’re needed, and even redeployed quickly if needs change.
CSPs seeking efficiency and performance often find outsourced NOCs appealing because some provide data-driven, closed-loop automation, which leads to faster, more cost-effective and reliable service delivery. These NOCs’ traffic optimization and steering help ensure the networks are being used as optimally as possible, with advanced AI-based outage prediction speeding up the time from issue detection to resolution. CSPs also appreciate having easy access to a single pane of glass that gives them full transparency into deployment progress and operations.
Transforming the network lifecycle with an outsourced model
The time to market gains and cost savings from using outsourced network builds or operations can be significant. When digitized methods-of-procedure (DigiMops) are also in the mix, CSPs can apply rules to automate formerly manual and fragmented processes. Nokia research shows this can reduce service delivery times by up to 74% and delivery costs by up to 31%. We’ve also found those services can be delivered up to 90% more reliably. The upshot is an overall operational expenditure savings of as much as 20–25%.
At Nokia, we provide network operations for CSPs, handling services for more than one billion subscribers. Our NOCs and service delivery centers are powered by our award-winning AI analytics, virtualization and automation (AVA) cognitive framework that supports data-driven insights, intelligence and predictive capabilities. They also include embedded security to ensure safe operations and compliance with all relevant regulations. Their managed network operations are enabling CSPs around the world to transform and digitize their entire network lifecycles.
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