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Go holistic to succeed with PSTN migration


Service providers need an integrated, business-driven approach to execute successful PSTN migration projects. Providers that take a piecemeal approach or treat it as a technical-only issue will not enjoy the transformative benefits that PSTN transformation can bring.

The potential benefits of PSTN migration hold considerable appeal. By moving PSTN services and subscribers to next-generation IP networks, a service provider can:

  • Lower OPEX by up to 50% by reducing power, space, and maintenance requirements
  • Create cost-saving efficiencies by aligning PSTN migration and broadband evolution initiatives
  • Create opportunities to upsell additional services

Service providers have to tackle some big challenges to get these benefits. Migration from the public switched telephone network isn’t a business-as-usual undertaking. It brings more risk, scale, complexity, and variables than providers have to handle in their regular operations. And its impact is broad. PSTN migration touches most key aspects of a service provider’s business, including customers, services, competitive positioning, and operations.

Service providers need to address 4 key challenges to run a successful PSTN migration project:

  1. Find skilled workers: Many PSTN experts are reaching retirement age. It’s increasingly difficult to find employees who have the skills for PSTN migration work.
  2. Maintain forward progress: The skills required– in particular, a deep understanding of networks and services –are also vital to top-priority daily operations. Service providers need to manage workers, skillsets, processes, and operations to keep migration on track and avoid disrupting everyday activities.
  3. Manage stakeholders: Migration requires effort and input from a variety of internal and external stakeholders like internal financial and technical teams and regulators. The service provider must ensure that all stakeholders understand how migration impacts them and what they need to do to benefit from it.
  4. Control execution: Service providers will need to juggle a complex mix of organizations, processes, equipment, and people. A provider needs to handle this complexity effectively and keep control of execution to avoid the risks inherent in scope, budget, and schedule creep.

These challenges aren’t easy ones. PSTN migration is a unique balancing act. It demands an approach that considers day-to-day requirements, stakeholder expectations, business objectives, and human and technology resource usage.

Why a holistic approach is required

Some service providers attempt to migrate PSTN services without taking steps to find and achieve this balance. They extend their existing processes to migration activities or take a piecemeal approach that prioritizes easy cases. These approaches may deliver some benefits initially. But these benefits will fade away when employees or in-house systems reach the limits of their capabilities.

By contrast, a holistic, business-driven approach can provide the right perspective for handling the scope and complexity of a PSTN migration project. The key is to treat migration as a business transformation or change management project rather than a technology upgrade. A service provider will get more benefit from migration if it unites its stakeholders, skills, and technologies around business-specific targets.

Given this business focus, a service provider’s top executives have an important role to play in driving the migration effort. Active oversight from the highest levels of the organization will help ensure that the migration project achieves important milestones and delivers the anticipated cost savings, revenue, and efficiencies.

4 ingredients for a successful PSTN migration

Each service provider will have its own unique goals and requirements. Despite these differences, every service provider needs 4 basic ingredients to execute a successful migration:

1. The right plan

A successful migration project starts with a good plan. Service providers should use the planning process to assess their internal capabilities, anticipate and mitigate risks, and define a realistic view of migration and post-migration operations. A good plan will include consideration of:

  • Strategy: The planning stage offers a chance to assess and address the opportunities that PSTN transformation can bring. A service provider can use this stage to evaluate use cases and scenarios and build a strategy that’s right for its business, customers, and stakeholders.
  • Present mode of operations (PMO): Planning can provide a chance to assess how well current operations, technologies, and networks meet the needs of the marketplace. A thorough assessment of the PMO will allow a service provider to identify and close gaps.
  • Future mode of operations (FMO): Before migrating services or users, a service provider must decide what its business should look like after migration. With a clear and well-thought-out FMO vision, a service provider can define a business-wide approach for achieving it.
  • Legacy migration: A provider must determine how to get from PMO to FMO. An effective legacy migration plan will consider industry standards, proven migration techniques, tools and processes. It will also address user impact and plans for old equipment following migration.

The scope and details of the planning process will differ based on each service provider’s commercial and technical requirements. In every case, comprehensive planning will give the service provider the best possible chance to get full value from PSTN migration.

2. The right capabilities

Service providers can’t make PSTN migration manageable by extending existing processes, increasing headcount, or scaling up familiar migration techniques. It demands specialized skills, techniques, and tools.

In developing a PSTN migration strategy, a service provider must assess its in-house skills and capabilities, recognize where it faces risks, and take action to mitigate these risks. The provider may require support from consultants or vendors to gain a true understanding of its readiness for migration. A thorough assessment will allow the service provider to determine how much it can reasonably achieve with its own resources and what level of support it requires from outside the organization.

3. The right approach to execution

A service provider faces complexity on a new scale when it migrates PSTN services. For example, a TDM-to-IP migration project will involve old and new equipment deployed across many central offices. It might require input from many people and organizations. It could affect thousands of subscribers who could become dissatisfied if their services are disrupted. In many cases, the service provider will have to make migration happen with scarce resources, a limited budget, and considerable time pressure.

This complexity demands execution on an industrial scale. This means moving from horizontal, one-task-at-a-time execution to vertical execution, which will allow the service provider to work on many tasks in parallel. The move to vertical execution will come with automation that enables the provider to achieve economies of scale, optimize processes, and make better use of skills and resources.

To industrialize execution, a service provider needs support and tools that address:

  • Management and migration operations: A dedicated migration team with expertise in technology, logistics, and project management can ensure industrialized, vertically aligned execution.
  • Workload and workforce management: Specialized tools can streamline resource and task management, helping to keep the migration project on target and on budget.
  • Data validation, translation, and provisioning: Tools designed for mass data migration can help service providers handle diverse or disparate data faster and more accurately.
  • Field operations: Purpose-built verification, testing, and cutover tools can help field technicians work with more speed and quality. Tools that automate processes can eliminate manual tasks and costly human errors.

4. The right partner

PSTN migration requires specialized capabilities. Most service providers have some of these capabilities. Some will try to use and expand on them. But many will find it easiest and most cost effective to work with a partner that can apply real-world experience, proven solutions, and industrialized execution capabilities to their migration case.

An ideal partner is one that can:

  • Deliver tools, methodologies, and services that are built for PSTN migration
  • Use relevant experience to offer an objective view of the migration business case
  • Offer experience with legacy and next-generation technology, along with the process involved in migrating services from one to the other
  • Reliably automate processes to control cost and effort

Unlock the value in legacy PSTNs

Legacy PSTN services can evolve and provide compelling value to subscribers and service providers for years to come. Migration to next-generation IP networks is the key to unlocking this value.

Service providers can’t get the full benefit of PSTN-to-IP migration with partial or technology-focused solutions. They need solutions that apply a business focus to the many complexities and challenges that legacy PSTN migration can bring. With the right planning, capabilities, approach to execution, and partnerships, service providers can use PSTN migration to optimize OPEX, revenue, and operational efficiency.

Dariusz Bakula

About Dariusz Bakula

Dariusz (Darek) Bakula is a Senior Consultant and Product Line Manager responsible for global migration and consolidation services at Nokia. He has hands-on experience leading entire work streams for multimillion value complex transformation projects in EMEA and Americas. With 22 years in the industry, he has a deep understanding of the business and technology needs, opportunities and challenges that drive Network Transformation projects. During this time, he managed technical and consulting teams in AT&T Network Systems, Lucent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia. He contributes to the industry as a conference speaker, panelist and blogger. Base location: Poland.

Eddy Vergauwen

About Eddy Vergauwen

Eddy leads global marketing activities for professional and support services within Nokia Fixed Networks, drawing on his 20 years’ experience in innovation management, strategy, business development and product management. When he doesn’t have his hands full with Nokia, you might well find him with either a guitar or a golf club in his hand instead.

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