What managed services need to bring in the 5G era
I look forward to the GlobalData benchmark study on managed service providers every year because it gives a neutral, fact-based assessment of leading vendors based on consistent and comprehensible criteria. I’m also pleased that, for the second year in a row, GlobalData has ranked Nokia as a leader for our scale and reach, expertise, network design and optimization (NDO) skills, service agility and commercial model.
Those criteria matter to customers — and also signal a fundamental change in managed services from people-based outsourcing focused on augmenting headcount and controlling costs to a more strategic enabler of digital transformation.
Transformation is often called a journey but it’s more truly an expedition, demanding careful preparation and execution. Many expeditions are doomed from the start due to a lack of good planning, infrastructure and equipment. Most serve up unforeseen situations and other imponderables that demand quick adaptation.
The GlobalData study spells out four key prerequisites for a successful transformation expedition: a digital approach to NDO, data-driven closed-loop operations, service agility, and having a variety of commercial models.
Network design and optimization the digital way
A digital NDO approach is critical due to the complexities that come with 5G: network densification, new spectrum bands, cloudification and stricter performance parameters for bandwidth, reliability and latency. Getting this right is fundamental to managing the network in the best possible way.
Data-driven closed-loop operation
Closed-loop automation and data-driven approaches can help guarantee the highest service quality and productivity in 5G operations. Nokia was one of the first to use artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to operate customers’ networks and services, with webscale models for service automation. Our AVA (Analytics, Virtualization, Automation) platform made cognitive operations available to customers back in 2016 — enhancing and later replacing rigid rules-based automation with processes based on machine learning.
According to the GlobalData benchmark study, this gave Nokia a head start at using proactive and predictive operations in complex, multi-vendor environments to tackle issues before they compromise performance. We injected AI into service operations early — including data center operations and customer-facing applications — to fast-track innovation and handle complex tasks such as detecting sleeping cells and optimizing energy management across network layers. If you’d be interested in precise cell site degradation prediction seven days in advance, cutting 15% of your energy bill or eliminating 70% of critical service tickets for a superior customer experience, just let us know.
Service agility measures how effectively a managed services vendor can help communications service providers (CSPs) bring more services to market, more rapidly. Considering the plethora of new use cases possible in the 5G era and the multi-trillion-dollar business opportunity that comes along with them, reducing time to market by a factor of 4 to 6 would be a huge gain. Understanding that has motivated us at Nokia to enable broader service ecosystems that allow CSPs to offer, for example, managed IoT and security solutions with faster time to market at lower risk and cost. According to GlobalData, this is an area where Nokia managed services stand out from all other vendors. Our WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid) offering is a market-making example of a white-labelled B2B2X IoT service, and we’re now working on expanding it with prepackaged vertical IoT offerings and 5G extensions to maintain our lead in B2B2X service ecosystems.
Flexible and modular commercial models
Last but not least, the type and variety of commercial models is also important. After all, no two customers’ journeys are exactly alike. CSPs need to be able to pick from a modular, customizable portfolio of “micro” managed services and business models so they can outsource as many aspects of their operations as needed, wherever it serves their business best.
These micro services need to be injectable on demand into operations. They let CSPs choose the right “gear” for their transformation expeditions — which, with Nokia, ranges from basic operations assistance to fully managed operations and end-to-end network transformation, including everything-as-a-service options to facilitate the launch of new 5G-enabled services in vertical industries. We believe these kinds of micro services make us a better, more active partner to our customers than a one-size-fits-all model.
Being recognized by GlobalData as a leader in managed services is something we’re proud of at Nokia, but we’re even more excited about what’s ahead and the business potential we can help our customers realize with AI-based cognitive operations. It’s an area we’re committed to maintaining our leadership in because we know there’s still so much more to gain with AI/ML. The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.
We’re proud of what we’ve achieved. But I’m already looking forward to next year’s benchmark study.