Kathy Gibson reports from Huawei MEA Service Summit in Cape Town – Telecommunications operators are under pressure to transform to digital businesses – and it’s no small challenge.
New technologies and services like virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT) are placing new demands of telco networks, at the same time as customers demand better and cheaper services with low latency.
Steven Zheng, director of Middle East servce marketing and sales at Huawei, points out that as many as 100-billion IoT connections are expected by 2025, while customers expect instant responsiveness from their new applications.
“All of these requirements offer a business potential for operators,” Zheng says. “At the same time, they contribute the challenges.
“Today, the business environment is harder than ever. The oi price is dropping; there is a lot of cross-industry competition Meanwhile users want more but are unwilling to pay for it. And the user experience has changed significantly.”
Wei Bing, chief marketing officer of Huawei Global Technical Services, points out that operators are being squeezed as voice revenue declines and competition comes at them from new and unexpected directions.
In the last couple of years, however, he says telcos have stepped up to the plate, positioning themselves as the partner of choice in the mobile and digital arena.
Digital business is being widely adopted worldwide, Bing says. This means exploring services that utilise the advantages of realtime responsiveness.
Use cases include cloud, 4K, voice over IP (VoIP) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Bing points out that telcos like Deutsche Telecom, and China Telecom have embraced these use cases, employing LTE services, and enjoyed growth in new business.
“The question is how to transform to digital business,” Bing says. “The digital technologies like big data, SDN, NFV and data centre are getting more mature. And they help operators to realise a more agile and flexible environment.”
On the other hand, he says, there is a big play for new services like cloud, video, VoIP and IoT. “Customer experience is key to capturing these opportunities. In fact, there is no difference between telecoms operations and Internet service providers – and the experience will determine who customers choose to sign up with.”
He points to online services that are available online, immediately compared to the long and onerous process involved in signing up for telco services.
“The need for a better experience is driving the re-architecting of operations and the ICT infrastructure.”
To provide new and better services, Bing says, the operations need to be realtime, digitised and autonomous. Meanwhile the infrastructure must be software defined and virtualised, with ultra-broadband in a cloud data centre.
Huawei aims to be the strategic partner for operators in enabling these new customer experiences, providing solutions across all the technology areas needed for telcos to make the transition.
Customers don’t simply want efficient services, they want them to be personalised and interactive, Bing points out. This means each customer needs to see a personalised interface – but this creates complexity inside the network, with customer care, network planning and key account management.
Huawei has set up 30 service operations centres (SOC) to help operators to meet these challenges, and to help operators guarantee a quick personalised experience.
Bing recommends that operators transform their operations through FMO (future mode of operations), by transitioning to hybrid resources,
He cites the example of an African operator that wanted to turn its business vision into deliverables.
This involved four action points, Bing says, starting with strategic alignment and then a customer experience-driven infrastructure design.
To achieve this, a layered ICT infrastructure design was promulgated, optimised for cloud and network co-ordination, based on virtualised network functions offering low latency optimal costs and high reliability.
This was followed by an implementation plan to roll out the services across Africa
“We know this kind of transformation is not easy,” Bing says. “This is why we can simulate the environment before it goes live to make sure the transformation is relevant.
“The roadmap is there. I hope everyone will take action and move towards digital business,”  he adds.
Despite all these challenges, Zheng says Huawei has solutions to help operators to enhance experience through agile planning and optimisation; transforming ICT through a smooth network evolution; and saving on operating expenditure.
It aims to provide these services in partnership with operators, and has made a huge investment in joint innovation centres that helps to develop products and reduce risk.
With more than 600 senior consultants, the company focuses on end to end operations in these labs.
“The future is coming; we will try our best to use our latest technologies and operations to improve the user experience,” Zheng says.
“So Huawei, together with the operators and open community, commits to providing solutions and services to the industry. If the operators succeed, Huawei will succeed.”