Today, telecommunications companies are forced to reckon with the changes that have taken place in the market: the emergence of new competitors; competition with wireless networks; VoIP; cable companies; IPTV; the influence of the Internet and OTT, and so forth. In response, network operators accelerated the transition to digital formats based on IP technologies, low latency, better standardisation and now even on virtualisation of network functions (NFV). So it’s time to drop paleontological prejudices.
What’s more, the modern level of competition put an end to the era of the ‘this is not invented by us’ principle, when operators define the technologies used. Any transmitting company that wants to continue to use only its own technologies risks lagging far behind its competitors.
There are many powerful incentives for companies to use the latest and best of their kind of solutions. Telecoms providers have to build, buy, or use on a partnership basis, technological improvements or solutions for subscribers, and these actions created a market worth $5.6 trillion.
This figure suggests that the solutions telecom companies need are really worth it.
So what are the five most important spheres; the gaps in which telecommunications companies, in their opinion, should be filled by their partnership with the creators of technologies and solutions? The Silicon Valley Telecommunications Council conducted a survey of a dozen network operators asking them one general question: what technologies, innovations and partnerships would you like to receive from development companies in the next few years?
And although this year there was no congress of operators, preliminary reports of telecoms companies say that they are waiting for innovative solutions in several areas.
Increase of ‘cloudy’
Cloud technology has already become a huge business for many companies, and telecoms firms play an important role in the development of cloud services, data centres and regular communications.
Today, operators want to build more hybrid clouds where businesses can mix private and public cloud services; a social Internet of Things scenario. Firewalls and security solutions are also important. Any ideas related to improving the performance of data centres and saving energy are also welcome.
Remote infrastructure has developed over the past decade, moving along the stack of the OSI network model. Originating as a simple rental of seats in peer to peer counters, it reached the level of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), when users could rent virtual machines while managing their operating systems, software, and file storage. The IaaS system was truly revolutionary and companies like Amazon Web Services LLC revolutionised pricing, being startups.
The next stage was platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). Thanks to SaaS, users get a complete software solution, accessible from any computer with a simple browser or mobile application. This innovative solution sweeps billions of box office sales, and is where we are today.
However, telecommunications companies are now turning their eyes towards XaaS, or anything as a service. In other words, it can be communication-aaS, network-aaS, disaster recovery-aaS, healthcare-aaS… you get the idea. Telecommunications companies see themselves as natural sellers of various XaaS solutions and are looking for partners who could build them all on a turnkey basis.
IT departments of various companies use virtualisation to reduce costs, increasing reliability and flexibility in their corporate networks. Today, telecommunications companies take on these great ideas and virtualise their telecommunications networks. Solutions that were previously offered in the form of standalone, dedicated specialised functional boxes from Tier 1 manufacturers today moved to virtual machines, implemented as programs on more powerful hardware.
NFV, or virtualisation of network functions, will allow operators to obtain greater flexibility and weaken the binding to one supplier, giving a greater opportunity to experiment with new services and more quickly determine their profitability. Costs are reduced, in terms of finances, time, and risks. The end result with be the expansion of cooperation between many suppliers and related industries, large and small.
Virtualisation also gives operators the flexibility necessary to negotiate partnership agreements in the implementation of best-of-breed solutions, as well as the ability to quickly launch these solutions. They are not dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are not virtual – although that said, we saw a couple of virtual dinosaurs using VR glasses – however, these were certainly not communication operators.
The software-configurable network (SDN) is a later stage in the development of NFV. SDN allows operators of telecommunications companies to manage their virtual networks programmatically, so the network responds to real-time requests, connecting additional VNF machines in response to surges in the consumption of network resources and for other functions, or geographically – for example to provide the flow of messaging services during a football match, or exchanging messages during street protests, or managing emergency response scenarios.
4G and 5G
Telecoms companies are keenly interested in knowing the possibilities of the forthcoming 5G standards, and also making sure that their future needs – in other words, SDN – are inscribed in the body of standards. This gives rise to a number of difficulties, since even a solid SDN concept has not yet been worked out, and NFV is only taking its first steps in commercial applications.
At the same time, wireless network operators are concerned not only about technologies that give 4.5G solutions, such as IoT availability, low-power radio communication, low latency, MIMO, CA, LTE-U, VoLTE, and so forth. Companies are more interested in what new money-making opportunities these new functions can bring to them, and what OTT will pry from it first. The question of the telecom operator here is: how can we make money by investing in the development of 4.5G networks?’ Companies that can answer this question should expect a warm welcome.
Internet of Things
Not so long ago, the countries of Europe and Asia reached 100% coverage of their territories by mobile communication. However, these figures do not mean a limit. After people are connected, it’s time to connect their belongings.
There are a number of problems with the Internet of Things (IoT) – device type, battery life, signal strength, networks, device management, OSS/BSS, business models and so on – but at the same time there are also ample opportunities for businessmen who have answers to the requests of telecommunication companies. Telecoms need assistance in connecting cars, equipment and sensors to a full-scale system.
Telecommunications companies today are extraordinarily clever. Perhaps you will not call their work quick and pleasant, but let’s recognise that these companies control huge amounts of money and significantly improve the wellbeing and opportunities for partnership with small firms. The need for this continues. For businesses and manufacturers today, the question arises of the advisability of cooperation with a small firm. Everything depends on you – but it will be much better if you focus your attention on one of the five ‘white spots’ in technology today outlined above.