Rajesh Mishra, Co-Founder, President and CTO, Parallel Wireless
Till about a few years back, communication service providers (CSPs) had a comfortable existence. The networks used to be simple and telcos had to manage only voice landlines or 2G networks. Further, there was little or no competition, which meant significantly lower marketing spend, so there was hardly any need to come up with newer plans.
Things are different now with multiple technology networks, and a plethora of tariff plans, devices, and promotions to manage. The 2G, 3G, and 4G networks are going to co-exist in the Indian market for a long time. The result of this increased complexity is higher costs and reduced operational margins, longer time to market, and average quality of service.
In India, telcos have a number of tariff plans in each of 22 circles or service areas. This brings along an enormous operational and technical complexity. A hypercompetitive market, further demands that the telcos be agile enough to launch new tariff plans in response to the competition. Any delay in this can cost them subscribers and revenue.
As if managing 2G, 3G, 4G and in some cases, landline networks, is not enough, the telcos also need to continually upgrade the networks to meet the challenge from over-the-top (OTT) players. The service providers also need to prepare the networks for the advent of new technologies like 5G and Internet of Things (IoT). All this means that the network complexity is only going to increase.
In this scenario, it is apparent that they need to focus on simplifying the networks to enhance overall operational efficiency. Simplification of the networks will also add the much-needed flexibility and agility allowing quicker launch of new services and better service delivery. Legacy networks are mostly monolithic in nature and are not ready to meet the evolving customer need.
Leveraging Technologies with Simplified Networks
Technology that adds to the complexity also enables the simplification of the networks. A different approach can support the service providers in significantly bringing down the complexity and enhancing the overall operational efficiency.
Virtualized RAN, which is cost-effective and easy to install, helps in transforming the networks. Self-configuration capabilities of this approach simplify the networks and reduce the operational cost for the telcos at the same time. It helps in creation of flexible and adaptable networks, which is capable of meeting the unpredictable future demands.
Virtualization is a key technology to help the telcos in bringing down the complexity of the networks. With a virtualized network architecture, service providers can launch a service in a matter of days as compared to a couple of months for legacy networks.
A push for virtualization is also coming from the enterprise customers who demand an easier way to do business. Digitization among consumers, enterprise customers, and Government is driving telcos to evolve their business models and monetize their infrastructure investments.
Virtualization also brings in automation, which inherently helps in bringing down complexity in network operations and streamlining telco operations. Besides reducing the initial CapEx, virtualization aids long-term benefits by bringing down the overall cost of network management. The service providers, like BT and Ice Wireless, across the globe are experimenting with virtualization and realizing the enormous benefits of this concept.
Converged wireless systems or all-in-one base stations further help in simplifying the networks in both urban and rural environments. Self-organizing network capabilities ease the installation process and bring down the cost of network management. Including small cells as part of the network makes site acquisition much easier while at the same time enhancing the quality of the indoor network.
Indian telcos now realize the importance of simplifying the network architecture to support the existing technologies even as they prepare themselves for the 5G future. Simplification of network platforms by utilizing virtualization will enable them to bring down their operational cost and complexity and increase efficiency.