|Issue:||Europe I 2010|
|Topic:||Transforming the network|
Andy Williams is Executive Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent and President of the Services Group. Previously, Mr Williams was the head of the Services Business Group’s Network Operations division for Alcatel-Lucent. Mr Williams joined the company as President of Lucent Technologies, Europe, the senior executive for Europe. Prior to Alcatel-Lucent, Mr Williams spent 25 years with IBM holding a number of senior leadership positions, most recently that of General Manager Public Sector EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) at IBM Global Services. Andy Williams holds degrees in Mathematics from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
The transition from current legacy platforms and proprietary networks to open all-IP infrastructures is often troubled and complex, but the new networks let service providers easily offer exciting new Internet and data- based applications as well as content services in partnership with the likes of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Apple. Greater capacity is needed to handle the explosion of video content, but given net neutrality and competitive pricing pressures operators must simultaneously expand and reduce costs to maintain their margins.
New smart phones and end user devices will be making headlines at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But for these devices to deliver their best, there has to be a network infrastructure that delivers new services and applications to excite and motivate end users – like you and me. Getting from our present infrastructure of legacy platforms and proprietary networks, to the bright sunny uplands of open, all-IP infrastructures, is not simple. Our industry has already begun the journey towards these open, all-IP networks. That is exactly what you would expect me to say – after all our experience is about transforming networks and delivering next-generation platforms to major service providers across the globe. These new network capabilities open up unlimited possibilities for service providers to offer applications that will excite and attract an end-user public that is already able to access the Internet and data applications anywhere and at any time through fixed and mobile connections. New networks won’t, in themselves, provide service providers with a sustainable future. They are already seeing new content service providers like Google, Yahoo, and Apple, delivering attractive services and applications across the service providers’ networks. This new environment allows for effective monetisation of service provider investments and accelerates time to market. It is also far removed from the traditional vendor position. There is an imbalance in telecoms. End users are taking up services that are not necessarily provided by telcos. The value typically is not being created in the telco community but in examples such as Google or Facebook and traffic is increasing exponentially because of the uptake of video. Service providers see this increase but are being challenged by the dilemma of where to get the return, especially when you consider issues such as net neutrality. That means there’s an overall need for transformation and also a specific need around operational transformation to reduce cost. Service providers have plenty to offer here. The data they hold, already working within data group applications that combine the functionality of service provider networks with web-based capabilities. The right applications let service providers to make these sorts of assets in their network available to thousands of web developers, application and content providers through a secure ‘exposure’ layer. This lets service providers can include information such as the location of subscribers, service preferences and billing relationships, all of which simplify and enhance the creation of ‘mash-up’ applications their capabilities by allowing developers to access functions such as billing, location and connection optimisation and add them to their applications. This improved – and chargeable – exposure is accompanied by a new open API service which brings application developers and service providers together to accelerate creation and secure testing of new services. By providing managed and controlled access to aggregate network capabilities through a web portal, the new service enables developers to access enablers from multiple carriers in one place, eliminating the need for developers to establish individual relationships with each carrier – almost impossible at the moment for smaller developers. Developers enter into a single contractual agreement and gain access to easy to use APIs as well as technical support and a robust test environment. From a carrier perspective, the service fosters new business models that offer the prospect of increasing and monetising network traffic. We’re entering a world in which the user – individual or enterprise – doesn’t care where an application sits, but that it works. We think there’s a huge set of applications that could be developed to enable carriers to monetise and address the imbalance that exists. That necessitates a large-scale transformation within service providers as they shift to open business models. Multi-vendor professional services, including systems integration and innovative approaches to managing complex networks and service layer operations are key to delivering these. These capabilities can help service providers implement and create richer services. Network transformation needs to happen in tandem with transformation of the business model. All these services depend on IP capability in the network. Most service providers are rolling out IP – and we have also got the set of services to address the broader question of transformation. How service providers evolve their networks and reduce their cost of operations is also an important part of that transformation story. Nucleus Connect in Singapore, where a turn-key Build-Operate-Transfer BSS/OSS solution that includes software, hardware and professional services is being implemented, is a good example. The solution, which consists of a scalable platform for content and applications, will facilitate the bundling and rapid introduction of new services via an online virtual email. The network will provide open interfaces and fully automated workflows through a business-to-business gateway to interact with the network company, retail service providers and other qualified parties. It’s a unique and excellent example of the so-called ‘NetCo/OpCo’ model which is gaining such interest from regulators and governments who want to foster next-generation networks to ensure their societies are among the first to take advantages of the benefits faster broadband can deliver. Operators also increasingly have to think about the services they deliver and growing the top line so vendors must be part of the equation and help their customers think about the services they deliver today and in the future for consumers and enterprises. Vendor consulting about new services is increasingly common as also is, once the service provider has decided, vendor assistance for rapid implementation. Vendors also consult on how to reduce operating costs; they are network experts and are well-positioned to focus on costs and quality, whether it’s IP transformation or managed services. OSS and IPTV integration are increasingly important in today’s market – and from a new service point of view, video is the primary attraction. Vendor IP transformation centres around the world provide worldwide expertise and delivery capabilities in the domains of complex integration and transformation activities. The network integration centres support both pre-integration of solutions and back-office end-to-end integration of customer dedicated solutions. Vendors also share some of the risks of these transformations with their service provider customers. In India, for example, vendor joint ventures with mobile operators, Bharti Airtel and Reliance operate and transform networks. Other examples of managed services engagements include operation of Telecom New Zealand’s fixed and mobile networks while playing a key role in its transformation, the transformation of Telstra’s fixed network, and a project at BT Global Services to effect network transformation from legacy networks to new platforms and migration of customers, using the vendors’ local knowledge and centres of excellence to achieve critical mass and expertise. As we look forward, the notion of transformation becomes even more important as operators think in a broader way and the pace of change increases. The pressure is on for them because of competition, traffic growth and the question of how to recover investments. That’s why we’re talking about services in the context of the overall transformation. The challenge is to stitch disparate elements together coherently and create trust.