5 Reasons Why MENA Service Providers Should Walk the Automation Talk


    By Lucky La Riccia,

    Head of Digital Services at Ericsson Middle East and Africa

    Digitalization is shaking up a variety of industries. Mobile operators
    face the challenge of digitalizing themselves - so that they in turn
    can accelerate the digital transformation of their business customers.
    If operators do not transform, they will miss out on the opportunities
    offered by 5G and IoT.

    The MEA region’s telecom market has seen a strong uptake of LTE and
    there is a high smartphone penetration (for more details, please read
    the Ericsson latest Mobility Report). Increased smartphone usage -
    together with a large increase in the number of IoT devices using LTE
    will lead to significant data consumption growth. As MENA service
    providers prepare to switch on 5G, they need to increase investment to
    improve coverage, reliability, and speed to ensure customer
    experiences do no suffer.

    In my conversations with some of the leading mobile operators across
    the region, it is clear for them that automating network management
    and operations are crucial steps in their modernization strategy. They
    also get that network automation is fundamental to manage 5G/IoT
    complexity and efficiently deliver 5G services to customers.

    As MENA operators continue to move network functionality from
    proprietary hardware over to software, here are some of the key
    questions I am often asked: How can I use automation to gain cost
    efficiencies? What’s the best way to reduce customer service time? How
    can data analytics help me gain insights to offer services that my
    customers desire in a 5G/IoT world?

    To present a reliable solution to these questions, Ericsson
    commissioned MIT Technology Review Insights to interview experts
    within global telecom operators – resulting in a report titled
    Network automation: Efficiency, resilience, and the pathway to 5G”.
    The article outlines the value of automating network operations and
    where some of the leaders in the field have started.

    From the insights of senior technology executives at network operators
    globally, the report offers the following conclusions:

    Face up to disruption: Chief Technology Officers may deem it risky
    to purposely disrupt their networks, but some “structural change is
    necessary to gain the benefits of automation”. Changes will be needed
    to integrate staff with IT backgrounds and programming skills,
    essential for operating the network.

    Make a clearer link to the 5G and IoT future: With so much riding
    on 5G and IoT, making the link more explicit to CEOs and CFOs can only
    strengthen the automation business case. With traffic levels boosting,
    the need for more investment becomes inevitable.

    Keep the faith with open standards: The MENA region’s service
    providers and their ability to capitalize on the opportunities arising
    from new technologies require a significant reduction in complexity
    within the fragmented operations support area.

    Beyond making fuller commitments of their own to one or another
    open-source platform, “operators should keep up the pressure on their
    vendors to do the same”. Open Network Automation Platforms can
    generate even greater value when leveraged to create new services that
    support new business models across different verticals that will
    emerge from the introduction of 5G.

    Embrace DevOps: DevOps is a key enabler of successful
    software-driven teams and businesses. Arming network staff with new
    skills may not be enough to help them thrive in fast-paced cloud
    environments. Whether or not new structures are created, “learning
    DevOps ways of working across teams can cement the gains achieved from
    network automation—and much more”.

    Don’t be afraid to let go: Automating means trusting software to do
    the jobs that manual management and configuration—and the proprietary
    tools developed to guide them—performed. “A leap of faith is required
    to ‘flip the switch’ over to the automation tool. Delaying this or
    maintaining legacy tools for redundancy purposes are likely to negate
    at least some of the gains of automation.”

    With greater adoption of automation, I am confident service providers
    in the Middle East and Africa can slash operations costs and introduce
    services more quickly, become fully prepared to manage complexity and
    exceed customer expectations in the era of Digital Transformation
    likely through services that we have yet to invent

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