For decades, communication service providers (CSPs) have excelled at delivering connectivity to customers, but times are changing. Cloud operators are grabbing revenue by offering high-margin services using telco networks. Connectivity alone is not enough.

Telcos must compete by building services that match cloud service providers' responsiveness. They must maintain their performance to satisfy customers. For this, telcos need powerful new platforms to compete with a new generation of nimble, innovative challengers. Network as a service (NaaS) can support those efforts.

They must manage these services and simultaneously appease customers who expect more personalized services than ever before—and who often want it online, with no human contact.

What's Holding Communication Service Providers Back

Providing those services takes flexible, agile infrastructure. The problem for many telcos is that their existing operational support systems (OSSs) aren't up to the job. These systems have evolved over decades, and usually without an overarching strategy. Each separate component typically connects with others bilaterally on an ad hoc basis, often using custom integrations.

Consequently, each customer-facing and internal service now needs a supporting set of legacy systems that are tightly coupled with the underlying physical networks and supported by a long list of manual processes. Any changes are high risk because it's unclear which systems will be impacted.

This brittle telco infrastructure makes transformation difficult because different business areas can't change independently. They are held back by the other systems they're connected to.

This situation gets worse every time a telco makes another acquisition or buys another system. The technical debt builds up like silt on a riverbed.

Fixing this problem is not optional. Aside from the digital transformation imperative, 5G networks are raising the network management bar. They demand automation and infrastructure that adapts to emergent issues in real time.

Network as a Service to the Rescue

This is where NaaS comes into play. It's a framework for a new telco OSS stack that will drive agility for telcos and their customers, and analysts at Mordor Intelligence expect it to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33.05% between 2021 and 2026.

NaaS offers abstraction in the form of model-driven orchestration, compartmentalizing the technology stack into different layers, including business support systems, service order management, and catalogs.

Rather than handling the links between these layers via complex custom interfaces, NaaS supports a standard set of open application programming interfaces (APIs) that ensure all systems speak the same language.

CSPs adopting NaaS won't just be able to run their infrastructure and services more easily; they'll be able to manage those operational costs more tightly.

The Benefits of NaaS

This arrangement allows CSPs to decouple different elements of their network infrastructure from each other and from their OSS software for the first time ever, enabling each to evolve independently and more quickly.

This mixture of independent infrastructure and standardized communications fosters a more agile network architecture that accelerates digital transformation for CSPs. Because all parts of the network are now controllable by software, telcos can treat their networks and the services that run atop them as code. They can eliminate manual tasks and customized integrations via NaaS-capable OSS software to automate on-demand services.

NaaS also creates a platform for improved service management, giving network operations center personnel more tools to identify issues and automate policies for handling them. Because NaaS-enabled OSS software can extract operational data from the network via layered APIs, telcos can get a 360-degree end-to-end view of network operations for perhaps the first time ever. They can then run this data through machine learning-driven data analytics tools to detect and monitor trends as quickly as possible.

CSPs adopting NaaS won't just be able to run their infrastructure and services more easily; they'll be able to manage those operational costs more tightly. In our work with telcos, Blue Planet has found that 60 percent of operational expenses are traditionally consumed by simple daily operations. Automating these operations reduces those costs.

Fueling Next-Generation Services

NaaS-based abstractions decouple network components and the services they support, which makes it easier to deal with technical debt. Telcos no longer have to worry about managing lots of integrations or risk breaking them.

This broadens options for introducing new cloud-like services that provide customers with on-demand self-service capabilities, including:

  • Bandwidth on Demand: This service offers customer-controlled service activity for wide-area connectivity in real-time or on a prescheduled basis, enabling customers to flex their connections between data centers and to the edge so that they can adapt to changing conditions.
  • SD-WAN Automation: Customers using SD-WANs can integrate virtual network functions into their wide-area infrastructure, offering software-configurable security and performance features layered directly into the fabric of the network. A NaaS-enabled service provider can offer full SD-WAN automation, decreasing provisioning times for the customer while lowering internal costs.
  • 5G Slide Lifecycle Automation: 5G network slicing enables communication service providers to set up dedicated networks for different applications, giving enterprise customers the performance profiles they need to serve their own customers' needs.
  • Multi-Access Edge Cloud: Edge computing infrastructure decreases latency and improves infrastructure security and reliability by pushing computing power closer to where the data is generated. This offers powerful revenue opportunities for communication service providers.

These will be crucial for enterprise customers in 5G scenarios. Within their 5G capacity, telcos will be able to allocate virtual networks that serve specific use cases, ranging from IoT to gaming networks.

Most CSPs will find themselves wresting this control back for the first time, opening new abilities to manage technology and service changes. That creates unprecedented business opportunities at precisely the time when the market faces its biggest period of disruption ever.

Discover how to unlock the full potential of NaaS by downloading this free e-book.