Why automation is key to delivering digital experiences everywhere

You can’t fake a digital experience. While most Communications Service Providers (CSPs) can take an order digitally and interact with  their customers through portals and apps, that’s often where automation ends. That’s because CSP networks and operations are stuck in a world of legacy systems. At our recent Blue Planet Virtual Insiders Forum (VIF), we showed how CSPs can drive automation into everything they do, paving the way for truly on-demand 5G services.

Thirty years ago, consumers and enterprises expected “white glove” communications services that were high-touch and highly personalized. We wanted to talk to someone who could understand our needs and deliver what we want.

Today, we want to sit on the beach, order our groceries online and have them delivered to our doorstep in the next five minutes. Technology has transformed the way we work, shop, learn, play, and socialize, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of change. People want real digital experiences everywhere, including from their CSP, which puts the focus squarely on 5G mobile networks and edge computing.

Many CSPs are starting the transformation journey with inventory systems because, as we like to say at Blue Planet, you can’t automate – or digitize – what you can’t see. Unified, dynamic inventory provides the foundation for always-on, digital services.

During the VIF, Blue Planet customers, partners, and industry analysts explained how CSPs are embracing automation to deliver these digital experiences. We heard from Telefónica, Amazon Web Services, Appledore Research and several Blue Planet executives who are working on the front lines to help CSPs transform their networks and operations for the 5G era. Following are some of the highlights.

Addressing complexity

While the evolution of technology is exciting, it is also dramatically increasing the complexity in CSP networks and operations. Most operators are undertaking significant digital transformation programs to automate the entire service lifecycle – from planning and building, to ordering and orchestration, to assurance and optimization.

Many CSPs are starting the transformation journey with inventory systems because, as we like to say at Blue Planet, you can’t automate – or digitize – what you can’t see. Unified, dynamic inventory provides the foundation for always-on, digital services.

During their VIF presentations, Telefónica’s José Antonio Lozano López and Alberto Pereira Fernández, who are leading their company’s effort to transform OSS architecture, talked about the importance of network planning, federated inventory and creating a “data democracy.” They were joined by Blue Planet’s Mark Gibson, who explained how Telefónica and Blue Planet are working together to demonstrate these capabilities.

Building an ecosystem

Collaboration among CSPs and their partners has never been more important. In order to provide digital experiences, operators must reshape their ecosystems because a community of players is needed to deliver the experiences customers want. A single stack of services that provide static capabilities just won’t work.

Openness and interoperability are critical to forging successful partnerships. Embracing standards and industry-agreed best practices will help CSPs win the race to the 5G edge. As Blue Planet’s Kailem Anderson said during his presentation, “In a 5G and edge-based world, automation is a mandate, and it really involves our customers implementing a services management layer.” This means developing an open digital architecture and exposing APIs that are open and programmable.

Embracing cloud

In addition to collaborating on standards, CSPs are also transitioning to network and support applications that are cloud native. Blue Planet has a great cloud partner, that is also a key participant in the CSP ecosystem, in Amazon Web Services (AWS). Together we are helping companies like DISH Network build a first-of-its kind cloud-native, Open 5G network. DISH is using Blue Planet Inventory and Service Order Management hosted in the AWS cloud to accelerate rollout of its network.

During their presentations, AWS’ Umer Chaudhary and Blue Planet’s Marc-Antoine Boutin explained how DISH and other CSPs will be able to achieve zero-touch automation and closed-loop assurance using cloud-native OSS applications that can be consumed using a software-as-a-service model. By some estimates, this approach can reduce the time it takes to develop new services by as much as 50% and speed time to market by more than 75%.

Assurance, AI and closing the loop

Finally, CSPs will need to introduce AI and machine learning into their networks and operations in order to implement zero-touch automation and closed-loop assurance. “Closing the loop” means collecting and analyzing data to determine how the network can be optimized and then implementing those changes in an automated way.

In their presentations, Appledore Research’s Patrick Kelly and Blue Planet’s Bill Kaufmann explained that CSPs have begun the shift to closed-loop assurance, but it will be an evolutionary process. First, analytics will deliver insights to people who will make changes manually. But over time as this intelligence is validated, it will be built into automated workflows.

Summing it up

Customers’ needs are changing fast, and this is shifting the competitive landscape. Digital transformation to automate the service lifecycle is how CSPs can manage the shift. But make no mistake, there will be winners and there will be losers in the race. Find out how Blue Planet can help your company become one of the winners.