How 5G and Hyperautomation can turn telcos into growth engines powering the global digital transformation

In the past 2 years and particularly at the height of the pandemic, the telecom industry has proven that it was the backbone of our society. The resilience of its networks and the excellence of its operations allowed a rapid global pivot to a digital lifestyle, with businesses, consumers and students all heavily relying on connectivity to maintain the continuity of their activities online.

But beyond offering reliable and high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity services, the telecom industry has a huge potential to offer advanced connectivity services and innovative digital services to accelerate the digital transformation of many industries and businesses. In fact, the next generation communication standard 5G brings revolutionary capabilities, such as ultra-low latency communications, network slicing and massive machine connectivity that allow to effectively connect and manage billions of sensors, machines and robots. This, together with cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence and robotics will underpin the deep transformation of many industries such as manufacturing, transport, healthcare and logistics.

The typical use cases include connecting driverless cars and drones, enabling remote surgeries and controlling fully automated factories. These new use cases open new revenue streams for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and promise to fuel their next phase of growth. In fact, many reports talk about the trillion dollar digital economy opportunity, and the World Economic Form estimated that CSPs could generate 700B$ of incremental revenue over a decade.

However, these new opportunities bring about a fundamentally new business and operational paradigm. In fact, to pursue these opportunities, CSPs will need to deliver real-time on-demand advanced 5G connectivity services with guaranteed SLAs, such as availability, latency, throughput and quality of service as required by the various enterprise use cases.

In terms of technology, the key enabler for delivering these advanced connectivity services is end-to-end 5G slicing, where specific network resources are dedicated to carry the traffic of a specific use case across all network domains from radio access to core to transport. The CSPs should rollout 5G standalone technology over core and edge clouds and manage these slices; that would be the only way to guarantee the service levels required by an enterprise tenant (such ultra-low latency of less than 5ms), ensure total security isolation of their traffic and give them some level of control to monitor and manage their own slice.

But the provisioning, deployment and monitoring of these 5G slices is very complex and human resources intensive and therefore requires a great deal of operations automation.  Today the telecom operations are still highly manual, labour intensive and organized in silos. Also, the new generation use cases, such as connecting a driverless car are incompatible with the latency introduced by the human factor. Network problems need to be predicted or detected and resolved in real-time. All the above dictates the adoption of a radical approach, referred to as “Hyperautomation”, which is a disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.

Hyperautomation that uses Artificial Intelligence at its heart will enable CSPs to achieve an order magnitude in operational efficiency and automate 90%+ of their operations through predictive maintenance and closed loop orchestration, monitoring and assurance of their networks. This state of “Zero Touch Operations” will allow the real-time delivery and management of hundreds of 5G network slices to their enterprise customers or groups of customers. At the same time this hyperautomation will allow them to achieve significant opex savings (WEF estimates an aggregate 100B$ over a decade). But this is a long multi-year journey that must start now and incrementally drive towards the vision of autonomous networks.

Finally, and most importantly, all the above cannot be implemented if it is not backed by a solid business case. Our industry needs to work hard to come up with the new innovative business models and pricing schemes that will allow it to grasp this massive opportunity. This will involve the definition of new simplified offers, transactional pricing (away from monthly subscriptions), automating the Business Support Systems and evolving towards managed services business models where CSPs become Managed Services Providers assuring the end-to-end connectivity and digital experiences for various enterprises and industry sectors. Here again, this is easier said than done and will be an evolution journey from the traditional business models and subscriptions that have prevailed for the past 30 years.

In conclusion, there is a massive opportunity for the telecom industry to act as the true enabler of the next wave of industrial and societal digital transformation. To achieve this ambition, CSPs need to seriously embrace hyperautomation, rollout 5G slicing, and deliver advanced use cases through adoption of edge cloud and AI. But most importantly, our industry needs a mindset shift to craft a new role for itself as a managed service provider that manages and assures digital experiences on behalf of industry verticals. It will also need to explore new innovative business models such as Network as a Service and data monetization on digital marketplace.

We at MYCOM OSI are contributing to this transformation and are partnering with many leading CSPs around the world.  Our suite of intelligent and cloud native Service Assurance solutions is acting as a key driver for hyperautomation and evolving to become the brain of future autonomous networks.

This blog was first posted on Enterprise Viewpoint on 16th Nov 2022: