What is connectivity-as-a-service? A new TM Forum working group is exploring the concept, with plans to create a playbook to help communications service providers and their customers get the most out of 5G and other communications technologies.
Creating the playbook for connectivity-as-a-service
Connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS) is an emerging concept that could have a profound impact on how users of communications services interact with operators and consume services. To help the telecoms industry get a grip on what it will take to implement CaaS, Forum members formally launched at Action Week last week a workstream to develop a CaaS playbook. The playbook will provide practical guidance and a blueprint for improving how communications service providers (CSPs) engage with enterprise and consumer customers. Speakers from Amdocs, Etiya, Oracle and NaaS Compass, a new consultancy, joined TM Forum subject matter experts to kick off the project.
The first order of business for the new group is defining CaaS. For now, in the simplest terms CaaS is the delivery of connectivity or IP presence to meet the specific demands of different applications and users.
CaaS does not restrict the choice for how connectivity is provided but attempts to use the technology that best suites the intended goals of the user – that is, meets their requirements for configuration, price and service quality. This connectivity will often be 5G wireless but could also be a hybrid of technologies including 4G, fiber, SD-WAN, satellite, private networks, CBRS private spectrum or Wi-Fi 6, depending on the customer’s requirements or preferences.
While CaaS is all about simplifying how CSPs interact with customers, the collaboration team acknowledges that the myriad of connectivity options and services offered today is a minefield of complexity. Obtaining connectivity must be simplified in a way that hides this complexity from the customer yet provides the right communications resources with the right level of connectivity at the right time. For consumers, it allows them to focus on their needs or the needs of the business rather than a technology product buzzword. Joann O’Brien, VP of Digital Ecosystems at TM Forum, considers CaaS as a stepping stone to enable the industry to evolve from being a digital telco to being a digital solutions partner in enterprise settings.
“Connectivity-as-a-service is seen as a critical enabler in order to build the trust and relationship with the enterprise…and make it significantly easier to consume,” she says.
Badr Tharwat, Enterprise Architect Leader, Oracle, and co-leader of the Forum’s CaaS working group, highlights the need for consumer CaaS. “Consumer connectivity-as-a-service is something that is quite interesting and quite relevant now,” he says, adding that interest in offering CaaS is being driven by continually declining average revenue per user (ARPU). Solutions are required to make it easier to acquire connectivity and consume services when travelling, especially in an automobile that crosses borders. Today, users must switch SIM cards in their device to enter a new country, but this will not work in a car with four different devices built in, plus the users’ mobile device. With CaaS in place, obtaining connectivity for each device can be done programmatically, Tharwat says. He emphasizes the value of CaaS, hinting at the stepping stone concept that would result in CSPs enabling value networks – or in other words, becoming a platform provider.
A value network could offer a variety of products along with connectivity, such as roaming services and bundles that include cloud storage.
“With the global market we’re living in, a device that works well in London should work just as well in Barcelona, without the customer having to acquire a new SIM or put any effort into it from his side,” Tharwat says.
When it comes to enterprise customers, Yogen Patel, VP and Head of Product and Solutions Marketing at Amdocs, says, “The idea that an enterprise or an ecosystem partner can get connectivity to support a specific use case without thinking through the technicalities that sit below it is critical.”
The group identified several use cases captured by Thierry Reynard, OSS Consulting Manager at Etiya, and Johanne Mayer, Founder and Director of NaaS Compass. They include: These use cases will be developed over time. Reynard explains that IoT use cases, for example, could come in many forms with some being B2B, where the IoT solution could be provided by a distribution partner with embedded connectivity from the CSP, or from the enteprise or CSP directly. Using Carrier Ethernet as an example of why operators needs to simplify and standardize the ordering process, Mayer explains that even though it is a service that has been around for a long time, the ordering process is different for each operator and requires the enterprise to understand far too much about the service. With CaaS an abstract way of ordering is required, so if the customer knows what attirbutes they want, the CSP and customer can talk in the abstract instead of talking Ethernet or SD-WAN.
The team is working to create two playbooks, one for CaaS and the other for zero-touch partnering. The relationship between CaaS and partnering will be covered in each playbook. Both will draw on the results of recent TM Forum Catalyst proofs of concept, such as the one explained in the video below.
If you are interested in learning more or joining the team to develop the CaaS and zero-touch partnering playbooks, please contact Joann O’Brien. And watch this space for a new TM Forum Benchmark Report on CaaS to be published in March.