Telia’s Alexander Corbett discusses the evolving role of service assurance in the 5G era and how that will enable Telia to meet their new digital service goals, while improving existing operations across multiple territories.
Telia’s ambitious goals for assuring 5G operations
Sponsored by: ServiceNow
My recent research for the report Service Assurance in the 5G era was centered around a large number of conversations with communications service provider (CSP) operations and IT management, most notably with Telia’s Alexander Corbett. Corbett is global lead enterprise architect at Telia IT, so he is living inside these network and operations support system (OSS) topics on a daily basis. Our conversation in February 2021 was focused on the subject of the evolving role of service assurance in the 5G era and how that will enable Telia to meet their new digital service goals, while at the same time improving existing operations across multiple territories.
Telia is a Swedish Tier 1 network operator with country divisions in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. As with many of the world’s largest CSPs, Telia has steadily acquired other network operators, service providers and technology companies over the years, all of which bring their own network architectures and IT ecosystems into the mix. As such, Telia has a complex existing OSS and business support system (BSS) architecture varying by geography, business unit and network domain. Corbett has been heavily involved in the push to simplify these architectures in an intelligent and sympathetic way which doesn’t simply kick the can down the road and lay more problems for the future.
Corbett is firmly of the belief that 5G is a real game changer for the industry in terms of operations and while the initial rollout of non-standalone (NSA) 5G demands several operational changes, he described standalone (SA) 5G as “the real tipping point for the industry” in moving towards mass business diversification and digital service revenues. As such it is important that the various evolutions Telia is making in the network and OSS for the first wave of 5G are also the building blocks for assuring 5G SA and the successive forms of the technology over the coming decades. At the heart of this leap forwards will be the ability for Telia to provide a 5G network slice for B2B customers. “It will be critical to manage that slice, to do proactive assurance on it and to execute actions to ensure the customer avoids a bad experience,” he noted. But the transformational trajectory Telia is currently on is not all just about network slicing, it has a more fundamental feel as the operator seeks to modernize all existing functions and processes concurrently. Corbett identified four key areas of focus for the transformation they are currently working on:
If we had to identify the places in telecoms operations where a proliferation of disparate databases causes endless problems, network inventory is likely to be near the top of that list. Indeed the first seven years of my career in telecoms was spent trying to solve data quality issues across multiple logical and physical inventories at a global B2B carrier. Something that is almost certainly still going on in my absence. Telia is however steering a course away from this classic telecoms problem, and is following a path that is emerging as industry best practice in federating the data stores and bringing them under a single functional layer which can seamlessly interact with service orchestrators and assurance. In doing this, there is no need for troublesome mass data migration, and network discovery can act as an organic data quality auditing process to improve inventory data quality.
The concept of fulfilment and assurance being different disciplines, but existing synergistically within a closed loop is crucial to Telia’s assurance goals for the 5G era. The complexities of provisioning services in previously manual processes meant operations staff were consulting assurance systems to check data feeds from the network, this can and should be done in an automated, dynamic fashion. Corbett noted “Imagine the scenario when Sweden is chosen as the next venue for downhill or cross-country skiing championships and many of the teams want their own slice set up for just two weeks with all of the trimmings and quality. After two weeks we have to rip it down since they have moved on to the next country. This can’t be done manually – it will have to be provisioned automatically from the order and that includes activating or arming the service assurance”. He believes that Telia should be able to design one centrally and then automatically rollout six times in each of their country markets if necessary.
Telia’s ambitions for service quality management is that it moves from being a reactive function to proactive in the short term, ultimately becoming predictive in the long term. Service quality management is closely linked to customer experience, which is now the most plausible way in which CSPs can differentiate:
Telia’s selection of ServiceNow telecommunications products for ticketing and service management was based on the vendor’s ability to expedite Telia’s journey away from siloed systems for customer service, including the redesign of processes as well as the technological data handling concerns. The solution’s ready-made workflows fit tightly with Telia’s strategy for unifying the assurance data into a very actionable single function, rather than tens of legacy ticketing applications across the company’s various product lines, network domains and geographies.
As mentioned above, Corbett sees the reactive state of affairs as something to be left in the 2010’s. Reactive customer experience management is the idea that in the past a CSP would wait for alarms in the network to indicate something was wrong and then they may receive a call from their customer reporting an outage. The remediation strategy is then to scope the fault, notify the customer of how long it will take to fix, and then notify them again when it is eventually fixed. Shifting to a proactive attitude here means the CSP should be aware of which services are being adversely affected by a network event and actively contact customers in line with their SLA to give them all the details. Proactive assurance will see Telia detecting degrading services by looking at a convergent service-centric view over many networks. If it is possible to pre-define thresholds on KPIs that directly affect customer services then it is possible to manage the network to with the emphasis on the service layer.
The difference in these two approaches can mean an increase in good will from the customer which will be reflected positively in the CSP’s net promoter score (NPS). Corbett believes that for 5G operations it is essential to be as proactive as possible and that Telia is well along that transformational path. The next leap forward for the long-term strategy is to begin to use AI and machine learning in assurance to be able to predict network events and to be able to correlate them with customer experience metrics.
On this topic Malin Fransén Kronberg, Telia’s Head of Service Assurance & Service Lifecycle Management, added: “It is vital to get the OSS and BSS systems to be able to support us on this mission critical journey to transform the customer experience to be world-best. Service assurance of a proactive/predictive nature, combined with our existing skills and knowledge, gained from billions of events/alarms, makes Telia a preferred supplier.” Telia is working with several OSS/BSS vendors and technology partners to achieve this transformation and Corbett is heavily involved with instilling TM Forum standards across this new architecture. Find out more about information about Telia and TM Forum standards.