Unleashing creativity with the programmable telco
A programmable network (or a software-defined network) separates the network architecture from the software that controls network devices and services and exposes network services and capabilities through standards-based APIs. The programmable telco extends this concept beyond the core network into all areas of a service provider’s business from catalogue and order management, billing and partner settlements to customer and partner experience management. One of the many benefits of adopting this programmable architecture is that it enables all stakeholders in a digital ecosystem (including end-customers, software and hardware vendors, cloud-service providers, etc.) to build, launch and monetize their own offers, applications & services.
CSPs are transforming their core networks to 5G Standalone (5G SA), opening the door to a vast range of new multi-faceted services that are co-created, managed and monetized by multi-party relationships in digital ecosystems. A key function of the programmable telco is the optimization and automation of the processes needed to manage these multi-faceted services. By using automation to effectively manage the massive amount of configuration required, CSPs can operate at the scale and speed demanded by 5G.
Transforming the core network is the first step to a total business digital transformation. Digital transformation impacts the entire CSP organization across networks, systems, processes, and business models. CSPs must manage this transformation holistically to optimize the benefits of 5G to offer innovative and tailored use-cases to their retail and enterprise customers. CSPs can leverage the power of automation, dynamic orchestration, interoperability, and reusability by extending the benefits of software-programmable networks to all processes and support systems
Network programmability is the first stepping stone allowing CSPs to become true value creators by placing themselves at the heart of thriving digital ecosystems – where CSPs, their partners and customers become collaborators, co-creators, and consumers of digital services.
While almost every industry is undergoing its own digital transformation, connectivity remains pivotal to providing products and services to their end-customers. But it is no longer a ‘one size fits all’. Thanks to 5G, networks can be customized for specific customers, services, or applications. Differentiating on quality of service, throughput, latency and reliability is the game changer in terms of lowering costs, guaranteeing performance, and innovating with pricing models.
NaaS models are emerging, underpinned with the kind of on-demand capabilities that are only achievable with programmable networks. The NaaS model is highly attractive to businesses as a more efficient and cost-effective way of meeting their own connectivity needs. It can also redefine how enterprises design and deliver their offerings to their end-customers, such as bundling connectivity with their own health, education, transport, entertainment services. Key NaaS capabilities like seamless integration with zero-touch onboarding, automated catalogue ingestion and comprehensive settlement features can optimize of 5G return on investment (ROI) for CSPs.
The programmable telco builds on the programmable network to provide maximum value for CSPs, their customers, and their partners. 5G and the push for digital transformation is driving demand for multi-party service bundles including enriched connectivity services for security, health, industry, etc. For CSPs, deploying a catalogue-orchestrated architecture, enabling multi-party charging, and managing complex multi-sided relationships are the key enablers to managing and monetizing an exponentially growing portfolio.
A standards-based catalogue-driven architecture that can manage connectivity services, dynamically ingest and bundle third party services is pivotal to the successful commercialization of 5G networks. The catalogue translates an order into implementation and delivery by automatically initiating the relevant service, resource, and work orders to trigger network-level processes. This gives CSPs the ability to transform processes from complex manual service provisioning into dynamic end-to-end service automation. Automated management of an end-to-end product or service lifecycle led by catalogue-driven orchestration enables CSPs to concentrate on innovating and monetizing highly customized services very quickly.
These more complex multi-party offerings don’t just need powerful catalogues, they also demand charging and control capabilities built for speed, scalability and agility, meaning legacy charging and policy systems built for 3G and 4G networks can’t handle what 5G will throw at them. New standards-based converged charging systems that are highly configurable and tightly coupled with 5G policy control will enable dynamic multi-party services to feed 5G hungry consumers.
As CSPs engage with more and more third parties to offer richer beyond connectivity services, the process of managing the growing number of partners and the different types of partners is becoming more complex. One B2B2X offering could have multiple collaborators including resellers, content & service providers, edge partners and other co-creators. From automated zero-touch onboarding, catalogue ingestion and dynamic lifecycle management to sophisticated monetization and settlement capabilities, effective digital partner management for the programmable telco requires synchronization across catalogues, order management, orchestration and experience management. A unified “Contract to Assurance” process ensures that the contract acts as a source of truth for the Sell-Fulfil-Bill-Care transactions across the various stakeholders in a digital ecosystem. The key to the successful monetization of the programmable telco is the ability to automate, expose and reuse, making CSPs leaner and faster than ever before.
The adage that you are only as strong and as fast as your weakest link is very apt. Deploying a programmable 5G network without modernizing legacy BSS/OSS systems and processes means failing slow and not getting the chance to be first to market. More than any other technological evolution, 5G makes digital transformation across the entire CSP organization essential to manage the volume of data, services and partners needed to succeed. 5G is more than just a network upgrade. By allowing CSPs to create and launch products and services faster, DevOps principles and microservices-based architecture means that CSPs can leverage 5G-ready BSS systems to embrace the “fail fast, learn faster” culture and drive real innovation and growth across every department.
5G also highlights the need for CSPs to break with the mentality of having to build everything themselves. They need to buy-not-build where possible by investing in SaaS platforms so that they can focus on the real business differentiators including which verticals to target, partner strategies and offer strategies.
B2B and B2C customers want more choice and more flexibility. They want to bundle choices their way, pay the way they want, consume on the devices they want, all when and where they want.
CSG believes the Programmable Telco fuels a new era of creativity for CSPs. This means the programmable telco allows CSPs to co-create and collaborate with partners, bringing vertical experts and visionaries onboard to quickly launch new services and products and provide easy and frictionless experiences. CSG has recently launched Encompass to manage the complexity of dynamic multi-faceted business models and drive impactful customer and partner experiences. The platform supports any offering across any network type for any customer while scaling to a limitless number of partners and services. It is an investment in our customers’ future – a cloud-based, modular platform built on TM Forum standards and designed to meet the demands of the programmable telco.
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Author - Sri-Jagadish Baddukonda
Sri-Jagadish (Jag) Baddukonda is an Enterprise Architect at CSG and the 2022 recipient of the TM Forum Outstanding Contributor Award. Jag has extensive experience in architecting BSS/OSS solutions in Concept to Market, Lead to Activate and Usage to Payment domains for communication service providers. More recently, he has worked on Zero Touch Partnering and SW Marketplaces and is happy to share his experiences and insights on these and other relevant Industry topics.