2016 will be the tipping point for development and planning of big data analytics driven, software-defined networks (SDNs)—because networks are rapidly becoming too complex for humans to control and assure. QoE will come under increasing threat from the rise of IoT, EaaS (Everything as a Service), massive video traffic, and latency-sensitive applications competing for increasingly constrained networks.
#1: AUTOMATED NETWORKS GAIN TRACTION
Automated, real-time optimization that uses real-time network and user experience feedback will allow networks to maintain grace under pressure, and ensure that value-added and revenue-critical applications shine. Done right, operators will delight customers and secure loyalty in times where churn is the norm.
Dynamic Performance Optimization (DPO) isn’t fiction anymore. A clear link is emerging between the value of prescriptive analytics and network automation in delivering further QoE improvements for 5G. It’s a tricky road for every major carrier as they look to migrate from 4G to 5G. Service providers either have it on their roadmap, or are starting deployment.
An example of this shift is South Korea Telecom (SK Telecom)’s recently deployed, fully automated, national, multi-vendor network that optimizes itself in real-time—using standards-based monitoring indicators—without human intervention. This is one of very few large scale commercial examples that reveal the huge impact that SDNs and the virtualization of key technologies and processes (NFV) can have on overcoming technical complexity, driving efficiency and creating new revenue generating services. During 2016, more carriers will follow suit as they create foundations for the intelligent, SDN-controlled networks that will deliver 5G mobile technology.
#2: VIRTUALIZATION BECOMES A CERTAINTY
This year, the operator planning narrative will be focused on when virtualization technology will be adopted, rather than if. For example, AT&T is in the midst of a year-long plan to bring 75% of its network operations under virtualized control by 2020, and CenturyLINK set a goal to create a completely virtualized IP network by 2018.
By dispensing with rigid and proprietary-based hardware-orientated networks, operators have the means to radically accelerate new service delivery, rapidly improve time-to-market and more quickly embrace service innovation. SDNs enable a new dimension of network flexibility and agility—the ability to adequately support the increasingly impulsive nature of mobile subscribers.
#3: BUSINESS MODEL FOCUS SHIFTS TO QOE
Price wars are a race to the bottom; the only way for carriers to ensure long-term business success is to instead compete based on user experience. This depends on strategic network utilization, with virtualization and automation having a profoundly positive impact on network ROI. These capabilities make it possible for carriers to provision cell sites faster and significantly reduce customer support calls, among other advantages.
By combining real-time fast analytics visibility with big data analytics, operators gain the ability to create excellent QoE for high-value applications, as well as target tailored upsell opportunities that are the cornerstone of curated revenue growth. QoE isn’t just about call quality; for business customers, a huge aspect is on-demand services—a fact acknowledged by CenturyLINK in its focus on dynamic options, like a soon-to-be-rolled-out self-service portal.
In short, complete network performance visibility, coupled with automated optimization, is key to QoE—and this will be the main focus of carriers during 2016.