It was Albert Einstein who said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
And true enough, we live today in an era of disruption, a world where new ways of thinking are re-inventing markets and providing exciting new solutions to old problems for communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprises alike.
Since the introduction of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), software has been disaggregating from hardware and subsequently into cloud-native micro-services. The progression of network applications to software that runs on commercial off-the-shelf hardware has enabled software to run anywhere.
As communications software moves to a 5G, any-cloud environment, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) becomes a timely, relevant business model for improving time to value and lowering total cost of ownership.
Seizing the 5G opportunity requires the move from traditional practices of launching customized software for security, network management, analytics and other functions.
Traffic on telecom networks will continue to grow exponentially and create new opportunities, particularly as industry 4.0 use cases increase. And that is where telecom SaaS comes into play; specifically in five areas that should give CSPs and enterprises the confidence to start their journey down this path today.
But first, it’s important to understand what defines telecom SaaS:
“As a service delivering a business outcome that is bought as a subscription and based on cloud-native software. It’s delivered with a fully digitalized business experience and a fully automated service lifecycle that is designed for any carrier-grade network.“
Now to why the journey should begin today.
Faster time to value
CSPs are under constant pressure to innovate and launch new services quickly to stay competitive. SaaS enables providers to deploy new services and make changes to their network infrastructure in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually. This allows providers to bring new services to market faster, which can be a significant competitive advantage.
Further, telecom SaaS removes the need for large upfront investments, making it more affordable to rapidly create and deliver new services to customers. Telecom SaaS can also provide CSPs with a way to mitigate risks associated with new services. It allows CSPs to explore many services, with minimal investment, and if the service is successful, scale up quickly.
Such an accelerated path to innovation and monetization makes all the difference for telcos looking to maximize 5G investments. Simplifying network management and operation also frees in-house staff to focus on developing new applications and services instead of just running the network.
Traditional, on-premises, telecommunications solutions can be less flexible (from a business model perspective) to purchase and maintain. SaaS solutions, on the other hand, are typically offered on-demand, which means that you only pay for what you use.
Simply put, with the SaaS model, CSPs and enterprises benefit from accessing the software they need instead of buying it outright, typically through a usage-based subscription purchased monthly or annually; giving access and use to a range of telecom applications and services without the need for upfront investments in hardware and infrastructure.
In addition, the automation of network management tasks enabled by SaaS can lead to significant cost savings. Automating tasks such as provisioning, configuration, and monitoring reduces the need for manual labor, which can be costly. Additionally, telecom SaaS enables providers to make better use of existing network resources, which can help to reduce costs.
And last, SaaS solutions are typically hosted in a public cloud, which means that they are maintained and updated by the provider. This eliminates the need for your business to handle software updates and maintenance, which can be both time-consuming and expensive. This is particularly important when dealing with AI/ML algorithms, which require retaining every couple of months.
Greater business agility
Telecom SaaS solutions are designed to be scalable, meaning they can grow with your business. As your business expands and your needs change, you can easily increase capacity and add or remove features without the need for upgrades.
This is especially important for CSPs that are rapidly growing or have seasonal changes in their operations.
By using telecom SaaS solutions, CSPs and enterprises can gain better control over their communication expenses by shifting toward digital processes (reducing the manual procurement burden), optimizing network usage, and reducing energy consumption through better asset utilization.
Additionally, SaaS enables multi-tenancy and fully automated lifecycle management, thus enabling reduced energy consumption.
Tackling the elephant in the room
Fifth, and finally, security. There is no issue of greater concern to communications service providers than security.
Before starting your telecom SaaS journey, it is important to ensure that the provider you choose has robust security measures to protect your data and that they comply with relevant regulations.
Telecom SaaS solutions are typically hosted in the cloud, which means that your data is stored on servers that are owned and maintained by the provider.
Data security, privacy, residency, and sovereignty are topics that telcos cannot afford to dismiss. Given their responsibilities, it is right for them to interrogate the security claims of their SaaS providers and the cloud companies that host the services. It is equally important for telcos to appreciate how comprehensive, rigorous, and highly evolved SaaS and public cloud security is today.
Taking the first step
I believe that a SaaS migration is a journey, and like every journey, the most challenging part is always taking the first few steps.
This is the perfect place to clear up a misconception—telecom SaaS isn’t all or nothing.
The timing for CSPs and enterprises spending on SaaS depends largely on the portfolio in question. For instance, the adoption of telecom SaaS is happening now at the customer experience and BSS layers of the communications stack.
CSPs and enterprises need the business agility, accelerated time to value and cost savings that telecom SaaS delivers. They are already reaping similar benefits on the IT front. With cloud-native, service-based architectures now available for 5G, they are better able to embrace the operational paradigms of telecom SaaS than they were previously when services were based on non-cloud-native architectures and telco-specific protocols.
Ultimately, telecom SaaS is the acceleration engine that can help realize the full potential of 5G and beyond.
(Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash)