Realising full network digital transformation starts from the inside out


After a challenging few years there are signs that Australia’s telecommunications companies are entering a new era, with significant possibilities for growth in both mobile and fixed line markets.

In recent years the market size of the telecommunications industry in Australia declined 1.2% per year on average between 2017 and 2022. However, now that trajectory has been arrested and the telco market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 1% between 2021-2026. The market is currently estimated to be worth around $20.2 billion.

Much of the growth will be driven by the government’s national broadband network (NBN) project aimed at extending fibre connectivity across the country. In particular the $4.5 billion upgrade to the NBN which aims to deliver faster internet speeds to up to 8 million people, which was approved in 2020. In tandem with the fixed line innovation, mobile expansion continues with a growing roll out of 5G networks by the major market players Telstra, Optus and TPG.

In addition to the roll-out of private and public 5G, the country is expanding its IoT efforts to facilitate industry 4.0 as well as its edge computing initiatives. This evolution in the network is helping to improve how consumers and businesses interact and is creating opportunities for telcos to provide business models based on outcomes.

With so much opportunity on the table, there is sometimes a rush from telcos across the globe to deploy new technologies to create new customer experiences that meet market demand, facilitate revenue growth, and drive shareholder value.

While success is often measured on the rate of 5G or edge computing deployment, resilient business growth and customer satisfaction ultimately depends on network digitalisation on both the outside and in. Ironically, the internal legacy systems (OSS/BSS/NSS) in place at many telcos makes it challenging to meet the outcome-based performance metrics they’ve established for themselves and their customers.

In addition, maintaining a high-quality customer experience that delivers new personalised services and applications in real-time is no easy goal with a backdrop of global challenges also in the mix. Macro-economic issues such as rising costs, talent gaps and supply chain disruption, some of which has been caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, make internal service management infrastructure even more vital for projects such as multi-year 5G rollouts to perform without any barriers or obstacles.

There are also legal issues to be overcome. Telstra, Optus, and TPG telecom have all recently fallen foul of the The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for making false or misleading representation in their advertisement of 50Mbps and 100Mbps National Broadband Network (NBN) plans, violating the Australian consumer law.

Shifting away from legacy technology

With real-time customer service being a key performance indicator for delivering the latest service improvements in 5G, IoT and edge computing, management of internal infrastructure becomes a key business differentiator.

Yet with legacy systems, telcos suffer from silos and the inability to bring it all together. Smarter management of assets, parts, equipment and field workers, with visibility of customer experience is the foundation of success, and that can only be achieved via a strategy based on breaking down the silos.

Legacy tech hampers growth in many industries at present but is more pronounced among businesses that are intrinsically linked to digital progress. Hindering improvements has a knock-on effect on the ability to leverage innovations, which will inevitably impact the end customer experience. It all begins within the confines of the company’s own space; among its own workforce; affecting change projects.

Digitalisation from the inside out

Smarter management of assets, parts, equipment and field workers, with visibility of customer experience is the foundation of success, and that can only be achieved via a strategy based on breaking down the silos.

Among the biggest challenges that have faced telcos for years is planning, building, and maintaining their network infrastructure. Telcos often lack complete visibility and control over the type, quantity, and location of assets in their network and are not always sure if these assets are covered under a service contract. In the race to deploy new technologies, telcos often procure and deploy assets without commissioning or registering them or determining if they already own them. As a result, telcos may also suffer from under-stocking, creating inventory excess and obsolescence.

Another reason telcos lack visibility and control over assets is because their asset base has grown over time through mergers and acquisitions. Thus, knowledge of these assets, and the associated documentation is not easily accessible and may be scattered throughout the organisation, contained in different databases, systems, spreadsheets and documents. In turn, the telco may be required to perform manual interventions to maintain legacy assets. Also, communication may suffer between operations, maintenance, and engineering teams when they are not using the same naming conventions or where they are leveraging multiple asset management systems.

Without access to a high-quality asset registry, telcos can’t evolve toward predictive maintenance or provide proactive or prescriptive service management. Unexpected failures can be costly to operations, damage customer satisfaction, and negatively impact future revenue streams. More importantly, telcos need this data to ensure they dispatch the optimum field technician to the asset’s site to drive a high first-time fix rate and reduce or avoid repeat failures.

Telcos must look across their planning horizons to ensure they have the skilled technicians available at the right time and place. They must do this efficiently to keep up with customer demand and prevent loss of market share. Field workforce resource planning tools help to provide a smoother, future-proofing environment.

Possessing the flexibility to forecast, plan and optimise resources over a multi-year period is critical. Without proper planning tools, telcos cannot forecast workloads, staff work crews, or consider the impact that various factors like skill sets, employee levels, and seasonality have on rollout performance. This limitation makes it difficult for telcos to anticipate needs, meet customer demands, or drive improvements in productivity and efficiency.

Focusing on business outcomes

By breaking down the silos across asset, workforce and service management and adopting an integrated approach, internal operations can support the development of new business models. By doing so, they pave the way for new telco deployments and innovations to reach their full potential. As a result, digital transformation within the region will be able to truly take off.

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