TM Forum: Virtualization of Networks and Services, Key Catalyst for Global Transformation


Connecting individuals, organisations and diverse ecosystems and accelerate their journey towards digital business transformation, TM Forum has over 900 corporate members from around the globe. It is playing a critical role towards educating telecoms ecosystem on the latest technologies such as NFV and SDN.

While TM Forum is quite strong in Europe and North America, it is now making a major push into high-growth markets including China and Asia Pacific countries, as well as India and the Middle East. Peter Sany, President & CEO of TM Forum interacts with Zia Askari from about some of the key priorities for TM Forum and how does it look at the some of the upcoming technological trends. 



What are some of the key priorities for TM Forum, today?

TM Forum’s overarching mission is to connect talented individuals, leading companies and diverse ecosystems to accelerate our members’ successful digital business transformation. We help our members transform by providing thought-provoking research and publications, practical guidance and coaching, collaboration programs, tools and best practices, hands-on events and workshops, and training for business and IT leaders.

Our collaboration programs, and in particular, our Catalyst rapid proof-of-concept program, is a major priority for us as the program’s popularity continues to grow. In fact, at our recent TM Forum Live! conference in Nice, France, over 80 member companies participated in 19 Catalyst projects across a wide range of key digital business topics including NFV & SDN, Smart Cities, Digital Health, customer engagement, and big data analytics.

Our goal for the Catalyst program and our collaboration programs in general, is to bring more companies into the tent, so to speak, especially new members in adjacent industries such as healthcare, automotive, e-commerce and finance.

Indeed, this is the direction the Forum is moving toward and a major priority – facilitating collaboration across digital ecosystems, with our diverse members driving next-generation digital business best practices, frameworks, models, tools and standards for the benefit of the entire global member community.

With greater importance being placed on new age technologies such as NFV & SDN, how is TM Forum helping the telecom ecosystem towards a phase of technological transformation?

It is true that we are in the early phases of a major transformation that will be driven by the digitization of multiple industry verticals. In order to support digitization, it must be much easier, faster and more affordable to create and interact within and across ecosystems on a massive scale, but also to support transient services that may live only for a couple of minutes or hours.

One of the key catalysts of this vast global transformation is the virtualization of networks and services. We believe that business and technological transformation must go hand-in-hand. Skills, organization, processes and systems need to be overhauled to support the service agility and cost savings that virtualization can offer.

We have an important program in the Forum focused on solving the operational aspects associated with the management and orchestration challenges of virtualization. The program, called ZOOM (Zero-touch Orchestration, Operations and Management), has already delivered a number of assets related to service orchestration, end-to-end management based on the first global information model supporting hybrid operations, sourcing of virtualized solutions, and a baseline for what needs to change in terms of service provider processes and systems. Over 100 of our members and hundreds of individuals are actively collaborating in our ZOOM program.

We also have a program called Open Digital Ecosystem, which is working out how to lower the friction between actors in different industry ecosystems. We aim to help the telecom ecosystem benefit from verticals such as smart health, smart city and smart energy. We also view NFV/SDN as a required component in the evolution of 5G.

How can TM Forum provide necessary help to operators looking for investments and network expansion?

We are actively helping operators drive down operational costs while transforming their capability to take part in new revenue generation and monetization of their networks.

Operators need to adapt to a new operating model based on a different paradigm. On one hand, they need to adapt to a much lower cost profile, and on the other, they need to be able to support a much more diverse set of service characteristics. Just imagine the different requirements you have to support in a driverless car use case compared to a static sensor network.

What operators need to do, though, is to decide what types of services to offer, for example, providing lower level broadband services, platform services, or even full stack services to be consumed by other industry verticals. TM Forum supports operators in connecting the telecom community to other verticals and driving best practices and de-facto standards to make these new relationships attractive and profitable.

What are some of the big trends you’re seeing in this space that are redefining the future of telecoms?

Key trends are clearly driven by global digitization of almost all industries. I have myself seen the early parts of this evolution from my previous roles from companies both in the telecom domain such as the Group CIO for Deutsche Telekom but also from other industry verticals, serving as CTO of UBS and Corporate CIO of Novartis. Digitization drives disruption of established industries – just take a look at Uber, AirBnB or Alibaba; the list grows longer by the day.

Providing bare metal broadband connectivity is clearly not the answer for most service providers today. They need to understand what types of services they can offer to add value to other ecosystem players in order to share a portion of that revenue opportunity.

How many members does TM Forum have currently, and where are some of the key geographies, you as a forum, need to place special effort now?

TM Forum has over 900 corporate members from around the globe, with tens of thousands of professionals within these companies engaged in the Forum’s programs and activities. While our traditional “sweet spots” have been in Europe and North America, we’re currently making a major push into high-growth markets including China and Asia Pacific countries, as well as India and the Middle East.

While we already count as members the who’s who of digital business in these regions, our goal is to embrace emerging economic and innovation hubs, creating a global ‘bridge to the East’ to facilitate collaboration and partnerships in these important markets. As examples, we recently ran a very successful senior executive workshop in Mumbai, and also announced a joint collaboration with ZTEsoft and the City of Yinchuan China to open up a Smart City R&D Center in Yinchuan which we will be inaugurating in September along with a one-day Smart City Innovation Summit.

We’re also engaged with Huawei, one of our members in China, to host a TM Forum workshop at Huawei’s Cloud Conference, also in September. As with the Forum’s priorities and overall strategy, we’re widening the tent to facilitate collaboration among innovative companies in these high-growth markets, and we believe that our members in more established markets can learn a lot from our members in these growth markets.