Interview with Naren Narayana, CEO, Rakuten Symphony India, on the impact of Mobile as a SoftwareTM
At MWC Barcelona 2023, Rakuten Symphony launched its Mobile as a Software initiative that is designed to help the industry rethink more than 40 years of building networks using hardware and instead embrace the flexibility, scalability, cost effectiveness and agility of Mobile as a Software-based networks.
To provide a variety of perspectives on the challenges and benefits of this new direction, we are interviewing Rakuten Symphony executives. Here is an interview with Naren Narayana, CEO of Rakuten Symphony India.
I consider Mobile as a Software solutions to have three pillars: Open RAN, edge cloud and automation. Open RAN offers drastically lower CAPEX and can use automation to drive down OPEX as well. The edge cloud is vital because it makes services scalable and agile. Automation, for us, is all-encompassing, starting with planning the network, and then helping to build the network, operate the network, and govern the network. We consider automation as a horizontal layer that spans across platform infrastructure, cloud, Open RAN, operations, and ecosystem applications.
"Mobile as a Software is going to transform the industry from this hardware-centric mindset to a software-centric network."
Traditionally, the telco industry has been extremely slow to embrace change, but part of it can be blamed on the network. Because they have a hardware-based network it has been very hard to make changes. First, it’s expensive because network changes involve sending people on site and taking down a live service. Second, it’s risky in that you make changes to the network but if they don’t work for some reason the changes mess up the existing services and then you have to revert back to the previous state and try a different way. These challenges with hardware networks have fueled skepticism amongst operators about making changes because it has been so difficult in the past.
Mobile as a Software is going to transform the industry from this hardware-centric mindset to a software-centric network. This is a huge transformation, and I don't think it's going to be easy, because the telco operators are extremely skeptical about making this change. But I think it's bound to happen because it has happened already in the IT and Internet worlds with a great impact. It has to happen in the telco industry. If it doesn’t happen, I worry for the industry because I don’t see another way to bring in the innovation and lower cost that the industry needs.
Operators are getting a lot of push from many vendors telling them that they should transition their networks right away. I think that’s an extremely wrong approach and that's not what we are doing as a company.
I encourage operators to start with the biggest problem area and apply software and automation to that area. I advise customers to, at first, incrementally transition to this new paradigm; to pick a certain network problem area where they can see the improvement or get the data they need. Once they know where the real problems are we can work together on applying automated solutions where they need them the most.
Our products are designed to support this kind of adoption. An MNO can deploy our simplest product, Service Desk, which provides end-to-end ticket management. This software enables visibility for all the incidents that take place while the network is operating. Service Desk reports faults and configuration issues in the network without any dependencies on other Rakuten Symphony software. Now the operator is getting feedback on faults and performance issues because it is being tracked as a part of the automated service desk.
Depending on their network challenges they can adopt other software that can help resolve issues. For example, one of the ways we can go with this information is to use our Site Manager software. The data that an operator can get out of that product is enormous. We can actually find out what are their operational challenges and whether their network has been built properly or not.
All of these fit into our Symops family along with Cloud Observability, Performance Monitor, Fault Monitor and other anchor products. MNOs can buy either a family of products or they can also buy individual products.
I think people should trust Rakuten Symphony because we have Rakuten Mobile as a live network example of what we can do. Rakuten Mobile has the same needs of our other customers with all of the KPIs and data that support the network. In helping them to build the network we get to see firsthand what the operator network team sees. Like other vendors, we can talk about our technology and our automation advantages and how we have built all these great products, but we also have an operator with millions of customers who are using all of our products, and we can show the network performance and uptime numbers to prove how our products are effective.