Spotlight on Tech

On the fence about how to manage your mobile network? Let history be your guide

Geoff Hollingworth
Chief Marketing Officer
Rakuten Symphony
May 6, 2024
minute read

Game changing innovation has a way of sneaking up on an industry. And for MNOs it’s happening now.

That was a part of my message when I joined a panel discussion sponsored by HCLTech that featured industry leaders from AT&T, CommScope and Dish Network and that was hosted by Joe Lawrence of HCLTech. (Read more about the panel in this HCLTech blog.)

In this post I want to expand on the statements I made about game changing innovation and the paradigm shift facing telecom.  

At day zero before a disruptive technology is launched, everything feels normal and under control. But looking back at that moment from the future, it’s apparent that the change was so impactful it makes you wonder how we functioned without it.

A good example is the launch of Web 2.0 in 2007. At the time, we were all happily surfing statically created Web 1.0 web pages on our computers. But now can we imagine a world without the social media, photo sharing, e-commerce and other capabilities that define how we use the Internet today? The same thing can be said about smartphones and many other technologies.

It's day zero for Telecom Reinvented

For MNOs it’s day zero of a massive shift in terms of both their operational mindset and technologies that are leveraged, which are virtualized, software-driven, and feature standardized network software and hardware. And it’s hard to see the changes when you are at day zero. This new approach is distinguished by the need for a network-wide standardized data pool to be created and used for AI-powered autonomous automation.

The MNOs who embrace this network industrialization can change their businesses by taking advantage of the opportunities for cost cutting and new revenues that this network paradigm shift brings with it.  

Rakuten Mobile has been at the forefront of this change in leveraging a software-first automation approach to manage a nation-wide network with only 250 engineers. Other MNOs will look back on this change and ask themselves, how did we boost our revenue when we couldn’t launch complex 5G standalone services with a zero-touch approach?  

Or how did we support new services when we couldn’t autonomously manage tens of thousands of edge network servers?

Or how did we make a profit when we had such huge teams of network engineers managing the network?

We also have the chance to answer other pressing questions. How do we make AI safe?  How do we reduce fraud?

I think we'll all look back at this period the same way as we look back at the start of Web 2.0 apps or the smart phone in 2007. Those MNOs who are late to the network industrialization revolution will struggle to compete and they will reflect on this inflection point and realize the consequences of not adopting this reinvented approach to telecom.    

And if telecom is not taking advantage of these important changes in the next 10-15 years, shame on the industry.

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