Spotlight on Tech

Telecom transformation – A Tareq Amin conversation

June 16, 2023
minute read

Telecom operators can achieve dramatic economic and business results by trusting in a cloud-native future that entails owning system design, cloud-native processes and automated operations. Part of this future, Open RAN brings flexible and agile deployment choices.  

Before adopting Open RAN, operators should reflect on their own organizations before deciding to decouple hardware supply chains as success depends on the right organization, people and skillsets that accelerate progress, rather than fearing change.  

We sat down with Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony who built a culture that does exactly that: accelerate change.  

How can telecom get to the future?  

Amin: Industry leaders recognize the need for cloud-native and automation transformation but find it difficult to identify a starting point. At the foundational level, having the right organization, people and skillsets is crucial. When it’s right, I’ve seen the momentum for massive transformation begin. 

Lab trials eat cost, so we need to replace this stage with controlled and accelerated deployment and rollout production. Moving from lab to production also provides fuel for driving the industry forward since it creates the right challenge and good sense of urgency. 

In software, this is enabled by different deployment strategies in Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment operations.   

How can existing operators transform?   

Amin: By partnering with interested customers, we can introduce true cloud-native operations and OSS automation while developing the necessary organization, mindset, and skillsets.  

We offer a cloud-native micro-service software platform that automates end-to-end telecom processes on a common data platform where operators can quickly deploy our platform and prioritize areas for transformation, such as production site commissioning, site management digitalization, or cloud service assurance.   

We recommend starting with a clean slate and focusing on aggressive production with the intent to drive the process. Our platform, that is not closed, rather designed to be integrated into other open software provides a kick start framework to start a transformative approach and work as an accelerant. The alternative solution is to repeat our learning from the last four years, but that’s not necessary when we have institutionalized our automation knowledge in this software and data platform. 

Why do we expect different results with radio compared to core network cloud transformation?  

Amin: The story of transformation cannot just say, “hey, you know I'm going to take a proprietary hardware in the core and make it a VM and suddenly, I become efficient.” It just doesn't work that way.  

The transformation story must start with a clear end goal, which should involve:  

  • lower total cost of ownership 
  • fewer operational personnel 
  • self-managing workloads 

Success depends on adopting a horizontal cloud-native operation and a consolidated data-driven approach to automation instead of relying on outdated OSS systems. A uniform horizontal cloud operation spanning data centers to the edge is essential, as it is a unified OSS system capable of orchestrating applications, managing auto healing, applying policy and handling digital workflows. 

Why is system design ownership important in cloud-native transformation?   

Amin: Modern operations affect all aspects of supply chain, hardware, software disaggregation, procurement and organization. By reducing hardware variants and simplifying the supply chain, companies can achieve significant cost savings and focus on application development and deployment. This shift allows for better service differentiation, faster time-to-market and more efficient operations. The goal is to make mobile networks as easy to operate as Wi-Fi networks and minimize operational staff requirements. 

What about engaging with existing operators who say you are too busy with other customers?  

Amin: As a newer entrant, we must choose our customers carefully and work with those who share our vision for transformation. We have exceptional technical competency in software and can scale up quickly, but we need to partner with companies that recognize the value of this journey. Our goal is to work with organizations that understand the necessity of transformation and are willing to invest in it. 

Closing thoughts

  1. Start with a focus – ex. vRAN transformation and zero touch provisioning. 
  2. Create your own system design that all vendors will fit into, not the other way around. Include existing footprint considerations. 
  3. Design and create the right nucleus organization, people and skillsets, tooling. 
  4. Prove using a small footprint: 5-10 sites. Fully automated with zero touch provisioning. 
  5. Commit to rapidly scaling once the proof and confidence exists. 

Transformation is essential for survival and offers both personal and business rewards. It is a challenging process but necessary in an ever-increasingly competitive market. We encourage those interested in embracing this change to reach out and embark on this journey with us. 

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