Spotlight on Tech

Why we need automation in telecoms

Timothy Katee
Engineering Manager and Product Lead for Automation Studio
Rakuten Symphony
February 15, 2023
minute read

The advantages of automation in the telecommunications industry are clear-cut, offering significant improvements in efficiency, time-savings, and cost reduction.

The amount of automation within a telecom operator is often open to interpretation, with many industry reports citing between 20 and 40%, but we can say to a certain degree that it is not widely adopted.

The challenges in moving to automation

I hail from a software development background and, jumping into telco operations, it was evident from the beginning that this would be a fun ride as Rakuten Symphony was building a network to be the first in the industry, fully virtualized and cloud-native. The only way we could achieve this at the desired pace meant one thing: automation had to be integral from day 0. Then, we needed to stitch automation into every fabric of the network to achieve our desired goals.

The different technologies, the different providers, the other organizational structures, the different cultures and mindsets, fears of automation impact, and the choice overload from the available automation tools were a bigger foe to automation implementation than any technical challenge we’d ever faced.

Empower employees to embrace automation

The message was clear. It was not about the technical know-how, a specific technology, or a platform. Instead, if automation was to have the impact we needed, we needed to empower everyone from all levels and assignments in the organization. We needed to adopt an automation-first mindset in every aspect of planning, building, and day-to-day operations.

To achieve that, we had to take the bull by the horns, go to the very root of the challenge, and re-write our culture and mindset through:

  • Open discussions with all employees on the importance of automation and have them see automation as their sidekick
  • Unify technology (IT) departments with all other business functions ensuring no silos
  • A top-down approach where executives were clearly aligned to ensure automation adoption also provided correct prioritization
  • Engrave curiosity and knowledge through enabling the continuous learning, re-education, and training of the workforce on the relevant skills needed to keep up with the pace of technological changes

The results of that approach, empowering people first to have an automation-first mindset, have superseded our expectations.

In Rakuten Mobile, we deployed the world’s largest Open RAN coverage with over 300,000 cells managed by a team of only 250 people and four years ahead of schedule, thanks to an automation-first mindset.

That was only part of the puzzle. As a company that embraces software, we’ve carefully crafted an automation platform that embodies our mindset and passion. A platform that lets all from network engineers, software engineers, network operators, and executives contribute seamlessly to our automation efforts.

Subscribe to our newsletter as we walk you through how we built an Automation Studio codenamed “RMOPS.”

Why not see our automation studio in action? Please come along to our booth at MWC in Hall 2 at 2D46.

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