Smart Operations, the solution to transforming the Operation and Maintenance of telecommunications networks | NTT DATA

Tue, 27 July 2021

Smart Operations, the solution to transforming the Operation and Maintenance of telecommunications networks

Aside from overcoming the challenge of creating new services that will boost revenues, telecommunication operators face many new challenges related to the operation and maintenance (O&M) activities of the 5G network rollout. In addition to the complexity of managing this new technology, more base stations are required which entails an increase in O&M costs, if traditional models are applied.

According to the European Commission, providing 5G coverage to European urban centers before 2025 will cost 500,000 million euros. The reason why operators are willing to invest such amounts lies in the potential benefits 5G will bring to their business. The possibility to increase revenue by offering the new 5G services for companies and individuals, the IoT applications and new cases of use based on disruptive technologies, represent a great opportunity for operators. However, as networks develop and shift from 4.5G to 5G which adds more complexity and intelligence to operations, it is necessary to focus attention on the control of operating costs in order to guarantee favorable business cases, where the benefits expected from the 5G services are financially attractive.

For many years, telecommunication operators have tried to keep operating costs under control, adopting strategies based on outsourcing a growing share of O&M activities, and negotiating down the unit prices of these services by volume. Nonetheless, the profit margin of companies that work in this area has been drastically reduced in recent times, forcing them to optimize material and human costs, which has impacted the quality of the service. Obviously, there is a price below which accepting these tasks would no longer be profitable making this model unsustainable, putting the operation of the networks and the viability of investment in new technologies at risk.

Therefore, service providers and supply companies urgently need new capabilities that allow them to transform their current operation and maintenance models, reducing operating costs, but also increasing quality levels. This transformation, based on digitalization, is necessary both to maintain the current business and to make the necessary investment for 5G viable.

At everis we believe that the best way to optimize operating costs is by transforming and digitalizing O&M activities throughout the widespread use of automation and other disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and the IoT, among others.

Today's O&M activities are reactive, complex, time consuming and labor intensive. Important components in the cost structure of this activity are the trips to the sites to identify and resolve incidents, the time dedicated to locating items, on-site diagnosis, the management of spare parts, and the resolution of problems derived from low quality data. The reduction in volume and time dedicated to these activities is essential to achieve the objective of optimizing O&M activity.

Another area in which telecommunication service providers have an area of ​​opportunity is energy consumption, which currently accounts for 20% of costs. The electricity bill is expected to rise sharply as the power consumption of 5G base stations is higher than its predecessors, to which we must add new devices and other equipment compatible with Edge Computing technology that is needed to sustain many of the new 5G services.

On the other hand, equipment theft and vandalism present additional challenges. In addition to supplying extra costs to correct them, they can affect the service and have serious consequences for customers, especially those who live in peripheral areas.

To solve all these challenges, everis has developed Smart Operations, a range of solutions that helps communications operators and O&M service providers to move from a traditional management model that is mostly reactive and with a high degree of manual craftsmanship, to a new proactive model, digitally assisted and with a high degree of automation.

Smart Operations converts the equipment installed in the sites into "smart" tools through the use of IoT technology that allows many operational activities to be carried out remotely or even automated, thus reducing the need to visit the site. Likewise, applying artificial intelligence and machine learning helps to analyze the data generated by the equipment, allowing the technician to detect patterns or anomalies more quickly, as well as automate the decision-making process.

Nevertheless, if a visit to the site is inevitable, Smart Operations allows technicians to carry out their tasks with more speed and quality, helping them locate the equipment, supporting the performance of tasks and troubleshooting, making use of the information that’s available on the augmented reality devices or on mobile phones.

In addition to real-time error detection and monitoring capabilities, Smart Operations, through advanced analytical processes, can predict potential failures and performance degradations of certain equipment such as batteries and generators.

In the security section, through IoT sensors and thermal cameras, Smart Operations can detect the access and presence of animals or people inside the facilities, attempts to manipulate elements such as batteries, risk of fire due to thermal analysis and location GPS devices. Additionally, it reduces the risk in certain jobs that are performed at heights through the use of drones.

The Smart Operations solution also has capabilities to monitor and optimize the energy consumption of the deployed elements, through sensors and actuators that make use of analytical and artificial intelligence capabilities.

In summary, transforming and digitalizing O&M activities and reducing operating costs are key requirements for telecommunications service providers in order for them to maintain their networks and continue to invest in new infrastructures, such as 5G. Objectives for which Smart Operations can be of great help.

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