The relentless drive of innovation opens the door to new business possibilities for ambitious wireless operators. Whether it is the shift from 5G to 6G or the integration of artificial intelligence into network processes, the latest tech innovations are the catalyst that enables operators to not just modernize and enhance their existing offerings but also to develop new products and service offerings that delight their customers.
Indeed, as we saw during the recent global pandemic and the rise of work-from-home videoconferencing, such innovation can spark and sustain increased demand, placing telcos under immense pressure to scale up while ensuring systems are highly robust while operating efficiently.
This continual cycle of innovation means smart asset management is a must. Today’s state-of-the-art systems will be tomorrow’s legacy systems (sometimes in little more than a decade), requiring operators to juggle the requirements of developing and managing new assets while sunsetting older ones.
As 5G-enabled products and services evolve and gain market traction, telcos are rapidly increasing their overall network capacity in response. But with additional capacity comes additional complexity in areas such as project management, engineering, civil works, installation, product configuration, and integration.
Just as in other developed markets, the rollout of 5G in the United States has exacerbated this problem. 5G requires many more transmitters in the form of small-cell technology, which, unlike the previous 3G/4G infrastructure, are highly concentrated with greater density (using multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO, antennas) in urban settings.
Once deployed, along with an expanded software component, these assets require continual management and monitoring to optimize performance and ensure resilience. To ensure a high ROI on this massive capital investment, powerful asset-management tools have emerged to deliver reliability-centered maintenance, predictive maintenance, workforce management, and capital project management, improving the efficiency of the equipment and ensuring telcos can improve the productivity of their field workforce.
While many telcos are successfully mastering these new technologies and solutions, it is often their back-end systems that struggle to keep pace with the furious cycle of innovation. Hindering their ability to meet deadlines on time and on budget is a patchwork quilt of modern and legacy systems. No operator can afford to sunset their legacy systems and rebuild from scratch. Rather, they must turn to innovation and specialized technology to integrate the old with the new.
Rapid innovation demands robust asset management
Ensuring a flawless CX (customer experience) while delivering new, personalized services and applications in real time is a high bar to clear. Macroeconomic issues such as the rising costs of equipment, talent gaps, and supply chain disruption make internal service management even more challenging for projects like 5G rollouts or the upgrade from copper- to fiber-based broadband.
These accelerating technology cycles have placed the telecom industry under huge pressure to make smart CapEx investments just to stay competitive. The assets that power those networks, in turn, must also be upgraded more frequently, highlighting the need for a coherent asset-management strategy.
The addition of hundreds of thousands of network assets requires sophisticated asset-management protocols to ensure optimum performance 24x7. Implementing a robust maintenance and support strategy can guard against unplanned outages that create major problems for asset owners and operators—and can lead to regulatory intervention, penalties, and fines.
And it goes beyond a purely operational P&L discussion: telcos are not immune from political and environmental concerns. Sustainability, for example, is a high priority for network operators, so ensuring that field service operations and truck rolls are managed by a system that optimizes for a minimal carbon footprint is another area where asset-management systems can deliver bottom-line value.
Delivering moments of service that really count
As they work to digitally transform their asset-management methodology, telcos should look to other parts of their business for inspiration. Take customer service, for example, which has been transformed by technology that caters to the needs of today’s demanding consumers, who expect to communicate with telcos using their chosen channel and at a time that’s convenient for them.
Successful telcos are leveraging the proven foundational technologies that have been used to great effect in customer service: artificial intelligence and machine learning. By using smart, automated workflows and real-time data, operators can offer intelligence-powered self-service appointment booking and send automated reminders along with key information such as the technician’s name, estimated arrival time (ETA), and even the ability to track (much as one would an Uber), cancel or reschedule to improve the customer’s experience.
By eliminating operational silos and creating unified field asset-management systems, operators can more quickly attain their efficiency, productivity, and sustainability targets. And more importantly, they will be better positioned to deliver moments of service that delight their customers.
Mark Brewer is VP of Service Industries at IFS.