Faster Horses or Automobiles: Which one would you Choose ?

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Couple of months ago, President and CEO of one of the big ICT companies (no press release of the talk available , so keeping name for privacy) was invited to give a talk, at an annual celebration which I happened to attend. During the questions & answers session.

Host asked him, where do you see the future of Telecommunications and how  ICT professionals should prepare themselves for future.

His answer ,
“ Currently we have around 120,000 employee and by 2020 , we foresee our workforce to be reduced to 90,000. “

With this comment , two things happened.
ICT professionals ’ jaw dropped and went silent for a couple of seconds,
while business analysts, project managers, and management consultants were saying “ Yayyyyyy’ way to go… reducing the overhead and cutting costs, going lean.”

He explained himself further saying .

“ It’s not that we are letting go of our long term employees , instead in a couple of years, some people will retire, departmental re-organizations may result in moving some employees in other areas. It’s not that we are going to hire all new employees. But more importantly, the 90,000 employees we shall have, their job role and duties will be different from what they are doing today , on account of  the way technology is changing so fast. Current skill set of our employees will not be enough for years down the road. That’s what we foresee.”

Apparently a statement like this coming  from an executive does leave tech professionals wondering. What did he mean by that ?

 

The paradigm on which conventional networks were operated and are operarted is changing and eventually will change.

It may take a couple of years, but this is where we are headed.

This brings me to the operation of a typical network today.

 

Current_Network

Radio Access Network cycle of Operation

 

You see each one of us have earned, currently earn or shall earn livelihood in future by working in any of the above mentioned areas on the Access Network side.

Even some of you have earned big fat paychecks working on the optimization side of the house , some of us have spend a portion of our lives on the road doing drive testing, while others have spent times deploying all this in the field.

I have met people who have worked over 3 decades in one of the above areas in the canvas mentioned above. From their technical brain side of things, the above canvas look like an overview of RAN network operation cycle. Perhaps , you can speak for hours explaining your particular niche in a certain network area you have worked on for years.

A better question to ask is, does the stake holders view your niche in the same way ?

For a minutes let’s wear the stakeholder’s hat and see at the same canvas below.

 

Network_Expenses

Cost Analysis Aspect of Network Operation

 

 

When I look at it with an ROI and business performance KPIs terms in my mind. I see something else. I see what part of the network is sucking more money and bringing less or more ROI so and so forth.

When the operators mastermind gather around, they should ask questions like this  :

How can we deliver better service ,with less overhead ?
How can we have more up time and less support tickets ?
How can we have more better performance, less human error, and better insight into offerings etc ?
How can we monetize more , while voice revenue is going down , and cost per bit to transport is decreasing. Should we come up with new business models ?

on and on….

 

Well this is not a class on business strategy 101 . The point is, with advancement in technology and new research, why not to automate and self organize the areas which are costing more money, more hassle and less return on investment.

For a few years now, operators, vendors across the globe and standard bodies have been proposing self organizing network (SON) features, to have more better performance and less direct human interaction . Avoid conventional ways to approach the network, have better services, and improved performance.
One of the famous SON feature back in 2011 circa was ANR. For example , I remember the days when Automatic Neighbor Relationship (ANR) was introduced, some colleagues liked it, others were saying what will happen to the jobs such as where an engineer was dedicated to maintaining neighbor relationships lists etc.

With each new software release , new automated features , keeps getting  introduced . Old ones replaced by new ones etc.

New features , new tools, re-organizations , they all come up with time, learning and training challenges.

But they also bring in new opportunities.

In other words, the number of jobs opportunities  available in the market remains  the same loosely speaking. Only the requirements for those jobs changes based on the technology, business model and miscellaneous other factors.

In a nutshell industry requirements to perform the same old tasks changes.

Now coming back to the title of the post steam engine versus faster horses which one would you choose ?

When automobiles were introduced, people were still asking for faster horses. They were naive , as they didn’t know the potential of automobiles. Once they got to know it, they experienced the convenience , comfort and realized more opportunities and faster transport with less hassle.

Similarly, applying the concept of SON to existing network ways of working. What will happen. ?

If we apply SON approach to the above canvas diagram. The new way of looking at the same network will look something like this below.

 

Future_Automated_Network

Including SON Aspects in Existing RAN

Suddenly a number of blocks are missing in this canvas from the other two diagrams above.
Well , not missing exactly ,but their functionality has been integrated with these smarter SON features.

Are these deployments taking place in the field already ?
Eventually yes, and some have started already.
Features such as Minimization of Drive Tests (MDT) are already introduced in 3GPP, deployment of it in field right away or not is another discussion.

 

In the coming days, I will share another interesting story I happened to experience in the same context.

Looking at the first canvas above, tell me what part of the network do you work with in your day to day job ? Have you seen an transitions lately. Leave your response in the comments below.

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