According to Martin Creaner, a leading author and strategic thinker in the global communications industry, there are many different aspects that are moving the world of telecoms forward, over the next few years. The future of the telco is going to be a disruptive model and one of the currents moving it forward, will be that of virtualization.
Creaner says “I’m seeing the rise of what I’m calling the cloud-dependent telco, where pretty much everything to do with the telco is moving into the cloud.”
It is true that Creaner recognized underlying forces early, of which he still speaks. At the start of the millennium, he spoke of COTS (Commodity Off-The-Shelf) hardware as key to the progress of the OSS/BSS (operation support system/business support system) market. COTS was the ‘white box of its day and as today with NVF (Network Function Virtualisaton) there are two advantages – reduced prices and more compatibility between the programs that were run on them.
That meant the COTS approach was also disruptive to the incumbent OSS BSS suppliers who rather liked locking their customers up in proprietary systems.
So where does virtualization take the telecommunications industry as a whole? When everything is virtualized and completely flexible and hypercharged by ever-more powerful underlying silicon, what does that mean for the telco and the various business models which rely on it?
Drivers for virtualization and software driven networks are reduced costs and greater agility. This, with only small changes in the language used to describe it, has been the case for at least 20 years.
Back around the turn of the century, microservices were the elements that could be assigned to a telephone package as a new contract was being assigned to a customer – things like call answering. Fast forward to the introduction of NFV in 2015.
NFV, meant that vendors thought of the telco as a model where they had the expertise and could pull together all the software parts and generate a much more efficient network operator.
However, it is actually moving in a different direction. Google’s announcement of Anthos for the telecoms industry, is actually saying we have a brilliant cloud and we’re now going to turn the full weight and power of that cloud in the direction of the telecoms world. They’re also going to bring in their edge cloud which could be Google’s strategy to get adoption of their edge.
Google will not be alone of course. All the big players will be offering their own cloud versions of this approach. Even the traditional telecoms vendors will be offering full cloud solutions in the long run.
All the capability could be assigned to the public cloud and even managed on the telco client’s behalf. Under that scenario, the telco essentially becomes the owner of a RAN (or part owner of several shared RANs) and the owner of some spectrum and a customer base.
At some stage, and relatively quickly, small telcos could say that they’re just jumping on board that Google bandwagon, forgetting about their core network. So now they are a spectrum owner, a transport network owner – most of which they will lease.
It is also important to remember the rise of the heterogeneous access network which will involve access from a variety of fixed networks, Wi-Fi and shared small cell networks.
At this point, telecoms networks might have become so virtual that they exist only as temporary data trails over a vast and enormously complex multi-cloud.