With devices in the Internet of Things expected to pass the 75 billion mark by 2025, and data generated by the IoT already standing at around 4.4 trillion GB, it is clear that direct human management of purely physical telecommunications networks is no longer feasible. It is also a fact that telcos are facing pressure to develop and deploy new, innovative products and services faster than ever before, while intense competition demands that operators make cost savings at every opportunity.
For telecommunications companies, these factors mean that high levels of automation and virtualization are required. Network function virtualization (NFV) and the cloud are helping to drive the shift from hardware-based networks to virtual alternatives. Next steps in automation will include capitalizing on the potential offered by zero-touch provisioning and zero-touch automation.
At first glance, these may seem to be different ways of describing the same thing. But, which zero-touch provisioning in telecommunications focuses on the automation of network and IT infrastructure, zero-touch automation goes deeper. It encompasses not only network infrastructure operations, but also every aspect of the service lifecycle from planning and development to delivery, onboarding, monitoring and updating. As one expert suggested, zero-touch automation is the difference between telecommunications networks that are automatic, and those that are autonomous.
Zero-touch automation can help telco operators make cost savings and improve services. This is apparent in the service planning stage, which is prone to human error. Today’s zero-touch automation solutions leave telco enterprise clients in control of their service and product development, while allowing them to implement planning via a digital dashboard that not only eliminates the potential for human error but also brings significant time (and therefore cost) savings. The effect of zero-touch automation is similar at the delivery stage – cutting the process from weeks to days and automating configuration to remove the potential for human error.
One of the most significant advantages offered by zero-touch automation is the ability to let customers deal with their own onboarding process. Where it was once necessary to send a technician to carry out every new installation, customers can now receive the hardware they need (sometimes even on the day they place the order), plug in, and let the integrated software manage set-up. Once the service is activated, zero-touch automation deploys advanced data collection and analysis to monitor (and often repair) potential issues before they become a problem for customers and an expense for the telco operator. The same automated processes are applied for service updates.
This all means that, with zero-touch provisioning and automation, telcos will be better placed to raise operational efficiency and make the cost savings required in a highly competitive market