Why intelligent asset management is the key to optimising competitive network performance

By Mark Brewer, VP of Service Industries at IFS.

Innovation within the telecoms space is moving at a faster pace than ever before. Changes are happening so rapidly, that many new technologies don’t get the chance to become fully operational before their successors are being discussed and developed. We need only look at the shift from 5G to 6G in the UK and Europe as a clear example of this innovation in action.

The ongoing development of technology creates endless opportunities for ambitious telcos. There are opportunities not just to modernise and enhance their existing offerings but also to develop brand new products and business strands which can have major benefits for the bottom line.

The demand for broadband services during the pandemic made this very apparent. The sudden increase in need for video conferencing was the catalyst for telcos to be in a constant cycle of increasing their output in order to meet the demand.

The importance of asset management for telcos

Without a doubt, having a successful system in place to manage assets has a direct impact on efficiency, operations and the ability for telcos to innovate.

However, when many telcos are pioneering new technologies and solutions, behind the scenes, other processes are compromised by the ongoing cycle of reinvention which has left a patchwork of contemporary and legacy systems to support the business.

The roll out of the 5G system has in some ways exacerbated this problem. When compared with earlier networks the technology demands many more transmitters, which unlike their 3/4G predecessors are ostensibly based in urban settings. Once the initial investment is over, telcos are then under great pressure to ensure they run smoothly. This process has been further complicated by the changes in equipment suppliers with Scandinavian based companies stepping up to fill the

gaps left by the Chinese companies that many of the original 5G networks installations agreement were signed with.

But even the most successful telcos, are not able to simply rebuild from scratch. Instead, they must rely on innovation and technology to integrate the old with the new.

With a backdrop of global challenges in the mix, maintaining a high-quality customer experience that delivers new personalised services and applications in real-time is no easy standard to meet. Macro-economic 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 to perform without any barriers or obstacles.

In addition, ever decreasing technology cycles have placed the telecom industry under huge pressure to make smart Capex investments in order to stay competitive in today’s market. This in turn creates new issues as the assets that power those networks, however, have to be refreshed more frequently than most other industries.

Significant investment in a fleet of assets means they require continual management to ensure optimum maintenance and performance. Often, operating 24/7 365 days per year, the need for assets to perform reliably and safely is mission critical. Having a proper maintenance strategy in-place with supporting systems can protect against unplanned outages that create major problems for asset owners and operators and can lead to regulatory intervention, penalties and fines.

There are pressures beyond making those teams run more effectively and efficiently too. Sustainability has become a key for many enterprises and ensuring that field service staff make only necessary trips has become one way companies attempt to reduce their carbon footprints.

Using technology to automate and improve efficiency

The good news, is that telcos are in a somewhat unique position. If they take inspiration from the way they are operating in other parts of their business, such as the use of technology and AI, they could be on to a winning solution for optimising performance as a whole.

For example, customer service, which has in recent years been transformed by technology to address the requirement of demanding consumers who want to communicate with telcos using their chosen method and at a given time.

One of the ways that telcos manage these processes is by enlisting technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate many of these workflows,

By using automated workflows and real-time data, the telco can send the customer reminders and other important details (technician’s name, estimated arrival time, etc.), enhancing the experience. They can harness the technology to harvest customer feedback and then use this data to optimise the service.

Yet replicating this type of innovation in asset management is complex; combining an asset management system, service management and scheduling system, and a separate set of contract warranty management systems has until recently meant operating multiple diverse systems.

There are many issues for telcos to resolve from managing maintenance budgets and attaining ROI insight into their Capex investments through to obtaining a 360 vision across all of their platforms.

These can only be addressed by integrating infrastructure management solutions so that internal processes and operations can move away from silos across asset, workforce and service management to support new business models.

By breaking through these silos – arguably the root of telco’s operational challenges - and creating unified field asset management systems, companies can start to improve and exceed on efficiency, productivity and sustainability targets that are so important for them.

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