The last three years have been a roller coaster ride in the telecommunications industry and the ride continues its course. COVID-19 not only demonstrated the critical importance telecommunications infrastructure has on individuals, businesses, and society in general but also the need for telecommunications networks to be agile, cost-effective and scalable in a way that we never imagined before.
ITU estimates that approximately 5.3 billion people – or 66 per cent of the world’s population – are using the Internet in 2022. This represents an increase of 24 per cent since 2019, with 1.1 billion people estimated to have come online during that period. However, this leaves 2.7 billion people still offline.
One thing is clear: the need for transferring bandwidth and connecting the world is not going away or slowing down. In his recent article “The Carrier Guide to 2023” Mattias Fridström, Chief Evangelist at Arelion makes some striking predictions for the year ahead and starts by saying:
“Despite the global turmoil, network traffic has continued to grow, and we see some really interesting technologies maturing. In the face of this, we’ll need to stay focused and relentlessly pursue our mission to ensure reliable, fast, and secure connectivity across the globe.”
So, what exactly needs to change when we think of building these ever-expanding networks? Here are a few insights around what we in Arelion have adapted to and are actively striving to achieve:
Sweat the physical assets (POWER/SPACE/FIBER)
Concerns around surging energy prices are everywhere. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Arelion by Savanta, 45% of the business leaders suffer significant personal stress as a result of recent surge in the cost of energy.
Even though we are past the peak, this surge taught us that we can’t take physical assets for granted. There is no endless supply of either space, power or even fiber. So, the way we use these assets needs to be completely re-reviewed and thought out in detail.
Even adopting small changes goes a long way. For example, let the power allocation grow with the growing footprint, don’t allocate max consumption day one. Have the most optimum airflows that help reduce the heat generation and thus the cooling required. Use the latest technology with the lowest wattage/bit. Cut out nice-to-have margins. Use historic data to know what the power consumption at peak times was.
I could go on and on. Of course, this is not an easy task, but it is key that the whole organisation is consumption-conscious. The same way that there is a general awareness around resources in our personal lives, organisations need to be consumption-conscious not only to save money but also to enable a sustainable environment.
Simplify the network
The need for a simple, agile, and light network is at the forefront now because it helps with better cost/bit, better network performance, and is easier to manage and easier to scale. If I am very honest, a few years back, organisational discussions in the industry were always centred around growth (which they should be). But that’s not the only discussion we should be having. Along with growth we also need to talk about efficiency: Are we building/running the network in the most efficient way?
For example, if we open (x) number of PoPs in a year then we also discuss how (y) number of PoPs will be closed as demands might have shifted and they might no longer be needed. If we deploy new cutting-edge technology in the network then we also retire legacy platforms in the network. This clean-up is not a point-in-time exercise any longer. It is the way we build networks and very much ingrained in the organisation’s eco-system.
We can proudly say that over the past couple of years all our growth has been power growth neutral, i.e., the total power footprint in the network didn’t grow with the growing network. The growth came from reusing the power released from no longer needed platforms or PoPs, and we are committed to continuing this trend.
Data is the Queen
In running any business today, there can be innumerable data points that can be collected on a day-to-day basis. In a carrier network, that number could very quickly exponentially grow. Thus, successful carrier networks must know how to use this data in all forms, ranging from:
- Descriptive Analysis: What happened/is happening?
- Diagnostic Analysis: Why did this happen?
- Predictive Analysis: What could happen?
- Prescriptive Analysis: What should we do?
Today, a data-aware organisation doesn’t just provide a structure but shapes the way it systematically analyses a problem and takes action.
But saying that, telecoms has always struggled with data accuracy, either because of manual inputs, multiple systems running in an organisation due to M&A activities or just not enough focus on being data-aware. Of course, if the data is not clean, then no amount of analysis can help you get to the right decisions.
Arelion have an advantage of having good and robust quality of data as we have grown organically and haven’t had the burden of consolidations over the years through M&A. This opens limitless possibilities for us to use clean data and build on it. It is great to see an Arelion electrical engineer programming and building their own reports accessing data from the common data lake. And this is just the beginning.
Being data-aware and then using that data to automate goes hand in hand. If you look back a few years, you would be surprised to see how many of the redundant and repetitive tasks have been automated. Although we still have a lot of work that can be done in this area, at Arelion, automation has helped us get to the next level to do things like automatically provision traffic on demand, emulate traffic behaviours and growth patterns, predict fault scenarios, track/fix fiber degradation, automate parts of NOC activities and more – the list is endless.
The more technologically advanced your network is, the more automation can help build/run/maintain that network – and the less prone to human errors it will be, ultimately enhancing the quality of your network.
Leverage innovation and technological advancements
Arelion has always been quick on adapting and adding new technology to its network, be it disaggregated open optical line systems or collapsing the optical and IP layers by using 400G coherent pluggables ZR/ZR+s. Being at the forefront of technological advancements brings potential to our network and customers.
Also, it is interesting to see that all topics discussed above aren’t possible to the fullest without a wholehearted commitment to new technology. That’s what makes coming to work interesting and exciting. That’s what unlocks future possibilities. Any successful carrier network would understand this now more than ever.
Quality at the core of every decision
Andy Everest, VP Procurement & Service Delivery at Arelion did a deep dive into what quality means to us and how we constantly work to improve it, in his blog post The quest for network quality. He says,
“It is generally agreed that ‘Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten’, and nearly all are prepared to pay a premium for a provider that delivers a high-quality network experience. It is more costly to manage poor quality in the long run”.
Ultimately, everything this blog covers in some way or the other contributes to improving the quality of the network and in turn improving the quality it creates for our customers. And that’s what we all strive for. So before making any decision, our first question should always be, “how does this improve the quality?”. Because if it does, then it is worth pursuing. If not, then maybe it’s worth changing the course.
In conclusion, I think this excerpt from a recent blog by our CEO Staffan Göjeryd, Our customers have spoken: “A reliable partner with quality services”, captures our way of working:
“Ultimately, customer excellence is built on a culture that promotes a sense of ownership for everyone in the organization. From the bottom up, our employees are encouraged to embrace customer experience and take individual responsibility for it – because at the end of the day, customer experience is all about people.”
Director Network Planning & Build
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