Senior VP, Business Applications,

For decades, service providers have relied on OSS/BSS applications running on in-house infrastructure. However, these legacy setups are no longer fit for today’s world where customer needs are rapidly evolving. As a result, CSPs should begin shifting their legacy applications to cloud-native SaaS models to remain competitive and achieve continued success.

5G promises to bring services like monetization, security and network slicing to CSPs. To fully tap into these benefits, CSPs need flexible, easily adaptable software to meet dynamic market opportunities. However, managing overhead costs of legacy applications leaves many CSPs stuck in integrator roles, while industry disruptors surge forward with new 5G and IoT services.

SaaS: The Uber Model of Business Applications

Uber’s winning strategy is that it removes all burdens tied to vehicle ownership. Alternatively, people can summon a car as needed with a few simple clicks, and only pay for the time spent in it.

Now, software-as-a-service (SaaS) is bringing an Uber-like model to software by delivering easily-adaptable software on demand from the cloud. SaaS relieves CSPs from the burden of software maintenance and updates, as well as providing scalable infrastructure. In doing so, CSPs can free up additional resources to focus on improving customer service and drive growth.

The SaaS model has prompted transformation in various fields, and telecoms isn’t far behind. In fact, Analysys Mason found that SaaS is progressively considered as the “delivery model of the future,” with CSPs increasingly evaluating and deploying applications delivered in a SaaS model.

The Challenge With Modernizing Legacy BSS/OSS

Across all industries, SaaS is demonstrating its value in non-business-critical areas. Apps like Microsoft Office are increasingly utilized on an SaaS basis. This moves costs from CAPEX, to a more manageable monthly OPEX that ensures users are always on the same, latest version.

That being said, business-critical areas – such as OSS/BSS – face more challenges when transitioning to cloud-native architectures and SaaS. Because of legacy applications’ customized nature, it is bound to accumulate vast amounts of code or modifications over the years to meet demands. While these changes may be purposeful at the moment, over time they form a technical debt that makes application modernization significantly more daunting.

The inability or reluctance of CSPs to let go of legacy applications will put them at a disadvantage, as opportunities to offer new, high-value business services – such as network analytics, security and 5G network slicing – are missed. The following outlines a few ways SaaS can help monetize services for network analytics, security and network slicing.

Analytics and SaaS

5G will deliver the Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF) capability which will standardize how CSPs collect and analyze network data, streamlining network management. Mix NWDAF and SaaS, and CSPs can share network data with an ecosystem of partners using open APIs, as well as form unique and valuable propositions.

5G drones serve as a solid use case for analytics. With network analytics-as-a-service, a CSP and providers of data-driven services could collaborate to deliver real-time collision or weather warnings, and GPS reliability forecasts. Opportunities for monetization become more widely available when network data is merged with other internal data sources (e.g., subscriber demographics).

Security and SaaS

From a security perspective, the rapidly evolving threat landscape requires CSPs to be agile and implement resilient guardrails. With IoT infections, high-profile data breaches and DDoS attacks becoming more frequent and sophisticated, traditional, local security solutions will require significant costly maintenance and updates to keep up – let alone get ahead of these threats.

In contrast, an “as-a-service” approach enables CSPs to deliver the highest levels of protection against threats in a highly scalable and cost-efficient way. Monetization opportunities also become possible, by offering security services to consumers and enterprises through a “try before you buy” approach.

Network Slicing and SaaS

Perhaps an “as-a-service” model’s greatest area of potential is 5G network slicing. With upfront investments in licenses and hardware taken out of the mix, CSPs can test new slicing-based services at ease with low risk. In the future, a “5G network slicing as-a-service” might include orchestration capabilities to design, deploy and assure a slice. That way, CSPs can:

  • Engage network analytics to meet SLAs
  • Deploy security to ensure the slice is protected comprehensively against new and emerging threats
  • And leverage charging to monetize new, low-latency 5G services

Start Small, Then Scale When Ready

With “as-a-service” models, the possibilities are endless. A key advantage of this model is that CSPs can start small by trialing one or two capabilities at minimal cost and reduced risk. Later, they can easily scale the capabilities when the business case is proven.

For example, Vodafone recently moved its RAN network data from multiple on-premises data lakes to a singular platform on Google Cloud. Once its data was consolidated into one big “data ocean,” Vodafone deployed a security application to identify and fix issues across the network. As a result, the telco found that it could deliver a 25-30% efficiency improvement by automating root cause analysis of network issues.

Underpinning Innovation in the 5G Era

While some CSPs still plan to hang on to their legacy applications, changing tides may soon persuade them to reconsider. Today, more telcos are migrating their networks to the public cloud to reap the benefits of rapid scaling, easy software adaptability, and lower costs. Add on the ability to rapidly trial new services at low risk, and the business case for cloud-native SaaS becomes even more compelling. In this day and age, agility, flexibility and adaptability are qualities that cannot be understated. CSPs should begin implementing a strategy that enables them to operate like the Uber of SaaS so that they can remain competitive and achieve long-term success.