Demystifying telecom network asset management for agile operations

Telecom network asset management is a fundamental discipline, but it’s becoming increasingly complicated – and, if you don’t get it right, then it can put a brake on your plans to deliver more agile operations and services – and hold back your efforts to deploy full-fibre networks.

Why is telecom asset management complicated?

There are several key reasons why telecom asset management has become increasingly complicated, which we’ll explore in this post. This is an issue that’s of pressing concern for many, because delivering new and enhanced services that use these assets is central to the success of any telecoms business – and its future competitive position. 

First, assets have proliferated. Once upon a time, networks were relatively simple, but things have evolved considerably over the last 30 years. This evolution continues with the ongoing processes of virtualisation and cloudification. As a result, most operators have a mix of assets that are required to support different modes of connectivity – and there will future diversification in the future.

So, we have legacy networks, such as DSL, SDH/SONET, PDH, traditional voice, 2G and 3G; then, we have the newer networks, such as MPLS, WDM/OTN, GPON, 4G and many others; and, last but not least, emerging and future networks: SDN/SD-WAN, NFV, 5G – and 6G is on the horizon.

Consequently, most operators need to manage more than 60 different kinds of telecoms interfaces, from different vendors, as well as IT assets. Of course, these are all interconnected – services run across multiple network domains and elements, spanning this infrastructure. An end-to-end view depends on understanding all of these and their relationships to one another. 

Now, a network asset is not only the equipment, but also your copper and fibre cable network, the manholes, handholes, and all other connection layers that, taken together, deliver the connectivity for your customer and network services.   Keeping track of all of this is a challenge, as can be seen from the simple list below – a few common factors that indicate how difficult this really is in practice.

  • The network planning and inventory system must be able to cope with all such different technologies and vendors. When some functions are missing, MS Excel is an easy choice, so many operators have a mix of systems and lots of excel files.
  • Processes are not always followed, or workflow system not integrated with the inventory system, with the result that people may make changes in the field - but inventory system is not updated.
  • ERP systems are often not linked to network inventory systems, which means that your financial department may have no idea where the assets really are.
  • GPON network registration requires a combination of GIS + active inventory management, so that an end-to-end view of services can be obtained, because traditional GIS systems can only ‘see’ paths to and from splitters, not the necessary end to end view.
  • Many legacy inventory systems are not capable of performing network reconciliation and auto discovery, resulting in outdated data
  • Some equipment vendors have poor northbound interfaces on their NMS (network management systems) for inventory – with the result that key data may be missed
  • Virtual assets need a different approach to registration and discovery
  • Not all networks have an NMS, so network reconciliation must be performed via network equipment / entity discovery. Connectivity to neighbouring systems may not be permitted, due to security rules.

And that’s just a fraction of the challenges you face!

Customer relationships have evolved

Second, expectations have changed. Customers expect rapid activation for services they purchase, and performance that meets benchmarks set by regulators. If broadband is defined as X Mbps, then it has to be delivered – otherwise customers will complain. If they do so, then the assets involved in delivering that service to a particular named customer must be properly understood so that faults can be found. Similarly, if a customer buys a new service or an upgrade to an existing connection, then the assets required to deliver it need to be identified too.

Third, services have also changed – there’s no such thing as a universal service anymore, because people buy different packages and add or remove additional features, all the time – a market that’s getting increasingly dynamic as providers offer different contact packages, gaming bundles and more. Indeed, this is a key area for differentiation as service providers seek to deliver more personalised services – cost-effectively – which, in turn, means they need ensure effective telecom network asset management, because any friction in the delivery of a new service, with given characteristics, will lead to delays and costs, undermining margins.

Once again, all of these things (physical infrastructure, as well as logical resources, services – and business processes) are assets. They are connected. The ONT is connected to a fibre, the fibre to an optical patch panel; a fibre cable in the cable, on to a splitter than to another, then to an OLT, the OLT to the exchange, and so on. The service is delivered to a particular address (arguably, the customer is an asset too – certainly, that’s true when it comes to calculating the value of your network!), across a chain of connected things, assembled and orchestrated in real-time to ensure that the service can be consumed and assured.

Agility is key to protecting margins, growing revenue and retaining customers

Now, let’s start thinking about what agility means. Here, we’re really talking about the ability to sell, provision and launch a service to a paying customer – and to bill for it and maintain it, adjusting according to the SLA in force. 

The ability to do all of this, to coordinate complex processes and to make sense of all the assets in a logical, timely – and dynamic – manner is crucial. If you can’t do this, your rivals probably can. So, telecom network asset management is a crucial discipline. And, as your asset base grows, you must keep track of it all, so that you can continue to deliver services. 

In this context, it’s worth considering network evolution and optimisation. We can note that many telcos are also grappling with the problem of legacy network shutdown – and, for mobile operators, the closure of 2G and 3G networks. All of which creates new problems for asset management, as not only must equipment be identified, but alternatives must be provided to ensure that there is no disruption to customers. Any programme to replace a service that’s being retired with another requires a comprehensive view of who has the service, where they are, where the assets are that support the service are, where new ones to deliver the replacement are, promotional campaigns to target the right people – and so on. But, that’s another story, for another blog. As, for that matter, is the deployment of new 5G networks and the OTN infrastructure to support them.

Understanding the entirety of your asset base, at all times, is fundamental for successful agile operations

In any event, central to all of this – indeed, the key to successful telecom network asset management, is a consolidated repository of all of the data associated with each such asset – what it is, where it is, what services it is or can carry, who is using it, its status, the status of a service, the availability of a pathway to deliver a new service and so much more. In other words, the inventory that underpins all operations and customer experiences – from purchase to consumption and on to fruitful engagement.

So, if you’re growing and your asset base is blooming, then you need to be sure that you have the right inventory platform to support your business. VC4-IMS is the foundation of effective telecoms network asset management – and a single source of data for all your operations and processes, from planning to deployment to revenue. Why not request a demo, so you can see how we can bring clarity to your assets and provide a foundation for your agile evolution? 

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