& cplSiteName &

Telecom Italia Plots Digital 'Overlay,' Not Transformation

Iain Morris

Telecom Italia has said it will be impossible to overhaul its existing back-office systems and that it plans to use an "overlay" to support the rollout of new software and virtualization technologies.

Like other telcos, the Italian incumbent is trying to automate and "digitize" parts of its network in response to changing customer requirements and in an effort to gain web-like efficiency.

Having indicated earlier this year that digital transformation was proving enormously challenging, Telecom Italia (TIM) says it will continue maintaining its legacy operational support systems (OSS) alongside an overlay in a kind of hybrid environment -- where both physical and virtual network functions (VNFs) will be in use. (See Telecom Italia Not Ready to Transform, Admits Exec.)

"We consider it is not possible to transform our current traditional OSS because there is too much complexity," said Alessandra Pavese, Telecom Italia's head of network evolution, during a presentation at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. 's recent Ultra-Broadband Forum in Frankfurt, Germany. "It is a nightmare to transform this and so what we are looking at is an overlay network where we will onboard virtual network functions."

Exactly which network functions are to be virtualized will depend on an assessment of business requirements, according to Pavese.

The decision seems pragmatic, and not unusual, given the difficulties of virtualizing a large number of functions in a short space of time, the immaturity of the technologies in question and the resource limitations within the Telecom Italia organization.

"This means a portion of our network will move to this automation framework and other network functions will still be managed by the traditional OSS," said Pavese.

Various other telcos also appear to have abandoned ideas of jettisoning legacy back-office systems and shifting all their services on to new digital platforms in one go, although Pavese's remarks suggest older systems may have a longer shelf life at Telecom Italia than elsewhere.

While it has not provided detailed plans for a shutdown of legacy systems, or given a timeframe over which this could occur, Telecom Italia is evidently keen on ditching older technologies where possible.

"We need to decommission to optimize costs and speed up the onboarding of virtual network functions and our cloudification," said Pavese.

A major challenge for the company is to ensure that staff have the requisite software skills and are able to function in more of a "DevOps" environment -- typically associated with the working practices of the web-scale Internet companies -- than using the "waterfall" processes to which many have grown accustomed.

With a waterfall approach, software design and release tends to happen in a highly structured sequence. In a DevOps culture, by contrast, development takes place in a less formalized, more flexible manner and as products are being introduced into the market.

For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.

Ultimately, investment in the overlay network is aimed at ensuring Telecom Italia can take advantage of new service opportunities -- especially in the enterprise sector, where interest in the potential of network slicing and network-as-a-service (NaaS) offerings is growing fast.

Typically associated with the rollout of 5G, network slicing would allow an operator to provide a variety of highly differentiated network services over the same infrastructure. With NaaS, meanwhile, business customers would be able to activate service capabilities on demand and according to particular needs and circumstances.

"We are working hard with the business marketing department to define new use cases and want to make self-provisioning possible and allow customers to manage the service lifecycle and activation of services," said Pavese.

In March, Michele Gamberini, Telecom Italia's core network and infrastructure director, said the operator had already deployed network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure at two points of presence and was planning to set up an additional two sites this year.

That process is set to continue in 2017, when Telecom Italia also wants to begin virtualizing its radio access network and deploy an NFV orchestrator.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
10/23/2016 | 1:50:07 AM
Re: Running the numbers
As TI are looking now for core functions virtualization (EPC, IMS, DNS etc.) and less on customer device virtualization, it can be alongside traditional OSS with no changes.

so actaully the stack is not hybrid, each function is standalone in its doimain and communication to the phsycial network is traditioinal IP (by SDN GW), not chaining inside the SDN.

Actually for thise functions, SDN is not even required, plain Openstack can serve well with pre-defined/orchestrator define networks
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/17/2016 | 4:18:46 PM
Re: Running the numbers
I'm not sure that that is necessarily true.  The need to upgrade is one thing, but growth potential in all directions requires total ownership.  Maybe they have bigger things on their mind in terms of expansions.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/17/2016 | 4:17:25 PM
How old/"legacy" are we talking here for TI's OSS system?  Like, 5-8 years?  Or like 11-18 years?
User Rank: Blogger
10/17/2016 | 1:36:55 PM
Running the numbers
I assume Telecom Italia has run the numbers on this and thinks it will be the best financial strategy. But at some point won't the complexity of running a hybrid back office become more painful than a switchover?
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/17/2016 | 9:19:11 AM
Why walk when you can crawl?
Incumbents believe they can take their time with network transformation if they are confident that they won't be facing any meaningful competition. That's "pragmatic" to a point, but what that strategy doesn't address is that their businesses become less and less profitable and less and less interesting to the money people.
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Cisco: Mentoring Critical to Attract & Retain Women

7|19|17   |   6:40   |   (1) comment

Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Computing System Product Group, shares why mentoring in all its forms is important for women and what Cisco is doing that's made a difference for women in tech.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit LTE With Snapdragon 835

7|12|17   |     |   (1) comment

At an event in Wembley stadium, EE used its live network to demonstrate gigabit LTE using a Sony Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.
LRTV Custom TV
Implementing Machine Intelligence With Guavus

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments

Guavus unites big data and machine intelligence, enabling many of the the largest service providers in the world to save money and drive measureable revenue. Learn how applying Machine Intelligence substantially reduces operational costs and in many cases can eliminate subscriber impact, meaning a better subscriber experience and higher NPS.
LRTV Custom TV
Unlocking Customer Experience Insights With Machine Intelligence

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments

When used to analyze operational data and to drive operational decisions, machine intelligence reduces the number of tasks which require human intervention. Guavus invested in Machine Intelligence early. Learn about the difference between Machine Learning and Machine Intelligence.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Verizon VP Talks Network, Career Planning

7|12|17   |   4:49   |   (0) comments

Heidi Hemmer, vice president of Technology, Strategy & Planning at Verizon, shares how bold bets and the future of tech define her career.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Masergy's NFV Journey

7|11|17   |     |   (0) comments

Ray Watson, vice president of global technology at Masergy, discusses the advantages and challenges in entering the still-maturing NFV market for the past three years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Mavenir on RCS Cloud Platform & Multi-ID

7|10|17   |     |   (0) comments

Guillaume Le Mener, head of marketing and corporate development at Mavenir, discussed RCS and the recent launch of Multi-ID, which supports T-Mobile's DIGITS, the revolutionary new technology that breaks down the limitation of one number per phone and one phone per number.
LRTV Custom TV
ADTRAN Executive Outlines Trends in Next-Generation 10-Gigabit Cable Networks

7|10|17   |     |   (0) comments

Hossam Salib, VP of Cable and Wireless Strategy at ADTRAN, outlines key trends as MSOs begin to deploy next-generation Gigabit and 10-Gigabit cable networks. In the interview, Hossam outlines the advantages of a Fiber Deep architecture, FTTH options including EPON and RFoG, and the importance of SDN and NFV in building next-generation high-bandwidth cable networks.
LRTV Interviews
Global Capacity: Bandwidth Demand Driving Ethernet Growth

7|6|17   |   6:37   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, Global Capacity's VP of Marketing Mary Stanhope talks about how the demand for bandwidth is changing the way service providers deliver broadband services.
LRTV Interviews
Colt's Services Chief on Digital Delivery

7|5|17   |   16:12   |   (0) comments

Rogier Bronsgeest, the chief customer experience officer (chief CEO!) at Colt, discusses the way in which the service provider interacts with its customers these days and his aggressive net promoter score (NPS) targets.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
BT VP: Women Should Fill Security Talent Gap

7|5|17   |   6:00   |   (2) comments

By 2020 there will be six security jobs for every qualified worker, and Kate Kuehn, vice president of Security for BT in the Americas, says BT wants to encourage women to fill the shortage in jobs.
LRTV Interviews
Colt Sales Exec on Services Trends

7|4|17   |   12:59   |   (0) comments

Colt's sales director for enterprise, James Kershaw, sheds some light on the services currently in demand and how network upgrades are influencing customer demand.
Upcoming Live Events
September 28, 2017, Denver, CO
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Mobile to Power Online Video Consumption – Zenith
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 7/19/2017
Can Mushroom Sprout in Crowded SD-WAN Field?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/18/2017
AI Will Be Ubiquitous in 2020 but Overhyped in 2017 – Gartner
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 7/18/2017
Facing the Facebook Video Threat
Gary Miles, Chief Marketing Officer, Amdocs, 7/17/2017
Brocade, Broadcom Merger in Doubt
Iain Morris, News Editor, 7/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Fuzzy Quick Fix Click Here
If you can't access it, is it really broken?
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.