In previous articles in this short series based on the results of a survey conducted by Heavy Reading, we've highlighted the growing appetite telecom operators have for transforming the telecom service layer so that it has the ability to deliver real-time voice and video-calling services in a manner that is independent of the access network technology. We've also taken a look at the key benefits from doing this, along with the important criteria when selecting new service layer technology.
As previously noted, only 12% of telecoms operators will focus their strategy around the access bit-pipes. For the rest, the service layer remains relevant. For 25% the service layer (and not the access network) is the focal point. In this final article in the series, informed by the research, we look at the future of the converged service-layer and the services it delivers.
Technology for the customer
According to the Heavy Reading research, more than 80% of respondents recognized that service layer convergence was an important part of delivering services across different types of access network. More than one third (38%) cited the rollout of VoLTE as a key technical driver behind deploying a converged service layer. Looking further ahead, roughly the same number (33%) felt that preparation for 5G was a driving force.
Having a service layer architecture that is ready for the future is clearly important, however it isn't technology for the sake of network architects -- improving the customer experience is a key goal.
Enabling faster migration of subscribers to new access networks was rated as a very attractive technical benefit of service layer convergence by the greatest number of our respondents. However, it shared this top spot with the ability to simplify service monitoring for service quality assurance purposes. More than one in three (35%) of respondents also rated the ability to deliver a consistent experience across all access networks as a very attractive business benefit.
The introduction of a converged service layer was seen as supporting a variety of specific use-cases. Multi-device communications (across phone, PC, laptop, tablet, smart TV etc.) and voice and video-calling over WiFi were identified as very attractive use-cases by most operator respondents (51% and 42% respectively). These were closely followed by enterprise communications and support for M2M and IoT services (40% and 38%). However, what stood out was the interest in how service-layer convergence can enable improvements in service agility.
Differentiation with agility
In the survey, service agility was second only to capex reduction when it came to the business benefits enabled by deploying a converged service layer. However, the benefits of service agility are clearly a stronger motivator: The introduction of a new service (service agility) was rated as the top business reason to trigger the move to a converged service layer, beating cost reduction into third place behind facilitating transformation to all-IP in second. In order to support this agility, openness -- and the ability to enable vendor-independent service development -- was strongly endorsed as a key factor when selecting the converged service layer technology.
As previously noted, cost reduction in one form or another repeatedly occurred as an important aspect of service layer convergence, but with more than three quarters of respondents (77%) anticipating that a converged service-layer will deliver positive ROI, it's clear that service revenues themselves remain an attractive and motivating opportunity for telecom operators. Open, agile service development has an important role in realizing that goal.
According to the survey, to date 35% of network operators have already completed trials or are currently trialing converged service layer solutions. Nine percent have already launched, and within the next 24 months that figure is expected to rise to 76%.
About the survey
The survey of telecom operators was commissioned by OpenCloud and conducted by Heavy Reading, and concluded in January 2016. Sixty telecom operators were surveyed of whom the vast majority (90%) were fixed-line, mobile or (most often) converged operators. The remainder included cable, MVNO and MVNE service providers.
The geographical focus was biased towards European operators who made up just over half (53%) of the respondents, with Asia-Pacific and North American operators accounting in almost equal measure to a further (35%). Operators from South & Central America and the Middle East were also represented to a lesser degree.
The individual respondents within these operators predominantly (62%) held roles in R&D, network planning or technical strategy, the remainder were from other functions including marketing, IT, data centre & cloud domains.
Sixty-four percent of the organisations surveyed have annual revenues in excess of US $1 billion.
— Jeff Gordon, CEO, OpenCloud