Source: STL Partners telecoms survey, March 2021, 100 respondents
According to our survey, automation is primarily driven by the need to reduce the operating costs of existing networks and services for operators in EMEA and North America. In APAC, on the other hand, automation adoption tends to be a necessary consequence of network development as they develop new network services that cannot run without automation.
Many operators reported prioritising automation domains that can help them optimise internal efficiency so that they can focus on developing new services and revenue streams. One APAC operator suggested that automation of network and service domains could free their operations team from having to handle immediate problems with the network, leaving them more time to engage with customers and focus on service innovation.
Differences in automation maturity, innovation budgets, and C-suite ambitions will all impact how operators prioritise domains. Operators vary greatly in how they prioritise “explore or exploit” options – namely, building on existing strengths versus investing in higher-risk and potentially higher-reward development. In the short term, operators with legacy networks may need to prioritise streamlining those with automation over developing emerging use cases.
Telecoms operators’ network automation aspirations are also shaped by market positioning; new entrants will not have to undergo as significant a journey as incumbents who need to reshape their employees, technical capabilities and operating model. For new-entrant operators, automation is often at the core of their business strategy, enabling them to quickly build out, scale, and manage a cloud-native network with a limited workforce. One APAC challenger operator described automation and a DevOps approach as being essential to their ability to roll out a greenfield network and accelerate 4G site commissioning from 3-4 days to 8 minutes.