While the term “data-driven” has been in use for some time, the ability to act on insights has taken on a new sense of urgency globally and across industries, ranging from retail, energy, utilities and manufacturing, to clinical care and governance. In many countries, telecom companies are using big data to understand the potential of their new product offerings, improve customer experiences, reduce customer churn, and forecast value-based network capacity and demand faster and more accurately.
In the Indian telecom industry, one cannot help but notice that there are multiple challenges facing the telcos. There is a limited view of consumer behaviour and usage patterns, primarily because information about their businesses exists in silos. Some of the other issues plaguing the sector are non-integration of network data and business support systems/operations support systems data, which results in poor real-time visibility and reduces the ability to respond to customer problems; lack of predictive analytics on customer behaviour; the inability to retain network logs and call detail records for long periods of time due to large data volumes; and inability to combine unstructured data (such as social media) with structured data. At the same time, telcos want to move towards digital transformation and improve the overall customer experience on their networks. This is where open source technologies can help.
Why open source?
Scalable open source enterprise platforms are no longer just a long-term vision but a reality causing massive disruption. Open source not only enables rapid innovation, but also accelerates the transition to cloud and digital. More importantly, there is a reduced risk of vendor lock-in for telcos as compared to the lock-in in case of proprietary software licence investments. In the past, telcos embraced IP frameworks because that was the only option. However, over the past decade, a large global community has emerged around open source software and now companies are providing robust support services for open source software. This trend will benefit Indian telcos because they are able to reap the benefits of a whole community involved in innovations as opposed to solutions from just one vendor.
Another key benefit of using open source software is better security as developer communities can check for bugs, report them and share the relevant fixes. There is a higher likelihood of bugs being detected by a large community. In such a scenario, developer teams of telcos can focus on modifying the software in tune with their requirements. Open source software is also known to complement the cloud, network functions virtualisation and software-defined networking. In a rapidly changing digital environment, such agility will be a key factor for telcos to differentiate themselves in the market, and provide niche and customised services that bring substantial revenues.
A few telcos in India are already leveraging open source software to redefine the return on investment metrics. Hortonworks has partnered with one of them, a recent entrant, to enable its digital transformation.
The verdict is clear. Telcos today need a combination of agility, security and innovation as the Indian industry is witnessing a paradigm shift from voice to data and digital services. Open source provides all of these and more. Further, as the ecosystem matures in the future, the focus will shift to interoperability. There will emerge a scenario where telcos will work together to bring about standardisation in software. When that happens, open source will have a major role to play in the seamless interplay between network operators and vendors.
Open source and cloud computing are two mega trends that will impact the telecom industry in many ways. The open source approach will prove to be the X factor in the telecom operators’ transition to cloud and digital.