Automation has always been a part of the telecom industry, one of the most innovative sectors. But telecom infrastructure is a stranger to tech-related improvements. In this article, we discuss how advanced technology such as IoT, Machine Learning or RPA can help telcos automate their infrastructure and asset management operations, improve their efficiency and increase revenue. The future of telecom is within our grasp.

The process of automation in the telecom industry is well known and documented. However, in the last few years innovation in telco infrastructure has dropped a beat and is running from behind. In the current state of affairs, achieving full automation and AI-driven operations has become a must for the telecommunications industry.

In this article, we’ll discuss how automation can help shape the future of the telecom industry infrastructure management.


Recommended article: The Digital Transformation in Asset Management.

The telecom sector has never been a stranger to new technologies, innovation and change. In fact, it has been paving the way for others for quite some time. But nowadays, telcos and many other enterprises across the spectrum are facing a state of rapid change, uncertainty and disruption, thanks to the benefits of 5G, IoT, AI and many other acronyms.

This poses an unprecedented opportunity for companies to take a step towards fully automated infrastructure operations that provide better end-to-end services, increase revenue while reducing costs and energy waste. At the same time, customer expectations have never been this high and business processes are under a high strain.


Automation in telecom

Automation is playing a key role in the telecom industry, laying the groundwork for more innovation, improved efficiency, sustained success and a greener environment. It is also at the core of the industry.

Experts have argued that automation has always been a part of this industry, but the current transformation phase is unveiling an era in which changes are far more significant, with greater consequences.

As such, automation in the telco industry heavily intertwines with Business Intelligence, as companies – especially in telecommunications – need to turn the business logic around, understand and anticipate the needs of customers as well as other stakeholders. We have already discussed the importance of BI in the Digital Era, which is becoming increasingly critical and key to the successful digital transformation of the industry.

Intelligence and programmability are the two automation ingredients. Intelligence needs to be smart to drive change; programmability needs to be powerful enough to coordinate responses and adaptations.


How are telcos automating their operations

Telcos face challenges to optimize their services and operations on a daily basis. The goal is obviously to deliver the highest levels of connectivity and improve their customer service in a market that’s crowded with competitors and suppliers.

With the technology available today, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT and automation tools, it seems that turning the corner and embrace a fully digitalized ecosystem of operations is closer than ever. The question is if telcos are really taking advantage of these developments and in which areas are the technologies being implemented (if any).

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Network optimization

Artificial Intelligence has become essential in helping telcos, service providers and operators optimize their network quality based on real-time, geo-located traffic data.

With the number of devices already connected, and the high-speed, high-bandwidth possibilities that come with 5G, traditional data collection is no longer an option to ensure such quality, so telcos and network operators are turning to AI and ML to help them in this endeavor.

IDC has indicated that 63,5% of telecommunication organizations are making new technology investments for AI systems that help them automate their network operations. They also predict that 31.5% of the telecommunication organizations are primarily focusing on leveraging existing infrastructure, something our software can greatly help on.


RPA for Telecom

RPA can often be confused with AI. However, Robotic Process Automation is a form of automation that is fundamentally based on artificial intelligence.

The telecom industry is the best training field for the use of RPA, since it allows the telecom industry to automate different tasks across various systems, which are mostly labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Telcos are using RPA to increase efficiency mostly on their back-office operations (billing, data entry and workload management), freeing up space and time for staff for tasks with higher added value.


The time has come for Infrastructure Automation

When we narrow the focus of our analysis, we’ll find that telecom infrastructure has fallen behind on innovation and applied technology, revealing the need for more efficient, automated operations to manage telecom assets.

Let’s explore the ways that the automation of telecom infrastructure can help the industry.


So, what is infrastructure automation in telecommunications?

Infrastructure automation in telco means building a better, faster and scalable version of the traditional way to run the telecom business; it’s applying technology as more than a mere tool for replacing manual operations; it’s placing the customer and the environment at the core of its purpose; and it’s also not an option. Here’s why:

With a desire for tailored and on-demand service expectations, the need of seamless, never-ending connectivity, increased competition and corporate accountability, automation has become mandatory for the telecom industry.


How automation of infrastructures can help the telecom industry

We are living the age of Telecom Network Automation (Deloitte, 2018) so it will be a matter of time before telcos and operators embrace the AI environment completely.

When we say automation, it’s most likely we are thinking of software-related operations like network management, sales and billing. However, few are discussing powering automation for telecom infrastructure such as field service operations and tower maintenance tasks.

Automating telecom infrastructure brings a numerous amount of benefits that range from operational efficiency to enhanced customer experience, that – of course – require investment and effort in change management, to show for the added value of automation.


Benefits of automating telecom infrastructure

Now that we have explained how operators can automate their infrastructure, let’s take a closer look at the advantages of automation in asset management for telcos:


Efficient data flow

Automation can process information at a much higher rate than traditional processes, and do so from a wide range of sources, improving the analytical capacity of the company.

If the telco industry is smart enough to combine automation with strategies for a successful digital transformation that include, for instance, business intelligence, they are certainly looking at great results.


Predictive Maintenance

We know that taking care of massive cell towers is not an easy task. Providing 24/7/365 high-performing service is already hard enough.

Automation, and in this case, Internet of Things can help telcos deliver better network connection (and better service overall) by processing data with sophisticated algorithms and predict future behaviour based on historical data.

This way, operators can monitor the state of their assets and infrastructure, anticipate failure and fix problems in advance, namely cell towers, power lines or even a data center.

Companies like vHive use autonomous drones hive software and powerful analytics to digitize field assets for telecommunication companies, construction sites and even insurance.


Detect sources of waste

Reducing waste is as important as providing more and better services. With automation technology, operators can identify elements in their infrastructure that are being underused, unused or even overused to optimize their performance. Being able to measure the actual consumption of energy of any infrastructure and/or open field asset allows for a quick intervention to solve the problem. IoT innovators such as Everynet are already deploying their devices leading the digital transformation from low cost sensors that can generate new revenue streams and reduce costs.

This highly relates to the fact that there is room to grow, not so much on productive initiatives, but on the savings side of processes. There is potential for telcos to drastically reduce operational expenditure.


Increased asset security

Outdoor facilities, especially telecom infrastructures are often times extremely difficult to secure, since they lie in the open field and far away from headquarters. At the same time, their value in terms of customer experience and quality of service, increases by the day, with tons of devices connected to the network.

With the help of automation and Bluetooth technology, companies can have full fraud-proof control of their assets and increase the protection of their equipment, all while preventing vandalism with wireless devices and real-time alerts and notifications. Our partner Outlocks specialize in this type of security solutions for industries with critical assets located in the open field.


Improved Revenue Per User (RPU) in telecom

We know it all comes down to sales, income and revenue. Automating telco infrastructure can help companies develop a data-driven business model that runs on innovative, top-level technology that fuels the digital transformation.

Ultimately, enhanced services, optimized operations and automated, scalable customer experience management, can drive telcos to an increased market share, while reducing cost, energy and waste, thus improving the revenue per user sustainably.


What lies ahead in automation for telcos

Even though we opened this article making the claim that automation is well documented, research shows that we still have a long way to go regarding infrastructure automation. In fact, an IHS Markit investigation (2018) discovered that it’s too early in the game for AI in telecom, due to the fact that operators and companies in the telecom sector are still in the early stages of learning, experimenting and implementing these technological developments in the industry as a whole, let alone in telecom infrastructure. They argue that they lack the knowledge, vision and skills (and the tools) about what and how to automate.

Nonetheless, the telecom industry largely relies on, as well as drives, innovation across all sectors. As Artificial Intelligence, RPA and Internet of Things applications and devices become more available, the possibilities of achieving infrastructure automation gain ground among operators.

With the arrival of the fifth generation of mobile telecommunication, the leap will be greater than ever before: demand for seamless connectivity that’s higher than ever, increased competition and real, tangible technological advances make automation for the telecom industry mandatory and a feasible path to achieve full digital transformation.


Atrebo: Founders of the Tower Automation Alliance

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The age of automation of telco infrastructures