Network Roll-out and Management – Why Buy the Cow?

With the race to deploy next-generation infrastructure happening in lean times, how do telcos and operators control network deployment & management costs? Mark Orchart, MD of Indigo Telecom Group, rounds up the answers

“Right now, the race to deploy new telecoms infrastructure is more intense than at any point in the last 15 years. BT’s 21CN will see over 4500 exchanges swapped out. Large-scale metro fibre networks are being deployed by leading players, such as Viatel. WiMax spectrum auctions will lead to big roll-outs in Europe, competing with expanding 3G networks.

Then there’s the home market, as domestic demand for HDTV with online gaming and web access grows. Sky has already deployed part of its 10GB triple-play service, while GPON fibre and Ethernet in the first mile are taking a bigger role.

But with all this activity, there’s one key question facing all telcos and operators. How do they install, maintain and manage these networks?

Resource matters

The trend in the early 2000s was for telcos to prune engineering resources. While this was appropriate at the time – the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000 put companies under pressure, making slimmer payrolls attractive – it also meant that big infrastructure projects would test and stretch engineering capacity, risking delays and network downtime.

And with lean times here again, just as the telecoms market is entering a growth phase, telcos don’t want to over-reach themselves with large overheads in manpower, or in running costly network operations centres. So how do organisations square the circle of delivering on their commitments to building, rolling-out and maintaining new infrastructure, while staying lean?

Don’t buy the cow

In the same way that software as a service (SaaS) makes it possible for companies to reap the benefit from software, without the costs and distractions of owning and maintaining it internally, telcos should look to outsource the expertise they need.

After all, if you need milk, you don’t need to buy or own a cow. You can simply go to the shops. Similarly, if you need engineers to build your network, or expertise in managing infrastructure, do you need to add staff to your payroll, or invest in running an ops centre? In the current climate, a mantra for companies that want to succeed should be “why buy the cow?” whenever they are faced with this kind of decision.

Of course, you need to ensure the milk is good quality. You have to vet your outsourcing partner to find one that delivers ongoing value at all points in the relationship, not just manpower to get you out of a tight spot.

Here are the points to consider when selecting a potential partner for your business.

Problem solving

First, can the partner solve your specific problems comprehensively? Do they have the specific engineering skills you need for deployment, and the knowledge manage your infrastructure effectively? This is where credentials matter. If the company has a track record of success with projects in different sectors with high-profile customers, they’re likely to succeed for you too.

Your network, your choice

Is the partner fully conversant with the technology and products you have deployed? And can they support future changes and upgrades going forward in accordance with your needs and wants? Some outsourcing partners are more comfortable with specific vendors’ solutions or approaches. Look for wide-ranging experience across a spread of technologies.

(Network) centre of excellence?

If you’re seeking a partner to manage network operations, what is their operations centre like? Can you visit it and get a feel for how it’s run, and its efficiency? Can the partner demonstrate comprehensive reporting capabilities to support its services? Remember that the service is supporting your network, so you need to be able to see how it can address your needs.

Set in stone

The contract you have with the partner should contain multiple SLAs, regarding performance, uptime, availability and more. The points outlined above will help you ensure that the targets offered by the potential partner are realistic: then you can formalise the procedures so that the SLAs can be met and exceeded in practice. This gives basis for an unambiguous, fruitful relationship.

So with the growing pressure on telcos and operators to run a lean business, it doesn’t make sense to own all your own maintenance, support and deployment assets when they can be outsourced to a trusted partner. When you have a reliable source of high-quality milk, you don’t need to own the cow.

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