Almost half of operators are struggling to find the right business case for virtualisation, which is hindering their attempts at digital transformation, a new survey from TM Forum has found.
Its latest Digital Transformation Tracker, conducted this summer, found a slower than expected shift towards network transformation, even though 44 percent of operators said it was integral to a successful digital transformation.
The struggles with virtualisation reflect a wider concern at how network transformation fits within the wider digital transformation strategy.
The report said digital transformation still suffers from a loose definition of what it will involve, how network transformation involves different timeframes for both virtualisation and cloud adoption, and how the IT and network arms, as well as the technology parts of the consumer and business teams at operators have a poorly defined relationship.
While the journey is proving slower than expected, the report said operators were moving in the right direction. Almost a third (32 percent) said they are deploying NFV in the packet core, and 36 percent in the mobile edge of virtualised customer premises equipment.
Mark Newman, Chief Analyst at TM Forum, said: “The telecoms industry first started to embrace the concepts of network virtualisation and software-defined networking eight or nine years ago. Today, it appears the majority of CSPs are moving from the awareness and planning phases of transformation to deployment of VNFs. This progress is a positive thing, albeit a lot slower than expected.
“However, the deployment of these virtual network functions has not had the transformative impact that many CSPs were hoping for. As a result, many are now moving beyond virtualisation to full network cloudification."
Elsewhere, 60 percent of respondents said implementing agile OSS/BSS as their main concern, with 56 percent claiming security vulnerabilities and 52 percent citing length times for standards to be rolled out.
There is also a gap between introducing DevOps with 77 percent of companies deploying it in IT teams, but only 23 percent in network teams.
The softwarisation of the industry has led to 34 percent of operators employing up to 250 software developers and introducing plans to grow this to at least 500 during the next two years.
Neman added: “The benefits of network transformation can only be achieved by using cloud-native software that can be modified through DevOps practices and easily integrated with solutions from suppliers using open source
“But it also requires CSPs to address network and operations transformation at the same time. If operators deploy new network capabilities without factoring in operational issues – for example OSS/BSS transformation – they risk complications further down the line.