ZTE WIRELESS BROADBAND FORUM, KUALA LUMPUR: Telecoms operators need to get started on their network evolution by moving ahead on a small scale, for example with RCS or IMS, and not wait to have a perfect plan.

That was the message from Peter Liu (pictured), Gartner’s research director, during a panel discussion on ‘Network evolution strategy for business transformation.’ Liu reckons operators have a habit of thinking big, but actually end up executing slowly and doing little after considering the vast possibilities.

“Please just start it and start the real work,” he urged the audience.

While encouraged by SDN and NFV, Liu said operators spend a lot of time on multi-vendor testing and find the technologies create difficulties for them. “There is a lot of business case discussions, but it won’t immediately show how much money in opex and capex it can save.”

He argued that new investments actually increase with the required upfront capex.

AT&T leadership
ZTE CTO David An pointed to AT&T’s leadership, under its domain 2.0 project, in leveraging SDN, NFV and the cloud to make its network more agile and elastic.

Gartner’s Liu noted that AT&T still faces problems, but at least it started and is progressing much better. “The good thing is the technology is ready and you can start on a small scale and can do a lot of things already.”

Imran Amin, ZTE’s principal network architect, said this new operator approach needs to start with a mindset change, as most operators are still focused on selling SIMs to consumers. If they could think more broadly and have a uniform network infrastructure for multiple services to partner, they can work with, for example, utility companies on smart metering.

“That way they can maximise ARPU using different business models by building services on top,” he said.

On the topic of the Internet of Things (IoT), Gartner’s Liu said there’s still a lot of talk and not a lot of funding. “Operators can’t do it by themselves because they don’t have the expertise. They need to work with insurance, banking and healthcare firms to build up their skills.”

He said there is some traction in the smart car, health and utility segments, but added that the smart home is more of a long-term prospect and still a few years away.