PARTNER FEATURE: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides mobile operators with cost-effective network solutions allowing them to scale their customer offering, benefit from swift upgrades and stay on-top of the latest innovations.

Here, Thales Group marketing manager Philippe Duhamel (PD) discusses the benefits of adopting a SaaS approach with Mobile World Live (MWL) and addresses some key security and data storage issues.

MWL: How does 5G accelerate SaaS adoption and what are some of the key benefits of the approach?

PD: 5G accelerates adoption of SaaS because it introduces new features and functionalities, which require service-based cloud architecture and expand the scope of network functions to include new features such as slicing.

With the new network access technologies come new IT architecture and design. 5G and SaaS both rely on a microservice-based architecture.

This is a real trend. If you look at some of the largest mobile operators in the world, they are considering and developing their IT and modern network infrastructure to embrace SaaS.

SaaS offers MNOs major cost benefits, as they don’t need to invest in an IT infrastructure they may not use at its full capacity. The alternative is to buy a sufficient number of servers to guarantee they can handle traffic peaks, however often this is planning for additional servers, which may never be used.

A public SaaS infrastructure allows MNOs to benefit from unlimited scalability and elasticity. That means resource allocated to the platform can be dynamically adjusted according to traffic volumes.

In a cloud architecture within an MNO network, you will always be limited by the infrastructure capacity. However, use of cloud providers means there won’t be any limit. Even when an MNO acquires a competitor, it will be very easy for us to add the MNO base onto our system.

One of the key benefits of the SaaS approach is customers only pay for the capacity they use in terms of SIM card database size and service performance.

MWL: What are some of the key barriers MNOs face moving to a SaaS approach and how can these be resolved?

PD: A big concern for MNOs here is around ownership: they often want to keep control of the platform. Thales’ approach means the customer decides whether they run the services, campaigns, updates and other tasks, or if they want us to do these on their behalf.

To make things easier for customers, we have simplified our interfaces and provide extensive documentation, so they can be autonomous if they want to be. On the SaaS portal, they can select the service, configure it, execute and then analyse the result.

A potential barrier customers may face is market-specific regulation that could prevent data being held in a country or region other than the one the MNO operates in.

Thales’ SaaS solution uses multiple datacentres. Currently, we use several of them in different continents around the world.

To overcome any problematic country-specific data-storage regulation we can do several things. We can deploy our solution in a datacentre within the customer’s home country or provide a hybrid platform, where a key management system would be hosted within the MNO’s premises.

Some operators also have concerns about security. They may perceive public cloud as being vulnerable, especially considering we are managing the customer SIM cards security keys.

Thales is an industry leader in digital security and our SaaS solution includes many of our core security features. Added to this, we have public cloud access control, featuring various protections, including against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

MWL: What are Thales’ solutions in this area and what advantages do they offer operators?

PD: One of the strongest advantages we offer customers is the ability to get best-of-breed technology at an attractive price. Thanks to the cloud software architecture, we can limit costs as customers only pay for the capacity and performance level they use.

MNOs can also benefit from full flexibility as their capacity is no longer limited by their infrastructure.

Using our SaaS platform, they will also benefit from an always up-to-date service as we provide new features, innovative technologies and security updates as soon as they are available.

Thanks to the cloud software architecture, upgrades are now a smooth and transparent process. Previously, when an MNO wanted to upgrade to the latest version of a solution, they had to plan a painful and costly migration project.

Smooth upgrades also reduce time to market for new features. The nature of our platform means it can also be deployed very rapidly to new customers.

Security is in our DNA at Thales and is central to all our offerings. Our SaaS platform offers continuous upgrades, including for security, so the customer may gain peace of mind.

These benefits are due to the features and expertise brought by both Thales and our public cloud provider. For a more details on Thales’ offerings in this area, click here.