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Ericsson has positioned itself as a frontrunner in the 5G space and is increasingly becoming the go-to player for operators seeking to accelerate the commercialization of the next-generation networks.

The emergence of disruptive technologies has forced industries to completely reshape how it operates, and there is no better illustration of this than in the ICT industry. 5G is set to create vast new revenue opportunities for service providers, but the revolutionary technology is set to cause operators plenty of headaches as their network become more complex to manage.

Ericsson is trying to help communication service providers address this problem ahead of the subsequent deployment of 5G networks by creating solutions and innovations that enables them to manage the complexity arising from these new 5G networks.

Telecom Review managed to secure an exclusive interview with Eva Andren, Head of Managed Services Middle East & Africa at Ericsson in an effort to find exactly how the much vaunted Ericsson Operations Engine plans on achieving this.

In your recent op-ed, you highlighted that as new disruptive technologies continue to emerge such as 5G that networks are becoming increasingly more complex to manage as a result. What do operators need to do to address this specific challenge?

Networks are quickly becoming significantly more complex to operate as we introduce IoT and 5G at scale, and virtualize core networks, while aiming to enhance user experience at the same time.

Subscribers expect a network that scales to their needs, offers innovative digital services and is highly engaging. To meet this challenge, operators must embark on the journey to be a fully digital telco.

The current mainstream path for operators on this journey involves investing in rapidly changing technologies, and building digital competence in-house to meet the demand. Ericsson is actively investing in technologies, developing products and participating in open source forums to help many of customers who are on this path.

Communication service providers globally have expressed their view that managed services are playing a significant role in their transformation programs. Can you tell us how managed services acutely address their operational concerns around customer service?

Managed services will play a significant role in the service providers’ transformation initiatives taking place worldwide. Nearly 65% of service providers indicate that managed services will be key in addressing their main operational concerns around customer satisfaction – improving customer experience is the number one factor that will influence service providers use of managed services – revenue growth and cost efficiency.

It's also clear that advanced technologies like AI, automation and analytics represent the underlying pillars for supporting and enabling operational transformation through managed services partnerships.

We have launched a new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based managed services offering for service providers – the Ericsson Operations Engine. The solution is an end-to-end managed services operating model that reimagines network and IT operations, network design and optimization, and applications development and maintenance.

Can you outline to us how Ericsson’s Operations Engine will enable enterprises and operators to enhance and drive efficiency at every level of their organization, and elaborate on the three key building blocks behind the program?

The Ericsson Operations Engine enables us to create sustainable differentiation for our managed services customers as it evolves operations from being network-centric to user experience-centric.  Most importantly, it fundamentally changes our way of operating networks from reactive to proactive, leveraging data, automation and AI.

The Engine directly and proactively addresses service providers’ managed services complexity challenges as the industry moves to the reality of 5G and IoT. It has three building blocks: 

  • Service-centric business model based on business outcomes: Using AI, automation and data insights, the Ericsson Operations Engine addresses targeted business outcomes for service providers such as enhanced customer experience, revenue growth and efficiency.
  • End-to-end capabilities: delivering on business outcomes through AI-based design, planning and optimization, data-driven operations, dynamic deployment, applications development, and collaborative innovation.
  • Components: Best-in-class tools and processes that leverage data, AI and automation as well as expertise and investments in the service provider domain.

In your expert opinion, what is it that ultimately differentiates Ericsson from other ICT vendors?

From 5G standardization to today’s commercialization, Ericsson has been a key player in making 5G networks a commercial reality. In addition to driving 5G standardization and being the largest contributor to the standardization body in 3GPP during 2018 – Ericsson has publicly announced 5G contracts with more than 10 named customers till date. Moreover, we have over 40 operator Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) worldwide and we are collaborating with more than 40 universities and technology institutes as well as 30 industry partners.

How did Ericsson transform itself as a leader in 5G and a go-to player for operators seeking to commercially deploy 5G networks, when just a few short years ago the company was in a lot of financial distress?

Ericsson is one of the leading providers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers, with about 40% of the world’s mobile traffic carried through our networks. Ericsson’s Middle East offices comprise 22 countries in the region with more than 3,800 employees. Sales growth has been excellent in this region, driven by mobile broadband investments in both advanced and developing markets.

We have a flexible portfolio with our 5G platform that enables telecom operators to smoothly switch on 5G on their existing 4G networks. The Ericsson Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015 and can also be used for 5G NR with a remote software installation. This means we have already shipped more than 3 million 5G-ready radios to our customers worldwide.

6. How important an event like 5G MENA is for the ICT ecosystem in this region?

5G will serve consumers, enterprises and take the Internet of Things to the next level, where superior connectivity is a prerequisite. Ericsson is the ICT Strategic Partner for 5G MENA, one of the largest events in the MENA region to focus on advancing and commercializing 4G and 5G Networks.

The event is a platform for Ericsson to spotlight our work in continuously testing, learning and pushing the boundaries of how 5G can meet the diverse needs of the future. The summit brings the latest on how MENA telcos can create a realistic roadmap towards 5G, and how they can monetize this opportunity.

7. What are your main goals and objectives for the remainder of 2019 in your role as Head of Managed Services at Ericsson Middle East and Africa?

By 2024, Ericsson predicts there will be 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband and 4.1 billion global cellular IoT connections. The volumes of data generated from this activity will be staggering.

To handle this complexity new cognitive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), are making it possible to derive value from this data and shift network operations from being reactive to data-driven, predictive, and proactive operations.

Recent AI-based use cases in the Middle East and Asia are an indication that these technologies are gaining traction. Our main aim for 2019 is to automate Managed Services and invest in innovation including IoT, AI and other new technologies in Emerging Business.

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