Smart Networks key to supporting Africa’s Digital Agenda

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Interview with Lucky La Riccia, Vice President and Head of Digital Services for Ericsson Middle East and Africa

What is the role of smart networks in terms of supporting Africa’s digital agenda?

Africa’s Digital agenda is a base for economic opportunities across all industry sectors, with the continent’s young population driving enormous opportunities in this digital era.

Service providers in Africa are seizing the opportunity to evolve their role in the value chain and build powerful technological capabilities that can dramatically accelerate the digital transformation of companies across industries and geographies.

With networks of the future, the complexity of operating networks will go far beyond what any human can manage. To leverage the full benefits, investing in additional technologies such as cloud native, orchestration and automation is now business critical.

Working at the core of network evolution, core networks need to be high-performing, automated and highly programmable – the key to enabling network slicing and edge computing, allowing for new revenue streams.  In addition, we help Service Providers need to decrease time-to-market and capitalize on new services, through leading consumer and enterprise communication and monetization solutions, enabling them to stay ahead in the race for both consumer and enterprise business, today and tomorrow.

Smart networks are able to handle more complexity, elevated data flows and increased speed.   They should be able to onboard new mobile services and deploy and run cost efficient voice networks based on cloud technology.  This cloud technology should also allow for a whole new set of services, applying edge capabilities and virtualized networks that allows for network slicing and the ability to break down network services into microservices, supported by Continuous Integration and Deployment to rapidly effect any change with higher quality.

How can you leverage cloud technologies to strengthen core networks?

Meeting network services requirements in the future by upgrading an existing Evolved Packet Core is not alone enough.  Achieving the necessary scalability, flexibility and performance requires a cloud-native, service-based core architecture that includes separate user and control planes and high-bit rate provisioning.

Cloud Native and Cloud Native Infrastructure is all about best practices. Continuous integration and deployment, containers and microservices help achieve the elastic scaling capabilities, speed of introducing new functionality and increased automation needed to cater for an unpredictable competitive landscape.

Take Ericsson’s cloud native and automation technologies in core networks as an example. We have found by leveraging these technologies, up to 20% operational savings can be achieved on infrastructure as well as up to 90% reduction in OPEX for software upgrades.

Tell us about the importance of BSS as operators evolve from a service provider to a service creator role?

Digitization will give communications service providers the opportunity to evolve their role in the value chain.  Opening up opportunities beyond consumer markets, communications service providers need to provide increasing value from their network infrastructure, provide tailored connectivity solution through a digital platform for both consumer and business customers to build their own processes and offers including massive IoT and providing new digital services to collaborate on use cases beyond just communications.

A stepwise BSS capabilities evolution will prove to be the key accelerator of communications service providers as they seek to monetize digitization and its new opportunities. An evolved BSS will need to support all standards through to 5G, features like virtualization and network slicing, while maintaining all of the end-to-end business capabilities.  It also needs to handle devices at IoT scale while supporting new revenue models and billing-on-behalf.  The capacity to expose network capabilities as well as both BSS and OSS capabilities are critical for service providers to be able to deliver on service creation beyond telecoms. These multiple partnerships require new supporting business models that allow flexible charging, revenue sharing and billing.

Use case driven, BSS offerings will require the capability to very quickly define, deploy and adapt new offerings to capture new opportunities, providing partners with tools that can request network capabilities, present configuration options, determine prices and orchestrate the order – all in real time and without human intervention.

Considering the rise of Mobile Money in Africa, how do financial services fit into smarter networks?

Smarter Monetization also includes a Mobile Financial Services offering. This is an especially important solution for Africa to help bring the unbanked into the formal financial sector in this continent.

With Mobile Financial Services, the ability to save, repay debts, and enable entrepreneurships can be provided simply by providing access to the formal financial system. We are proud that Ericsson contributes to the increased usage of Mobile Financial Services with our flagship Ericsson Wallet Platform.

Any Wallet Platform needs to offer the highest levels of security and ease of use amongst many other advantages to enable smarter business specially as we witness an increase in contactless payments related to the (COVID-19) pandemic.

Smarter Business means a Wallet Platform can launch relatively quickly with basic services that serve the purpose to build upon existing customer relationships, services such as remittance, bank transfers and utility payments while allowing future growth into differentiator services that stimulate stickiness and brand position with mobile consumers.

Our Ericsson wallet platform serves more than 254 million registered wallets to date with close to 20 billion USD monthly circulation in this market thanks to combining the high-performance telco level and high secure financial level capabilities into one platform.