Telefonica, O2's parent company, has partnered with Nokia to shift to a Service Operations Centre (SOC) model in its bid to support what it calls 'customer-centric operations' across the network over the next 18 months and better prepare for the introduction of 5G.
With over 30 million UK-based customers, Telefonica hopes to provide customers with greater reliability, while also preparing its network for all the opportunities that 5G connectivity promises.
Speaking at a press conference this week, Tim Smith, head of software at Nokia said: "Most providers all have a NOC [Network Operations Centre] operator; they're there to monitor the status and integrity of the network, track alarms and take immediate action when problems arise.
"The NOC is fine and it's essential but customers don't buy the network, customers buy the services that run over the top of the network, hence the SOC centre."
By services the telco simply means any regular pre- or post-paid voice and data plan.
The Nokia-run SOC will make use of machine learning and AI integrations to automate some of these operations. Nokia said that this would support customers and service providers on their journey from 'network-centric' to 'customer-centric' operations - meaning algorithms will monitor not just the network for maintenance but also the reliability of services that sit on top of it, and enable faster responses to customer issues.
"Nokia Software's remit is to help our service providers adhere to customer insights and through connected intelligence, understand how to enhance their customer experience," Smith added.
According to Nokia, its SOC essentially enables Telefonica to better monitor customer experiences whilst it works to re-engineer its network.
Telefonica particularly understands the need for a rapid cycle to exploit the incoming 5G connectivity, and believes that the SOC has all the capabilities to make this possible.
According to the provider, its service will develop with a vast amount of flexibility fuelled by the SOC model, as it hopes to adapt its service accordingly.
Brendan O'Reily, CTO at Telefonica UK said at the event: "5G brings out such a huge amount of opportunities and the service isn't going to be traditional service as we know it today - service today is through phone or a tablet, but service moving forward will be connected devices in the home, connected cars and the service that we provide becomes even more important when actually some of the human element is taken away because we know how we feel about the service."
It is expected that the SOC will provide faster adoption of 5G, along with smoother network connections when rolled out.
"The flexibility and service is another reason why SOC is so important to us at Telefonica UK, because as that flexibility and service comes to fruition, instead of waiting eight months for a service, we've got it down to days," O'Reily added.
It also follows a 'digital time' concept, enabling service providers to anticipate customer requirements and be available to respond in real-time.
Nokia believes that delayed response is no longer effective, and the purpose of the SOC is to enable businesses to understand customer needs and measure the delivery of customer-centric operations in the best way possible.
This is something that Nokia hopes to roll out across digital services, particularly with the evolvement of 5G, which is likely to include delays due to the different layers that traditional services tend to spread across such as BSS (business support systems), OSS (operations support systems) and the network.
"So if your service is hard-coded across all of those different layers, it takes between eight and nine months, in some instances up to 14 months, to launch a new service and it can take four to six months to make a change from an existing service.
"If it takes you eight to nine months to launch a new service, how can you take advantage of all the digital services that 5G enables," Smith explained.
Telefonica has already tested this SOC process in other markets including Germany, South America and Chile but this will be the first time it appears in the UK, with Nokia as the vendor.