Telefonica UK puts a SOC in its customer experience strategy

Service Operations Centre will be up and running before end of 2019.

Telefonica O2 is developing a Service Operations Centre (SOC) using technology from Nokia. An 18 month project, started at the end of 2018, will see the first use cases come on line from Q4 this year, O2 CTO Brendan O’Reilly said in a briefing to journalists.

In time the intention is to give O2 the ability to create views of customer experience on a per-service basis, automate corrective action required in the network and have better informed communications with customers.

Tim Smith, Vice President of Nokia Software, Europe, said, “Customers buy services not the network, so in addition to ensuring network quality, it is increasingly essential to monitor state of service as well, hence the SOC.”

The SOC approach is currently popular in the industry as a means of moving beyond the solely network-centric assurance provided within a Network Operations Centre (NOC). It tends to rely on a greater amount of data analysis from a number of feeds – network instrumentation, customer data analytics, billing records, social media monitoring etc – creating a range of customer and service quality metrics. A traditional NOC monitors network status – often using some of the same core data – but doesn’t create a consumable view of individual customer experience.

Telefonica UK is Nokia’s first win within the Telefonica group for its eSOC platform, and one of the first globally. In 2017 Telefonica announced that it would be opening SOCs in Chile, Argentina and in Germany using Huawei’s Smart SOC solution.

Describing the deployment, Smith said Nokia’s eSOC software platform is acting as a mediation layer, collating those diverse data sources into a common model.  “Once they are in the same information model we can compare, analyse, draw conclusions and start to understand the service quality that end customers are having.”

Smith said that basis for the mediation layer – or software refinery – comes from the company’s acquisition of Comptel, although he added that the company’s own scientists have added Machine Learning and other smarts to the original Comptel platform.

Brendan O’Reilly, Telefonica UK CTO, said that the SOC platform would integrate with other relevant elements within the company’s network and IT architecture. For example, data from analytics platform partner Cardinality are used as a feed for O2’s NCX score – a score it has developed to measure Network Customer Experience.  Another company, SpatialBuzz, which provides customer-based monitoring capabilities to O2, said it was taking steps to co-exist with Nokia’s SOC platform.

O’Reilly added that another example could be O2’s SON engines carrying out automated actions in the network, based on either machine learning or a level of human intervention within the SOC. Telefonica UK, which announced SON deployments with Cellwize in 2014 and then with PI Works in 2018, is “currently in contract discussions” with SON providers, O’Reilly stated.

The move to a SOC is often seen as an operational challenge for personnel. O’Reilly said that O2 would be retraining its NOC engineers to work within the SOC environment. That would allow the operator to put its “highly trained experts” to work on real customer-impacting issues. In time these experts will also move on to create rules for the machines that will run automated operations. (A recent Telefonica UK job advert for a data access performance and analytics manager mentioned that one task for the successful recruit would be to “own and set up a strategic roadmap for the company’s NCX measure.”)