February 28, 2024

Empowering Telecom Evolution

Authored by Vibhu Singhal, Senior Manager, Engineering, WaveMaker, Inc

Navigating the Shift to Dynamic, Low-Code Innovation Platforms

Introduction

The telecommunications industry is experiencing a transformative era, evolving beyond its traditional scope to become a fundamental part of our daily lives. This evolution encompasses changes in how we communicate, conduct business, and interact with the broader world. Driven by the proliferation of smartphones with an increased reliance on mobile internet, the industry faces a landscape altered by heightened consumer expectations. This need calls for integrated, sophisticated digital services. The effect of the global pandemic has further accelerated this shift, intensifying the demand for agile and innovative solutions. In this rapidly changing environment, low-code development emerges as a pivotal tool. Characterized by its simplicity, speed, and efficiency, low-code development is ideally suited to address the telecom industry’s urgent requirements for flexibility and rapid adaptation. This approach is reshaping the way telecom companies approach challenges, offering a pathway to meet growing digital demands.

The Traditional Telecommunications Landscape

In the past, telecommunication companies operated within a highly regulated and predictable market, predominantly providing voice and messaging services. The industry was more about laying infrastructure and providing connectivity. Their infrastructure, characterized by rigidity and reliance on extensive coding with established systems, offered stability but was lacking in adaptability. This issue became apparent as technology evolved causing customer demands to shift with time. The onset of the 21st century marked a transformation, with innovations such as Rapid Application Development (RAD) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) reshaping the telecom landscape. These technological advancements expedited software development and enabled smoother integration of diverse systems, enhancing operational efficiency and steering telecom companies towards greater agility and responsiveness.

Emergence of Digital Disruption

The digital era, fueled by the widespread adoption of smartphones, mobile internet, and telecom infrastructure has significantly altered the telecommunications sector, transitioning it from voice to data-centric services. This shift, driven by the IoT (Internet of Things) not only increased data traffic from social media, streaming, and cloud applications but also raised consumer expectations for real-time services and entertainment. As a result, telecom operators faced the challenge of innovating against disruptive OTT services like Netflix and WhatsApp. Moreover, the rising demand for personalized, high-quality digital experiences has prompted these companies to invest in integrating advanced technologies like data analytics and AI, adding another layer of complexity to their operations.

Meeting the Challenges of the Telecommunications Market

The expectation of constant connectivity has become pervasive, with customers easily switching providers. This presents a challenge to deliver impeccable service and value, especially in an industry handling millions of daily transactions. Users often overlook the system's complexity and expect flawless operation, leaving no room for errors or incorrect charges. Integrating legacy systems and diverse infrastructures adds another layer of complexity to connectivity systems. Additionally, the telecom industry faces the significant challenges of fraud prevention and regulatory compliance.

With rapid technological change, the telecommunications industry stands at a pivotal crossroads. A recent surge in low-code/no-code application development, as highlighted by Gartner1, signals a significant shift in enterprise technology strategies. Telecom companies, traditionally bound by complex, high-code systems, are now recognizing the need to embrace this emerging trend.

Low-Code Software Systems offer a solution by enabling Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to seamlessly connect multiple systems and create custom applications. These applications replace outdated spreadsheets and desktop databases, leveraging drag-and-drop technology. This approach empowers customer care teams to gain a comprehensive view by linking CRM, order management, and logistics systems.

Low-Code App Development: A Catalyst for Transformation

Low-code/no-code is a software development approach that leverages visualization for application creation. In the low-code paradigm, minimal coding is required, as much of the development process is automated, significantly accelerating the application development life cycle. On the other hand, no-code development eliminates the need for coding entirely, enabling individuals from non-technical business departments, without coding expertise, to develop applications.

This approach represents a significant advancement, reminiscent of the transition from text-based commands to graphical user interfaces in the 1980s. Just like how graphical icons and on-screen pointing devices replaced typed commands, low-code employs visual representations to simplify the construction and integration of applications. This democratizes the development process, allowing the not-so-tech-savvy professionals without programming backgrounds to actively participate and contribute their domain knowledge. Consequently, technology transformation becomes a collaborative effort embraced by key stakeholders, fostering rapid adoption and implementation.

In a recent webinar, Chris Gardner from Forrester talked about low-code in the digital era. He emphasizes how software is rapidly becoming integral to various industries. However, the difficulty lies in the fact that the demand for software surpasses the capacity of development teams. As a result, there's a need to explore solutions beyond the current development offerings to effectively meet the demand for software. Additionally, he points out that most companies are not really digital. Consequently, there is a scenario where the value of software is underestimated. When they employ software, inefficiency creeps in due to manual methods. Hence, there is room for improvement, and low- code is the answer to better the process. Instead of conventional code writing, abstractions are created in a WYSIWYG environment. This approach involves placing components on the canvas to construct a screen or process engine, and defining business processes using visual notation. The platform handles automation, code management, and compilation to ensure the application runs as intended.

This method is employed for three primary reasons. Firstly, it significantly accelerates development speed, with an average 70% reduction in coding time when compared to building from scratch, depending on the use case. This translates to a 70% improvement in speed, contributing to faster time-to-market for low-code.

Secondly, it enhances the adaptability and flexibility of the software. This is achieved through increased speed, facilitated by built-in quality checks within the platform. Lastly, it serves to expand the pool of developers.

For the telecom sector, which is grappling with its own set of challenges, the adoption of low-code/no-code presents a compelling solution. The industry's agility challenges, born out of a history of high-code dependence can be effectively addressed through the adoption of low-code platforms. This approach not only speeds up the development process but also democratizes innovation, allowing for a more responsive and customer-centric business model.

Low code’s main value proposition for Communication Service Providers (CSP) is that it enables them to reduce repetitive, costly tasks in software development. By transforming the CSP’s network assets into composable, packaged business capabilities, the low-code platform enables development teams to be more agile and responsive. This ultimately leads to faster time-to-market for innovations and a high ROI.

How does Low Code Revolutionize Application Development for Telecom Companies?

Streamlined Data Modeling:

  • Create data models effortlessly using a drag-and-drop interface.
  • Customize existing templates designed for various telecom services.

Enhanced Functionality with Libraries:

  • Add functionality efficiently by integrating internal or external libraries, reducing the need for coding from scratch.

Visual Development:

  • Define both backend and frontend business rules using intuitive visual tools.
  • Design mobile and web applications visually, eliminating the need for manual coding.

Simplified Coding:

  • Leverage the integrated advanced programming environment, complete with auto-complete, code suggestions and error correction.
  • Utilize pre-defined reusable objects to create your own code, eliminating the need to start coding from scratch.

Reliable Unit Testing:

  • Enhance application reliability with visual tools and simulators for setting up unit tests.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Cisco’s recent Hybrid Cloud Trends report2 underscores a growing trend in the integration of low-code technology in network strategies. The report reveals that a significant number of enterprises, 55%, are forming cross-functional teams, and 50% are centralizing CloudOps and NetOps, with a focus on low-code solutions. This shift towards low-code technology enables more efficient network automation and orchestration, blending traditional high-code practices with user-friendly, low-code platforms. This approach promises quicker, more reliable network deployments, reducing both operational time and costs, and is expected to see further growth in 2024.

Conclusion

As we stand on the brink of a new era in technology, the message for the telecommunications industry is clear: the time to embrace low-code/no-code development is now. This shift resolves not just a technological change, but also serves as a strategic imperative to stay relevant and be competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. With low-code options, telecom companies have the opportunity to redefine their role in the digital world, moving from traditional service providers to innovative, agile operators at the forefront of the digital revolution.

References:

  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2022-12-13-gartner-forecasts-worldwide-low-code-development-technologies-market-to-grow-20-percent-in-2023
  2. https://www.cisco.com/c/en_in/solutions/hybrid-cloud/2022-trends-report-cte.html