Telcos need skills shift for 5G success, says TIM CTO

Features

Network transformation will lead to a "necessary" change in skills across telecoms, according to the Group CTO of TIM, who warns those with legacy competencies could be under threat.

Giovanni Ferigo makes the comments in the Q4 issue of Mobile Europe magazine, where he discusses 5G trials, licence maintenance and his penchant for motorcycles.

In its home market, the operator has been one of the most active operators in 5G and LTE-Advanced trials and demonstrations in recent months, reflecting Italy's emergence as an active player in next-generation technology.

Work has been under way at TIM to deliver a geographically distributed telco cloud infrastructure. Twenty five virtual network functions have been deployed across four sites and services such as virtual IMS, EPC and VoLTE will be rolled out throughout the next 12 months.

Virtualised networks mean automated networks, which Ferigo says will be essential for delivering efficiencies and increasing quality of services. But he notes the shift towards automated operations could have an effect on staff, an implication that does not just affect telecoms.

He says: "The network transformation that is necessary will cause a transformation in skills. At the moment we work in silos, between the designer, the developer, the engineer. With this new kind of architecture, the same person will have all of those skills.

“We have to improve and provide a lot of new skills. I would be afraid for the "old" professions but I am sure the people will be able to transform themselves. There are a lot of new opportunities.

“There are a lot of other things that right now we are not managing. For example, data analytics or within virtualisation, there is the need for storage engineering, capacity engineering, [or] teams needed for orchestrators, hypervisors.

“I don't think the number of vacancies will improve but there is a huge quantity of people that will help the business, not just technical people but technical businesspeople.”

He says it is the duty of all operators and vendors to ensure staff have the correct skills in place for the future.

The Internet of Things is a key focus area. Ferigo describes NB-IoT as a "paradigm shift" for the telecoms industry, opening doors previously inaccessible to it.

TIM switched on a NB-IoT network covering 5,000 municipalities in October, with LTE-M set to follow this year according to customer demand. Ferigo rhymes off the use cases that he says the operator is already being asked for, from smart parking, connected cars and insurance to the luxury industry using sensors that guarantee the originality of their products.

He adds: “Let me give you a simpatico example - connected bicycles. You can organise your trip in the city depending on where the smog isn't. This is a concrete and simple example.”

Another area is food. He says the technology could be useful to identify the origins of cheese, wine and oil: “It can be used in smart agriculture to monitor crops, herds and flocks, to check for example the health status of livestock, their position, their productivity level.

“But it can also be used to monitor the whole supply chain, which is particularly important for those goods that need particular care in terms of time to be delivered...exposure to heat or sun radiation and so on.

“Dairy products are a good example for sure, but also meat or other delicate production: there are already companies that provide this kind of solution for luxury wine for example.”

Click here to read the full interview with Giovanni Ferigo.