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Cloud and software developers find a new playground in mobile networks

Cloudification of mobile networks is a powerful trend in the world of telecommunications. As a result, the whole industry offers great opportunities for companies that are not among the usual suspects in the telco business. There is also a high demand for cloud developers who can enter this new and attractive playground.

Earlier, only telco equipment vendors and telecommunications operators could work with mobile networks. Developing required deep knowledge and experience of radio technology. Everything was tightly connected with industry-specific hardware.

“Traditionally, mobile networks were a playground only for a limited group of big telco companies. Now, a totally new group of smaller companies are entering the industry that offers them great business opportunities,” says Jaakko Ala-Paavola, Technology Director at Etteplan.

What is behind the change? Cloudification! A few years ago, the concept of software defined networks emerged together with network functions virtualization. This has broken the dependence on hardware and radio expertise. Gradually, the evolution has continued with comprehensive concepts such as telco cloud. New architectures keep strengthening the role of cloud.

“Recently, the trend has been splitting network related components into smaller and smaller chunks. This way, cloudification levels the ground significantly. Smaller companies with expertise in cloud and software have a lot to offer in developing mobile networks,” Ala-Paavola explains.

Lack of cloud and software developers

Consequently, the companies jumping on the bandwagon need to recruit plenty of people with sufficient skills.

“Basically, if you have a cloud development background, it should offer sufficient means to step into the world of mobile networks,” Ala-Paavola encourages.

Etteplan has around 250 people with telco expertise already due to a long-term cooperation with Nokia and other telecom vendors. However, as a result of cloudification Etteplan’s customer base is expanding to new customers who are not telco equipment vendors.

“Our software teams need more people with a telco background, and our telco teams need more people with cloud and software development skills. Therefore, we are investing a lot to expand our international teams and to build our offering around telco software and cloud,” Ala-Paavola tells.

Mobile networks are critical enablers everywhere

In general, mobile telecommunications has become a critical enabler in digitalization regardless of industry.

“We conducted an internal study of megatrends and enabling technologies across different areas. It became clear that almost all applications require mobile connectivity. This applies to any IoT solutions, to healthcare, autonomous machinery, manufacturing, mining and so forth,” Ala-Paavola says.

Personally, he is very enthusiastic about solving real-life challenges in field environments. A hot area for Etteplan is private 5G networks. Etteplan is building them together with customers in mining environments, factories, and campus areas.

Etteplan has developed a platform for the control of autonomous intelligent vehicles. It enables 5G data transfer, precise positioning by centimeters, sensor integrations, edge computing and machine learning capabilities. This kind of solutions require plenty of software and cloud skills in combination with mobile networks.

“5G technology enables new things that are revolutionary instead of evolutionary. For instance, we can now develop solutions for real-time remote control of drones, which has been impossible with earlier generations. Working in developing 5G networks for such use cases is certainly cool for software and cloud developers!”, Jaakko Ala-Paavola says.