• Abhi Thorat

Need help with Huawei Rip and Replace Program?

As you may know, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted an order in November 2020 to eliminate all Huawei and ZTE branded equipment from the United States. This decision was the culmination of a broader, years-long investigation into Chinese telecoms that the FCC deemed to be ongoing threats to U.S. national security. To address the growing concerns over cybersecurity and increasing numbers of data breaches, the FCC has instituted the Rip and Replace program* to offer reimbursement to communication providers for any costs incurred with the removal, replacement, and disposal of Huawei and ZTE equipment. Eligibility is open to any “advanced communications service providers with 10 million or fewer customers.” If you’re an executive or senior manager of a communications service provider (CSP), where security is paramount, then you obviously have many questions and concerns. First and foremost, you have a strategic directive to provide your customers with a scalable, reliable network that is user friendly and meets the growing demand for digital transformation. No doubt you’re also concerned with how to dispense with any Huawei / ZTE equipment that could compromise these values. In this article, we dig into some of the best practices to pay attention to when upgrading your network. Following that overview, we then showcase how we can help you overcome some of the common challenges with upgrading your communications supply chain. Following these principles will not only set you apart in the market but will ensure your network infrastructure conforms with national regulatory requirements. 5 Things to Nail and Scale in Your Network Upgrade Keeping up with the demands for digital transformation, staying competitive in the marketplace, ensuring the safety of your employees, and protecting your infrastructure from security threats are just some of the major challenges that all organizations are facing today. If you’re a telecom or communications provider, and you’re facing a network upgrade, either because of Huawei/ZTE equipment or other business and technology challenges, then you’ll benefit from these five steps: 1. Security is your number one concern Security Threats (malware, viruses, spyware, adware, trojan horses, worms, phishing attacks, Wi-Fi attacks, Denial of Service attacks, and more) have reached epic proportions and no organization is immune to a breach. The question for many companies now is not “if” but “when” an attack will take place. Communication providers simply must be on their A game when it comes to security. The hit on a brand and the lost trust that ensues with any cyber breach is simply too high of a price to pay. Taking ownership of our network security begins by running security vulnerability assessments to identify threats and take proactive measures to address these issues. Leveraging an outside partner to perform such an assessment to uncover threats and security design issues, and work in coordination with your internal team to implement and maintain recommendations will provide a fresh perspective to improve your level of protection. 2. Future-proof your network with 5G Nothing is more important than understanding the current and future needs of your customers. If you’re in the process of modernizing your communications stack, then we can’t just focus on short-term needs. We must also consider the next 3, 5, and 10 years. For example, just take a moment and think about how much has changed in 3G, 4G, and now 5G in the past five years. Now imagine what happens when augmented and virtual reality achieves mainstream adoption, similar to what Facebook/Meta envisions. Will your organization be ready to match customer expectations for safe, secure, and resilient communications? A roadmap for cost effective and timely implementation of network upgrades to stay competitive will prove critical. 3. Application of project teams during upgrades In today’s fast-paced telecommunications industry we are not afforded the chance to shortchange our staffing for network upgrades design and implementation. The short-term work load from network upgrades puts pressure on in-house teams. The key here is to augment a network team with an experienced CSP IT service management (ITSM) provider, who can provide end-to-end support. An ITSM partner will reduce design risks as well as implementation risks. The risks of doing otherwise are simply too great and will cost you more in the long run. Don’t wait until upgrade schedules slip, staffing is tired and wired network flaws or wireless network infrastructure problems start to impact your revenue and customer experience. 4. Migration plan to the cloud In an era of digital transformation, it’s amazing how many telecoms are still operating and managing infrastructure on premises. Yes, moving to the cloud is a huge process for any organization. But the benefits far outweigh the challenges and moving to a cloud architecture is inevitable since it is essential for 5G. In today’s fast-paced market, it’s critical that your customers and employees can access data and applications anytime, anyplace, and on any device. It’s also very important that updates to your corporate data center occur in real time and that storage space is no longer limited by the confines of your own hardware. Scalability is an essential quality of the future proof network. 5. Track your KPIs to ensure resilient, reliable service Too many communications organizations assume a “set it and forget it” mentality. This is a trap and will only lead to frustrations and lost revenue down the road. Remember that in any business, those “who know their numbers”, always come out ahead. Ensuring that you’re continually performing analytics and monitoring your stacks will help your engineers to quickly diagnose issues, provide faster mean time to resolution, and save time and costs across the enterprise. As your environment continues to grow and adapt to ever-changing technology requirements and customer expectations, tracking your performance will help with strategic planning, reduce down times and outages, and increase overall revenue. Select a vendor agnostic system integration partner Network architectures are moving rapidly toward manufacturer independent, standards-based systems that stress interconnectivity. Standards bring more players to the party, which results in reduced prices and more options for CSPs. In order to enjoy these advantages, an integration partner with experience bringing together equipment from multiple vendors will provide significant benefits. A vendor agnostic stance is helpful not only in the implementation phase but also in the negotiation of pricing in your proposals since they are in touch with all the players in the market. A vendor agnostic integrator will provide you the options of selecting best of breed devices at the individual level to meet your business objectives. Key qualities of an integrator include knowledge in equipment and systems testing and successful project deliveries that include 911 emergency networks. Interconnecting equipment from multiple vendors requires an emphasis on integration testing and your integrator needs to be experienced in this aspect of delivery. Cross-functional expertise We are not in Kansas anymore. Communications networks are merging with data networks and cloud computing. Augmenting your team with these skills that reside in-house with an integration partner can provide significant knowledge transfer to your internal teams.. Certainly, there are areas where your technology team is confident, though there are likely gaps. It is challenging to maintain all competencies internally and achieve your operational goals, and the benefit of partnering provides you the ability to draw on a partner’s resources on an as-needed basis.

Conclusion The challenges of implementing the FCC’s “Rip and Replace” project are not unique. They shine a light on the issues facing all CSPs today. In every challenge lies opportunity and R&R presents a perfect opportunity to fill technology skill gaps and build a lasting relationship with a knowledgeable systems integration partner who can keep your company on track with the latest technology trends in the most cost-effective way possible. About the Author Abhi Thorat is founder and CEO of Strategic Alliance Consulting, Inc. (SAC) of Redmond Washington. You can find more about his company at www.strategicalli.com or contact him directly at athorat@strategicalli.com. Founded in 2008, Strategic Alliance Consulting is a secure communications technology company that enables CSP organizations to bridge the gap between networking, security, 5G and the cloud on the road to digital transformation. We are a team of cross-functional experts who specialize in addressing complex business challenges at this critical juncture of overlapping technologies. * Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program