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Applying “Product Thinking” to address the "Open Architecture Dilemma"

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Our own resident technology expert, Amit has shared a very informative blog post on RIC (RAN Intelligence Controller). If you are in telecom domain, I am sure you have an opinion about this development and the benefits and the challenges associated. The technological benefits/challenges is a very important topic that finds center stage at various industry forums regularly. Here is a link to a very insightful panel debate from MWC’23 that touches on this, among other topics: We will use this blog to illustrate how do we go about tackling this debate from the lens of “Product Thinking”.

As Amit has noted in his blog, RIC is an extension of Software Defined Networking (SDN) Concepts. SDN is a very useful principle and allows for dynamic, programmable networking by separating/opening the control from the actual forwarding plane. In the realm of software development, the concept of openness holds significant value. Open architectures allow for collaboration, integration, and innovation, fostering a thriving ecosystem of interconnected applications and systems. RIC enables all of this for one of the most critical elements of the mobile wireless network, the RAN (Radio Access Network).

However, like anything, there is a paradox associated with the openness and the benefits. It usually comes with associated complexity and integration costs that need to be carefully considered. There are standards bodies and leading vendors in the ecosystem tackling these topics. Here, we would like to illustrate a “Product Thinking” approach to striking the balance between the benefits from the openness vs. the complications:

  1. User Centricity: User Centricity - seems simple, you say. User is the operator’s Operations team and they have so much to gain from this openness (multi-vendor ecosystem, access to innovation, fine-grained control over the most valuable asset that they have - spectrum). So, this seems like a slam dunk - any complexity is well justified considering the benefits. However, think again. Who is the user? The User is the User of the Network i.e the end consumer or the enterprise using the operator’s network. Answer the benefit question (Why?) keeping this user centric lens. If you have a compelling benefit, congratulations - you have solved the first aspect of “Product Thinking”

  2. Business Value: Again, you can look at the business value from multiple lenses. From the perspective of an OEM, your business value may well be that the operator needs this technology (there is an RFP) and you can see a clear business case for the investment. However, in our “Product Thinking” handbook, we encourage you to think deeper. Lasting business value is only created if the Product Innovation you are engaged in unlocks the value for the end user (back to the user centricity). So, if your innovation is enabling something that the unlocks business value for the end user, congratulations - you have solved for the second aspect of “Product Thinking”

  3. Iterative Approach: If you are feeling a bit dejected after the first two steps, don’t be. There is hardly any Product Innovation that started where the first idea led to a Eureka moment. What separates great innovators is that they do not give up in the face of setbacks. They use each of the iterations to learn and refine their approach and continue adapting the Product till they have a fit with the Market based on the User-Centricity and Business Value creation.

We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback/critique. So, please share your opinions about this thread or the benefits/challenges of RIC and the way forward, as you see fit.

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Paras Jain
Paras Jain
Jun 20, 2023

Informative and well-researched article. The author provides clear insights into complex technical concepts. A valuable read!

Gaurav Vaid
Gaurav Vaid
Jun 20, 2023
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Thank you, @Paras!! @Amit certainly helped demystify the complex technical topic. This post was our collective effort, based on our internal debates, to illustrate how we can apply the product thinking lens to such complex topics. Something, we believe is sorely needed in telecom as the complexity of the networks is mind boggling and can be overwhelming for anyone

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