In the early 2000’s, the mobile internet started transforming our everyday lives. Nowadays, almost every spectrum of our existence is covered by a smartphone app. Whole encyclopedias are available at our fingertips. We can buy any kitchen interior we want and pay for it instantly just by tapping on a phone screen.
Now, after nearly two decades of evolution, the mobile internet is taking the next revolutionary step — switching to 5G. And as the recently published MIT report shows, the change is actually so gigantic, that Mobile Network Operators won’t be able to implement the new network technology without external support.
In this entry, we’re going to look at the key findings of the MIT report to identify the biggest challenges and requirements of the upcoming transition from the perspective of telecommunications operators.
But first, for broader context, let’s summarise what 5G actually brings to the table.
Why’s 5G So Great?
Shortly speaking, 5G will empower the development of revolutionary apps unlike anything that currently exists outside wired environments.
Firstly, through a faster broadband, 5G utilizes various aggregated bands to unlock bandwidths of over 1GHz. With improved speed, industry-specific apps will be able to get connectivity between millions of devices in a square mile. According to IBM, 5G will improve video streaming roughly 10 times. And not just for individuals, but for anyone streaming a video at the same time — by creating a data superhighway.
Secondly, although 4G networks have a nearly non-existent latency of 100-milliseconds, video conferencing can still lag. Solving this issue, 5G introduces superbly reliable communication — with latency reduced tenfold.
Finally, since the number of active devices around the world is growing rapidly, these devices need a fast and secure connection to perform in the way they were intended. 5G is key in enabling this and creating an interconnected world of the future.
The Delivery Challenges And Requirements
The Ericsson-sponsored report explores how IT and network executives are creating roadmaps to 5G, including strategies for rethink network operations, IT, business support systems (BSS), and business processes to accommodate a growing number of digital service partners in rapidly expanding ecosystems.
Among the challenges and requirements of 5G implementation, named were:
“Collaboration is the operating model for 5G delivery”
As mentioned in the beginning of this piece, executives interviewed for the report stated that getting the full value of 5G is not something they can do on their own. Moreover, “to take advantage of the infinite possibilities will require an ecosystem of partners, and partner collaboration will become the baseline for success”.
These partnerships will include both hardware and software companies, traditional and digital players, large and small innovators — everyone who can bring specific expertise that will enable exploiting new niches.
“Scaling 5G services will require an ‘app store’ style of customized connectivity”
BSS functions such as billing, service creation, and catalogue management, in order to be effective in the 5G era, need to be open and agile, simply working as “plug-and-play”. To achieve this, BSS capabilities, empowered by AI, analytics, and automation, will serve as building blocks for partners to employ by themselves in a type of “app store”.
The reason behind being truly scalable and innovative is to become close to “zero touch”, which requires greater network and IT integration for the automation of the most important BSS functions such as “configure, price, quote”.
“Rich data sets offer infinite opportunities for automation, AI, and real-time insight”
Thanks to increasingly rich data sets, MNO’s are becoming their customers’ partners in AI or BI and in generating new opportunities for additional value creation.
To achieve this, operators need to be more embedded in their customers’ digital business using more virtualized and automated solutions, “providing uniquely-defined services around specific customer requirements”.
“Cloud migration is a key success factor for OSS and BSS”
Cloud migration is among the most important issues for Mobile Network Operators in their preparation for 5G. There’s less maturity in moving network functions to the cloud than there is in IT, and there is little excitement in moving stable apps to a cloud environment where they might be more costly or challenging to virtualize.
But customer experience is one capability that interview executives think should be moved to the cloud, since a virtual on-demand service in form of a delivery platform is the base on which new innovative services will arise promptly, in collaboration with the carrier, it service partners and customers.
“5G will be an organizational as well as technological transformation”
Sales, marketing, network management, pricing and billing — all of them must be subjects of changes that operators must plan for in 5G roadmaps.
Telco operators have internal processes that are usually more aligned to consumers than enterprises, and this will also prove a challenge, since connected devices will soon be higher in numbers than human subscribers.
As the report states, “a huge shift is the closer integration of network and IT teams, processes, and platforms, as service provisioning becomes more virtualized and new offers are developed with partners in cloud-native environments”.
MNO executives who participated in the report are at many different stages in 5G implementation. Some of them, especially from Asia, Middle East, and Africa are focusing mainly on recouping their 4G investments.
Sounds interesting? To learn more about the exciting opportunities (and challenges) 5G introduces, make sure to read the full report here.
From the perspective of a software developer, we recognize several areas where IT solutions providers will likely speed up the transformations process and open new revenue streams.
The software ecosystem of MNO’s consists of multiple application, both big and small. Equipment vendors will of course provide 5G support for main tools, yet many smaller, supporting (but still important) apps will require additional development to adapt to new events, protocols, data formats, etc.
Another issue is moving non-critical components to the public Cloud, which brings obvious benefits and can be performed way quicker by an experienced team. This way, MNO’s can also familiarize their staff with the concepts of Cloud and its mechanics to efficiently introduce them to the new reality.
Additionally, 5G network architecture changes enable an easier access to vast amount of data which can be used to gain additional revenue opportunities. To get the most of it, this data needs to be visualized and understood. This, with use of Machine Learning, could make entire operations much more efficient and increase ARPU.
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