What’s the key to monetising 5G?
We may not yet know what will be the most lucrative 5G services, but it’s clear that to succeed with the next generation of mobile and become digital service providers (DSPs), network operators must invest heavily in mobile edge computing (MEC), writes Scott Sumner, the director of business analytics at Accedian. Bringing cloud computing and IT environments to the edge of the cellular network is a key component of any 5G strategy.
Only through MEC will operators be capable of processing network tasks closer to the customer in order to reduce latency to a level that can support futuristic, compute-intensive apps and services like augmented reality and tele-surgery. MEC will also unlock the next level relationships between operators and developers, over-the-top (OTT) distributors, and other service providers that will be necessary to successfully monetise 5G.
Virtualisation, MEC and cloud-native walked into a bar…
Given the currently unsustainable market reality of flat revenues, the future of telecoms operators depends on their business transformation from traditional connectivity providers to DSPs. Without this change, operators cannot hope to maintain and grow their subscriber base by extending value to customers, grow revenue through new business opportunities, or drive out excess costs and efficiencies through operational excellence. And, they can’t do it without 5G’s faster speeds and bigger bandwidth, which open up internet of things (IoT), content delivery, and enhanced mobile broadband application opportunities.
As they set out to achieve true DSP status for 5G, operators must build and implement strategies that focus on agility for network infrastructure, operations support systems (OSS) (service agility), and business support systems (BSS) (customer agility).
Agility is where virtualisation comes in – for network architecture, management and service delivery. All of those depend on precise, lightweight instrumentation that delivers end-to-end visibility – from datacentres and the core network to transport and all the way out to network edge and end-user devices. Only such instrumentation makes it possible to create and operate a truly software-defined network (SDN), another requirement for MEC and 5G.
In connection with both 5G and 4.5G, MEC is one – very important –aspect of the cloud-native concept that’s taking the telecoms industry by storm. Virtualisation – using software to separate infrastructures – provides access to shared pools of configurable resources, such as servers, storage and apps, provisioned with little management effort. Cloud-native refers to any environment that offers on-demand service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service or pay-per-use model. It definitely applies to MEC, just as well as more traditionally-delivered services.
With cloud already being ubiquitous in many industries and sectors, operators must meld that with MEC, using SDN and virtualisation to automate much of the networking and computing necessary for next-generation edge services. Auto-provisioning, auto-scaling, and auto-redundancy are key benefits of true cloud-native environments, especially at the network edge.
As noted earlier, however, none of this is possible without correct instrumentation for effective assurance at all layers and covering the entire service lifecycle. That means monitoring and visibility capabilities across all network and cloud elements.
Virtualised networks enable providers to turn up new cloud services anywhere, including at the network edge, on demand and with minimal expense. But the highly dynamic and on-demand nature of such services challenges the performance assurance requirements needed to satisfy service level agreements (SLAs). Customers are no longer tolerant of services being okay rather than excellent.
This truth translates to real-time service instantiation, as well as service monitoring and assurance. Operators must now be able to perform per-application level quality assurance for a vast number of services and QoE requirements, as well as meet the need for automated processes.
To address the assurance needs of cloud-native MEC services – and, indeed, to monitor an entire 5G ecosystem – operators must leverage an orchestrated solution framework that distributes testing, monitoring, and networking functions throughout the network, while retaining centralised control and analytics. Employing this kind of solution will help operators deliver successful MEC services by understanding the relationship between quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) and take the necessary step of moving QoE assurance beyond human control.
The overall function of such a platform is to act as a nervous system for complex, large-scale networks, from core to edge. It provides critical feedback into the app experience, to maintain optimal performance and circumvent problems, in context, using adaptable OSS/SDN and BSS-layer tools—driving network provisioning changes and new service availability based on customer-centric data.
A virtualised instrumentation layer is the key for operators seeking to transform into true DSPs and deliver MEC products as part of their ultimate goal for 4.5G and 5G: breathtaking performance over a dynamic network, without humans getting in the way.