Three key issues affecting 5G’s future
One of the most striking takeaways from Mobile World Congress 2018 is that despite the hype and excitement that has surrounded 5G, the industry isn’t quite ready for it.
5G represents telecom’s aspirations, such as gigabit mobile connectivity, tremendous leaps up the B2B value chain and the ability to regain the position as the chief source of innovation in the global digital economy. But service providers are quickly realising that there are several critical issues they must address in order to make the jump to 5G, says Ed Finegold, director of Content Strategy of Netcracker Technology.
- 5G will be costly
The fact is, rolling out 5G networks won’t be cheap. It will require substantial capital for both infrastructure and spectrum to a degree that 5G can’t just be the next, faster version of LTE. In a sense, 5G is more of a destination than a starting point. In order to build and fulfill the business cases that will justify 5G investments, service providers need to stay the course on digital transformation, virtualisation and digital age forms of monetisation.
Equipped with such attributes, the large-scale use cases for 5G—like remote medicine, precision agriculture, autonomous vehicles and dynamic network slicing—make more sense and become more realistic.
- The B2B services consumption model has already changed
Conventional wisdom states that the big money in 5G is in B2B services. But B2B customers have already changed gears in the way they consume IT services, as well as IP-based communications services that they’ve had to go outside the telecom industry to acquire. Service providers aren’t the dominant players when it comes to services integrated directly into apps and websites like chatbots, messaging and click to talk. Service providers are also behind the curve on digital assistant integration and digital identity.
To gain ground in B2B markets and set themselves up for a big win in 5G, service providers needs to make rapid improvements. Service providers need to work on exposing communications services via APIs and making it easier for enterprise customers to consume those services autonomously in a zero-touch automated, self-serve mode as they can with many cloud-based IT services today.
- Network silos must be conquered
Two important concepts that make 5G worth paying a premium for are dynamic network slicing and the idea of the network being exposed as a platform for innovation.
But most service providers still have their networks organised by disparate domains that are typically technology specific, vendor specific or service specific. As networks begin to be virtualised, it’s common for the early steps to be taken on a domain-by-domain basis. But it’s becoming clear to service providers that they will need to gain end-to-end control over these disparate domains because services traverse multiple domains, and on-demand or dynamic benefits can’t be realised as long as domain disparity remains a hurdle.
Service providers are also realising that they need domain orchestration (DO) in order to provide end-to-end cloud networks and services with a high degree of zero-touch automation.
Furthermore, DO has to be deployed in a way that allows subdomain managers to communicate horizontally to create end-to-end DO from any service perspective. Manager of manager approaches are proving to be flawed and, ironically, unmanageable. This means that how DO is architected today will not only impact a service provider’s ability to deliver sophisticated cloud services, but it may also determine a service provider’s ability to capitalise on 5G when the time finally comes.
The author of this blog is Ed Finegold, director of Content Strategy of Netcracker Technology