It’s time to clean house in OSS/BSS in preparation for 5G
With standards approved, and with handsets and localised networks due to be deployed in the first half of 2019, 5G networks will soon be appearing all around the world, writes Michal Medrala, the head of OSS product management at Comarch.
Many communications service providers (CSPs) have realised that 5G will necessitate them cleaning house with their OSS/BSS infrastructure, as many elements will simply not make the grade in the new environment. For some CSPs, the pending arrival of 5G has become a focal point for fixing, unifying and automating many systems that they haven’t had the resources or impetus to address up until now.
Associated with high speeds, and dynamic service availability, the demands of 5G will put unprecedented challenges on OSS in its current form; an evolution is therefore necessary.
Change is needed
To deliver advanced digital services, 5G networks will be mostly built on new, virtualized environment, managing higher volumes of data at higher speeds, and ensuring reliable connections between devices. As this will require new operational management techniques to be incorporated into network management, the underlying OSS must undergo a comprehensive transformation, particularly with regard to real-time orchestration.
Future digital services will be defined by dynamic customer demands. This, however, needs far more inter-working and inter-operation between OSS management layers than is currently possible, and so the silos upon which legacy OSS operates must be broken. In addition, it will be necessary to transform the reactive nature of a CSP’s network operations centre (NOC), so that it more proactively focuses on preventive maintenance rather than post-problem resolution; doing so will mean eliminating laborious operational processes that slow down any corrective actions.
The OSS will also have to find more efficient ways of integrating real-time service inventory, network and assurance processes in order to improve service agility. Furthermore, the OSS must be able to address the dynamic configurations and topology changes that will result from the dynamic SLAs with network slices providers.
Running 5G services requires CSPs to introduce dramatic changes in the design and architecture of their networks. Dedicated hardware for delivering high capacity and reliable services will be replaced with virtualised network architecture based on commodity hardware upon which virtualised network functions will be hosted. As physical network elements steadily virtualise during the transition to NFV, it will be critical for the OSS to balance and monitor capacity across both the physical and virtualised elements of a hybrid network. It must also evolve to allow zero-touch provisioning, which will be fully automated in the closed loop model, requiring complex mathematical models and machine learning algorithms.
The scalability and capacity of a virtualised 5G network is seen by many CSPs as an opportunity to extend their business to become an over-the-top (OTT) service provider, offering high quality, reliable networks for the delivery of OTT services. For this to happen will require the OSS to expand significantly so that is able to deliver new business rules, service models, and mechanisms of device control. Billions of data streams will be pushed through the network elements, and the OSS will be forced to build new levels of scalability and capability in order to crunch these.
Given the extent of the transformation necessary, it’s reasonable to say that OSS in its current form would be extremely inefficient in meeting the demands of 5G technology. To evolve to the next level, CSPs must introduce intelligent techniques of listening and reacting to 5G networks and services.
SDN/NFV, in combination with AI, is invaluable for efficient network and service operations. Not only can it facilitate the management of a hybrid network, it can also help address CSPs’ concerns over analysing the massive volumes of data generated by 5G and, by extension, the IoT that it enables.
OSS with AI will, therefore, be capable of supporting truly dynamic networks and services, and accurately reflect the prevailing state of the network with an up-to-date view of physical and virtual resources. At the same time, it will provide a complete historical record of the network to support automatic actions in preventive maintenance and zero-touch provisioning processes.
5G promises a number of benefits, such as significant cost savings, greater capacity and scalability, and increased innovation, and the OSS will play an important role in realising these. To fully capitalise on them, however, CSPs must make significant shifts in their OSS architecture. Enhanced, next-generation OSS intelligence is necessary for the development of an optimal system configuration that will maximise the benefits of AI and, in doing so, enable the successful deployment and implementation of 5G services, and unlocking the opportunities they offer to CSPs.