How the 5G value plane will turn revenue dreams into reality
In summer 2020, the 3GPP Release 16 was completed and described as “the next stage of 5G” as it brought new enhancements and features for 5G networks. Many operators will use it as the reference release for their first adoption of a 5G Core, says Frank Healy, senior product marketing manager, Openet.
Now that a number of service providers have taken their first steps towards deploying a 5G Core, attention is focusing on the strategic value of using network data to manage 5G services and customer experience. Release 16 will deliver a valuable set of enhancements to network slicing, Service Based Architecture (SBA) and network automation to name a few. To enable these new functions and levels of optimisation, there will be an increased reliance on the Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF).
These improvements to network optimisation and control will allow telecom service providers to provide network-embedded 5G services. This is where the network is delivered as a service, allowing telecom service providers to go beyond simply providing connectivity, and towards using the network as an integral part of the new use cases they deliver. But their success will largely be dictated by revenue and their ability to monetise network services in ways that have never been possible before.
Turning the 5G dream into revenue
Standalone 5G will herald an unprecedented range of use cases, revolutionising how operators deliver their services. These use cases are only made possible by the self-learning algorithms ‘under the hood’ making sense of the complex interactions and multi-level transactions enabling the services over the 5G network.
The intelligence required to manage the granularity and intricacy of 5G transactions is beyond human capabilities. With NWDAF, however, machine learning performs continuous assessment of network metrics and statistics, continually learns and evolves ‘normal performance profiles for each service.
This means that early detection of any impending degradation to that performance takes place, and along with it, automatic mitigation action and configuration. This revolutionises network monetisation with network slicing, allowing a service provider to guarantee Quality of Service (QoS) and apply charging rules on a slice-by-slice basis.
NWDAF will also be essential to controlling, filtering and harnessing individual network slice data in real time, using machine learning scoring to ensure network resource optimisation. NWDAF interweaves artificial intelligence (AI) functionality, consuming real-time data from operational management and various network functions, outputting anticipated scoring and insights. Every few minutes, recalculated insight is served up as the models continually consume fresh data and deliver real-time network intelligence, which drives the autonomous configuration and policy decisions to maintain service levels.
This insight provided by neural network algorithms is not only key to the management of network resources, but also presents service providers with behavioural consumption insights, ripe for monetisation exploitation and offer innovation. So, how does NWDAF fit in a 5G world?
The 5G value plane
Success in the 5G era can only be derived from autonomous networks. These self-managing, self-scaling networks will deliver 5G ROI through cost efficiencies, resource optimisation (including a ‘greener’ consumption of network resources) and also new revenue realisation.
The NWDAF will nestle into the existing 5G policy and charging functions and will have a holistic viewpoint of all 5G core function activity to easily detect or predict unusual activity particularly in relation to user consumption patterns. Service consumption interactions, intensity and frequency of interactions, preferences and behavioural tendencies can all be monitored intently to identify new emerging opportunities for monetisation. Equally, abuse or unintended use of services can be quickly observed, and pricing updated accordingly in order to avoid possible revenue leakage.
This quantum shift in network-driven intelligence evolves from harnessing the real time flow of transactions and statistics from the network functions. It also evolves by using analytics to self-adapt and respond to these metrics intelligently. These integrated functions bind together to form the 5G value plane incorporating network, IT and business system functionality, and the Service Based Architecture (SBA) to deliver a seamless and self-managed service flow.
It is, therefore, critical that service providers ensure network functions in 5G are tightly integrated into their wider BSS tools and are SBA compliant. This will not only ease the management of 5G services but also allow service providers to be more agile when it comes to service deployment and the creation of new revenue streams.
The opportunities presented by 5G to telecom service providers are well known, and so too are the benefits. More use cases equal more revenue opportunities. But service providers cannot expect to enjoy these benefits or capitalise on the revenue opportunities by applying 4G methodologies and technology processes.
5G requires a new architectural design and service providers will have to ensure they have the right systems, tools and adopt the right approaches to make the most of 5G’s capabilities. Release 16 is another step to showing the industry what 5G will enable, now it’s up to telecom service providers to make it happen and importantly, to create revenue out of the new services they launch.
The author is Frank Healy, senior product marketing manager, Openet.