Achieving the 5G ideals
Communications service providers’ (CSPs) slow but steady 5G rollout is starting to make a dent in 4G’s dominance. A recent GSMA report puts 5G connections as accounting for 20% of all mobile connections by 2025.
This is just the start, of course, says Bruce Kelley, CTO and SVP of NETSCOUT, Service Provider. And as the years roll by, we’ll see the impact of 5G sweep across the industry.
The benefits of 5G across industries are many and well documented, but actually achieving them is less frequently discussed. Unfortunately, it will not be a simple process. Bringing 5G online requires enormous investment from CSPs which, if they’re to justify these costs to customers, must continue to deliver flawless services across existing networks whilst simultaneously migrating to cloud native environments that support a dynamic, high-speed 5G network with billions of IoT-connected devices, including a new wave of virtual networking such as network slicing.
Despite these mammoth changes, CSPs need to be able to guarantee reliability if they’re to translate the technological innovation and faster connectivity of 5G into actual profit and business success. To do so, they need holistic visibility into their wireless networks.
By visibility here, we mean being able to look at live, real-time IP packet data, whether this is across physical or virtual/cloud infrastructures. With that data in hand, companies can construct smart, analytics-ready meta data collected and optimised from real-time traffic flows, to provide actionable intelligence that encompasses the entirety of the network, services, technologies, and subscribers.
This kind of visibility enables CSPs to see into the most complex parts of their networks, revealing the end-to-end experience down to the subscriber level. Getting this deep down into the workings of the network is crucial for keeping abreast of any issues, optimising the user experience, and automating networks for the greatest possible efficiency.
With this level of visibility and insight, CSPs can make critical decisions, effectively weighing the trade-offs of various approaches and fine-tuning the direction of infrastructure investments. CSPs can more effectively plan network upgrades, compare different vendor infrastructure performance, and monitor network performance and enable troubleshooting to meet service level agreements (SLAs), alongside a host of other benefits.
Smart visibility also creates the awareness needed to track and set targets related to security, virtualisation, network topology, and scalability. In turn, this can be vital when CSPs set out to adopt analytics, AI and ML, as well as for transitioning to autonomous networks.
Perhaps most importantly, CSPs can ensure deployment strategies are based on network assessment, thus maximising opportunities for new services and monetisation. Most notably, CSPs can better take advantage of additional emergent technologies that will rely on 5G, such as smart cities and autonomous vehicles.
In the coming years, 5G and virtualisation look set to dominate the direction of CSPs, and holistic visibility offers an independent approach to reduce dependency on vendors, reduce costs, and drive innovation. In today’s complex multi-vendor, multi-cloud and hybrid ecosystems, performant interoperability is dependent on reliable open APIs and open source software.
Through smart visibility, CSPs can coordinate, monitor and evaluate the interactions between these complex and diverse network functions, as well as vendors, integrators, and enterprises. Every level of the wireless ecosystem is covered.
Making 5G profitable starts with reliability which translates into increased adoption and retained customers. Only with visibility across the breadth and depth of the network can this reliability be achieved, and with these insights, carriers can innovate with confidence and maximise opportunities for profit.
The author is Bruce Kelley, CTO and SVP of NETSCOUT, Service Provider.