When will we see the full benefits of 5G?
In this exclusive interview, Robin Duke-Woolley (RDW), CEO of Beecham Research interviews Niall Norton (NN), General Manager of Amdocs for 5G and Networks and CEO of Openet, about the benefits of 5G core, how it will gather momentum in 2022 and their mission to making monetising 5G quick and easy for operators.
RDW: Though 5G is now quite widely launched, we have yet to see substantial benefits – both to end user and to CSPs. Why do you think that is?
NN: Every time a ‘G’ changes, the initial expenditure and excitement is around the radio infrastructure. So in this case you get 5G radio access capability out there, which from a customer perspective means just fast 4G. The real power and exciting value creation opportunity from 5G is when you move to putting in a 5G core as well as the 5G radio network. That is what is beginning to happen in 2021 and we will see a lot more of that in 2022. Very few networks globally have got a full 5G core enabled at this point in time out of the hundreds of networks that need to be done. It is not common yet. Even in the US, the big networks are in user-friendly testing mode but a full 5G core, which enables services to bring an order of magnitude more sophistication to what you can do with the radio sessions, is only just now becoming available in the market. The things you can do to shape experiences, the things you can do to open up your network to create monetization models that have not been available before to enterprises and even to end customers is much more significant.
RDW: How do you think these new capabilities will start to roll out in the market?
NN: There are a very significant number of operators in the act of deploying and testing and perfecting the 5G core. In the short term there will probably be 3 or 4 base services which will later expand further, and later on even become more exposed to a B2B2X kind of channel and that is where new revenue and models come. The networks then become platforms and third parties can provide services either managed by the network operator or managed by themselves. Opportunities for IoT also increase enormously. It is a bit like when you create an App Store for an iPhone. An iPhone without an App Store is rather dull. The enablement of the 5G core with all its architectural benefits around cloud native and virtualisation are the enabling piece which allow all this other innovation to be platform-ised by the telco operators. It will begin to pick up pace slowly at the start of 2022, gathering a lot of momentum through 2022 and on into 2023, 2024, and so on. At which point in time there will be other things like how it all fits in with WiFi, how it fits in with satellite and other things that will make coverage options better again.
RDW: What does the 5G core bring that is different?
NN: The real value comes because you will have effectively an automated network or a network that is capable of being automated where you can have software rules that will create new experiences and they are programmable. Everything but the actual physical mast infrastructure is virtual and according to the 5G standards. Things like being able to work in a core cloud and an edge cloud and being able to optimise applications.
I could be using a drone to look at a field. I can look at the crops and the various sensors. If all of that data was being brought across a public network, it would be prohibitively expensive and would be of very limited value. On the other hand, if you have edge cloud as well as main cloud and you have the capacity, you can do a lot of edge processing of the stuff you do not want to transport. If you also have AI doing things at the network centre, making recommendations at the network centre, suddenly the whole thing becomes hugely affordable and a lot more sustainable by the network operators.
RDW: Amdocs works closely with telecom operators. How do you see that developing in this area?
NN: Amdocs has been providing network & OSS solutions for over 15 years and is very well known in things like inventory management, network service orchestration and so forth. The motivation for Amdocs interest in acquiring Openet, and Openet’s own interest, was an almost 100% agreement that 5G is about monetization. That means you need to be able to work in the network layer with things like policy and charging and analytics to bring the B2B and B2B2X customers. Their experience needs to be all the way down to being able to use the network as a platform to create and manage their own services or to be able to at least take a menu and have the network operator manage it for them.
RDW: How has the Amdocs/Openet offer developed since the acquisition in August 2020?
NN: We believe we have built a very comprehensive portfolio collectively to abstract complexity, to make it quick and easy for an operator to focus on making money. That is our mission. We have continued to build out in the last 12 months, to broaden our portfolio in value creation and bring it to market because we believe the operators need it. We are bringing it to market now when hopefully they recognise that. To truly fulfil the 5G promise and enable a wide ecosystem of partners to leverage the new 5G, edge and cloud ecosystem, these dynamic network operation, monetization and exposure functionalities are key – and we are excited to be driving this momentum forward .