This year is heralded as the ‘Year of 5G’. With the first launches of the technology occurring in 2018, mobile operators and their suppliers now are set to begin deployment in earnest. But can they really deliver all that 5G promises?
The role of the operator will vary widely in this brave new world. At the most basic level, it may simply act as a connectivity provider – leveraging extensive networks assets – although this also limits the potential revenue opportunity. With an eye on the bigger prize, many are looking to act more as enabling platforms, offering a broad set of value-added services. As a result, operators will find themselves working closely with multiple partners, in order to serve shared customers and generate shared revenue.
The most likely scenario is that operators will deploy a mixture of models, acting as connectivity partner, value-added partner, and end-to-end service provider at the same time. This means their IT platforms will need the flexibility to support all of these, taking into account the additional complexity when partners are involved in service delivery.
5G network slicing impact on the new business models
Perhaps the most exciting innovation, which will come with the deployment of 5G, is network slicing. Put simply, this enables networks to be segmented to meet the requirements of specific services, such as guaranteed resilience, bandwidth or low latency.
By moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach of current networks, slicing gives operators greater flexibility to meet specific service needs while still using the same underlying network infrastructure.
While this flexibility will be vital in order to support the catalogue of new enterprise and consumer applications enabled by 5G, it comes with accompanying complexity. Different service level agreements will apply to different slices, with different pricing depending on specific slice requirements, all of which will need to be tracked in order to enable accurate billing.
The ability to collect performance data from 5G networks and network functions will therefore be of critical importance for revenue assurance. Alongside this, dynamic slice assurance will be necessary for operators to monitor the services they are providing customers to ensure SLAs are being met, and to bill customers accurately.
Leveraging the data boost for risk management purposes
The explosion of data generated by IoT and 5G applications creates a number of opportunities for operators. The availability of real-time data and the increased number of interactions can enable a much better view of the customer, enabling improved customer experiences and retention.
A new approach to risk management
In an ecosystem-led environment, all parties have a role to play in managing and mitigating risk. But with so many moving parts across the various participants, with business process and systems that may not have been designed with a partner-based model in mind, the potential for discrepancies – and complex and time-consuming resolution processes – is massive.
For all of these challenges, operators remain well placed to act as the glue in the risk assurance chain, bringing together the various participants and building on existing capabilities and experience. The key will be fully exploring the value chain to identify and mitigate against risks, and deployment of flexible tools that enable service providers to monitor risk while still offering the flexibility need to meet changing, and diverse, customer demands.
This article is an excerpt from the TM Forum report “5G: Evolution and Revolution” sponsored by WeDo Technologies.