How 5G networks can become a platform for innovation

Industry News

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Niall Norton a General Manager in Amdocs Technology division responsible for network software, looks at BSS in the 5G/cloud era.

Telco networks’ cloud transformation is firmly accelerating, with more and more operators seeking and signing partnerships with the hyperscalers. The announcements from AT&T moving its 5G network to Microsoft, and from Swisscom looking to migrate its current 5G network to a new standalone 5G network powered by AWS, provide two highly pertinent examples of operators looking to leverage the flexibility of the cloud.

While such moves may alarm some CSPs given hyperscalers could, in theory, deliver connectivity services that would place them in direct competition with telcos, closer integration with cloud providers should be seized as an opportunity and not feared as a threat.

Once in a lifetime chance

The convergence of the ability to automate network functions that are “plug and play” integratable, of analytics and machine learning, of the rich complexity and sophistication of how 5G traffic is processed, of the availability of differentiated environments enabled by 5G service slicing, and of the automatic scalability and cost effectiveness of compute and processing infrastructure, all makes for a once-in-a-network-lifetime scenario for CSPs to be platforms for innovation and multi-sided business models for opportunities of all sizes. Perfecting the blending of these assets is a new trick for CSPs; and they can learn a lot from established internet players and in particular their new cloud partners about how to deliver more value and generate new revenue streams from their 5G networks, to focus sharply on the user experience and to give customers reasons to be loyal.

Take the example of Amazon, constantly innovating to advance its business, enabling it to grow from a bookstore to an e-commerce brand, to one of the leading providers of cloud computing, storage, and analytics, while never losing focus on the customer. 5G in the cloud is giving telcos a similar chance to transform their offering from simply being the bearer to enabling a host of value-added services. With 5G, telcos can harness a revolutionary infrastructure that will provide the building blocks for enterprise connectivity and new OTT applications. This is a huge opportunity to unleash the potential of 5G’s properties as a platform for third-party innovation, and for telcos and their customers to directly benefit.

Third parties can catalyse monetisation

So, how do CSPs open up their networks to enterprise and OTT services? And – crucially – how can they monetise these third-party relationships to drive growth? The key here lies in the ease at which telcos can integrate third parties into their network. With 4G networks, CSPs had to guarantee high levels of scalability before opening up their network to others – this, in turn, was both expensive and slow to achieve, cutting off telcos from opportunities with smaller businesses and consequently cutting off the CSP from being a platform for innovation. Thanks to 5G’s cloud-native architecture, CSPs can easily and efficiently integrate with others, enabling them to unlock new revenue streams. Central to all of this is the BSS.

5G introduces a range of new functions and network attributes that can be exposed and managed through the BSS. This is the ‘5G Value Plane,’ which bridges 5G business and IT functions, and analytics within the 5G network, making it much easier to open up and subsequently monetise the network. Network and IT teams will need to work more closely as policy and charging become more closely integrated with core network functions, as 5G can enable policy to be positioned at the heart of 5G monetisation. This enables telcos to adapt the network for individual services, allowing the different network characteristics such as ultra-low latency, high-bandwidth and network slicing use cases to have different pricing and charging rules and service level agreements.

Within the 5G Value Plane, the Network Exposure Function (NEF) will be key to realising 5G’s value. The NEF facilitates secure, robust, developer-friendly access to exposed network services and capabilities. Through the NEF and its open APIs, telcos can easily open networks up to third parties to generate revenue opportunities. The Network Data and Analytics Function (NWDAF), a new core function in 5G that introduces a higher level of intelligence and makes the networks smarter through real-time data management and analysis. With this new depth of insight, telcos can unlock further opportunities for monetisation and make a proposition which relies on Quality of Service a reality.

A far more competitive world

5G in the cloud should act as a magnet for enterprises and OTT developers. They can innovate, building applications that tap directly into the 5G network, creating arguably limitless revenue streams. However, there are other considerations to take into account. Changing the nature of a network to be a platform for innovation instead of just a conduit means a gear change in the approach to marketing and selling those network capabilities.

With 5G, CSPs are finding themselves in a far more competitive world in terms of customer acquisition. They will need sales teams with experience of working in a dynamic, fast-paced sector and will need to upskill staff on how to introduce, explain and sell the power of the 5G platform not only to the enterprise but to the developer community. There will need to be deep understanding of use cases in terms of context and differentiation, the requirements for building private 5G networks and applications that leverage network slicing.

This is a new approach for the CSPs, who are adapting to identify and seize the new opportunities presented by 5G. Looking back to the Amazon example, it is the creation of applications and services that catalyse use cases and build market momentum. It is delivering excellence in execution and exceeding customer expectations that builds a business. Telcos are moving to the cloud to reinvent their networks – that reinvention needs to extend to the way they reinvent their organisations to do justice to the transformations that 5G can bring to the wider world.

Niall Norton was appointed as a General Manager in Amdocs Technology division responsible for Network Software in April 2021, following the acquisition of Openet by Amdocs in August 2020. Niall served as Chief Executive Officer and Board member for Openet Telecom since 2006. Prior to Openet, he served as Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary of Telefónica. He holds a degree in Commerce from University College, Dublin, is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and has a Certificate in Management Excellence from Harvard Business School. Niall was recognised as one of the 100 most influential people in telecoms by Global Telecoms Business in 2017, and the ITLG “Silicon Valley 50” Top Irish and Irish-American Tech Executives in 2014. During his tenure at Openet the company has been recognised by winning Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards 2017, the European Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013 (TECHTOUR), the Irish Software Association Company of the Year 2012 and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 (Ireland).

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