Top 6 ways for operators to accelerate their 5G rollout

Top 6 ways for operators to accelerate their 5G rollout

Top 6 ways for operators to accelerate their 5G rollout

 

April 21, 2022

5G rollout will open new opportunities

The benefits of 5G for networks and their customers are indisputable. Industry experts say that 5G will be 10x faster than existing 4G networks. In fact, standalone 5G networks can provide Gigabit-class speeds as fast as fiber connections. And 5G will not only deliver faster mobile data speeds, but also provide significant enhancements to network flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. Plus, private 5G presents the opportunity for service providers to cater to enterprise clients by delivering advanced Industry 4.0 use cases. As OEMs launch 5G-ready devices, some operators are beginning to deploy next-gen networks, while others are still looking for ways to ensure faster 5G rollout. What’s holding them back, and how can they expedite their 5G launch?

Operator challenges in launching 5G

5G technology has made significant progress on several fronts over the last few years. There are more 5G-compatible devices in the market like the iPhone 12 and home routers. Wireless RAN infrastructure and cloud technologies have been developed to support next-gen capabilities. And the foundation for a potentially rich business ecosystem of partnerships is also emerging. But adoption is still in the nascent stage.
Operators today have a host of concerns in transitioning their networks to 5G, which include:

  • Reluctance to make the massive investment required for wide 5G coverage.
  • Lack of spectrum availability in many regions and local regulatory challenges.
  • Low prevalence of 5G devices, meaning operators may not be able to upsell consumers.
  • Technical complications in implementing 5G alongside an existing LTE network, as it would lead to complex network infrastructure that presents difficulties in management and high maintenance costs.

How operators can swiftly launch 5G

Using a combination of mid-band and low-band spectrum

While multi-gigabit 5G speeds are seen only on high-band spectrum (mmWave), many operators have proven success in using sub-6 spectrum in low bands and mid bands for a 5G launch on a wider scale. Using a combination of spectrum in low bands and mid bands also promises larger geographical coverage with higher bandwidth. This approach will result in a balanced 5G network that is faster than 4G, ensuring the best performance indoors and outdoors.

Following a two-phase NSA approach

Technically called the eUTRA-NR Dual Connectivity (EN-DC) approach, this will allow operators to reuse and leverage their existing resources, keeping the promise of 5G intact. The 5G radio (gNodeB) can connect to the EPC (the LTE core), enabling implementation of a 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) deployment. This approach will immediately enable the enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) use case. Voice calls will be sent over the 4G network using EPS fallback.

Issue eSIMs instead of physical SIM cards

eSIM or embedded SIM is the electronic form of a physical SIM card. eSIMs are mounted permanently to a device. A user can digitally add plans from cellular operators to their eSIM without having to physically replace the SIM card. The eSIM not only improves design flexibility, it also allows the operator to digitally distribute subscriptions in bulk. It will enable faster time-to-market for operators, as a 5G eSIM can be simply delivered in the form of a QR code via email, making it much easier to distribute than physical SIMs.

Most major operators now support eSIMs. The number of mobile devices that support them is steadily growing, and will soon be far more widespread.

Prioritize network virtualization

Arguably the best thing about 5G is its cloud-native architecture. A virtualized 5G RAN and core can reside on generic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, eliminating dependence on proprietary hardware vendors. This approach is much more flexible and cost-efficient as it will allow operators to scale up hardware resources with increasing user traffic. A 4G virtualized RAN can enable 5G with only a software update. Enhancements to network functions can be delivered via software patches. Operators will benefit significantly from virtualizing their 4G networks on priority, as it will enable a hassle-free, easier, faster 5G rollout.

Begin with private 5G networks

Private 5G is a dedicated and standalone next-gen cellular network best suitable for relatively smaller and more confined areas like universities, airports, campuses, buildings, and more. This private network can be launched in a matter of weeks with a limited resource footprint. It provides higher bandwidth to enable all 5G business use cases over a secure and private connection for different Industry 4.0 applications. A specialized compact core makes the installation easier and faster.

Enabling private 5G networks for enterprise clients is the best fit for operators who want to soft launch a real-world 5G network on a smaller scale before moving forward with a more large-scale launch.

Forge partnerships to improve the device ecosystem

Even though 5G launches are rapidly progressing around the world, the device ecosystem is still limited. Though most of the mid-range smartphones launched in 2021 support 5G, many users still need to upgrade their existing devices to experience 5G. What operators can do here is partner with OEMs to offer 5G mobile phones and Mi-Fi devices at a subsidized price to drive consumer interest. Trade-in programs will also help. This will enable operators to gain major traction for a faster 5G rollout and drive competition around the market.

Conclusion

With its cloud-first architecture, high bandwidth, and low latency, 5G has been emerging as a platform that will drive innovation in various sectors like healthcare, automobiles, logistics, massive IoT, and more. Industrial IoT and mission-critical use cases will benefit from the always-on and real-time connectivity of this next-gen network.

Early 5G rollout will give operators more time and opportunities to explore new use cases. In an increasingly competitive and dynamically changing market, the first-mover advantage is key.

Alepo’s industry-leading 5G Core solutions enable swift and easy deployment, provide a low resource footprint, and ensure standards-compliant infrastructure for a scalable and future-proof network. They enable operators to generate more revenue from avenues that were previously unexplored in telecom. Partnering with leading technology partners, Alepo delivers end-to-end 5G solutions that have enabled commercial success for over a dozen real-world deployments globally.

Alepo’s 5G Core Network Architecture

To begin your next-gen journey today, email us at market.development@alepo.com.

Nitish Muley

Nitish Muley

Senior Engineer

Nitish has spent years developing use cases for technologies like VR, AR, IoT, and is currently working on Alepo’s newest products. Always up to speed with the latest in the industry, Nitish is a voracious reader – and fervent writer – about all things related to tech and wireless standards. After hours, he wears a traveler’s hat, pursuing his love for photography as he explores different countries.

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How predictive analytics unlocks 5G network potential

How predictive analytics unlocks 5G network potential

How predictive analytics unlocks 5G network potential

April 13, 2022

5G analytics systems and the predictive network

Intelligent predictive networks promise to be revolutionary for mobile network operators. And the commencement of 5G has accelerated research on the technology, as next-gen infrastructure inherently provides provisions to support these advanced systems. The predictive network essentially provides highly advanced analytics capabilities – further supported by 5G’s analytical systems – performing self-diagnostics and self-managing with minimal or no human intervention. How evolved are predictive networks today, what outcomes can operators expect from them, and what role does predictive analytics play in 5G?

Before we dive into the technical specifics, let’s first understand why predictive networks are relevant for operators.

Business benefits of predictive networks

The predictive network enables a host of benefits to service providers, including:

  • Ensure Quality of Service (QoS), Quality of Experience (QoE), and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for 5G services by intelligently tuning to network conditions
  • Prevent performance issues, predicting them before they occur and taking anticipatory corrective measures
  • Lower downtime by minimizing network disruptions
  • Support advanced next-gen use cases
  • Maximize return on network-capacity investments
  • Continuously tune the network and balance network load to prevent over-engineering

Operator success will be defined by ensuring that their predictive systems can manage their networks more efficiently while ensuring a superior customer experience.

What exactly is a predictive network?

Traditionally, proactive systems, popularly known as Self-Organizing Networks (SON), have analyzed real-time network data to detect anomalies either when an event occurred, or the system was impacted. Their algorithms would then suggest a resolution or take corrective actions that involve human intervention.

In contrast, a predictive network uses months of historical data to predict the recurrence of network events. It essentially treats each event as a statistical problem that can be solved using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques, learning from the past and predicting what it should anticipate.

The role of predictive analytics in the 5G ecosystem

5G acts as a catalyst for predictive networks because it introduces dedicated data analytics network functions (NFs). Standards bodies have defined Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF) and Network Exposure Function (NEF) to provide a centralized predictive analytics platform for the 5G core network. These NFs collect and expose network data in real-time to machine learning applications deployed at the network edge.

3GPP has also defined standardization guidelines for data collection, predefined analytics insights, and data exposure interfaces for customers. Accordingly, the NWDAF collects data from multiple sources like user equipment, network functions, network edge, data plane, operation, administration, and maintenance (OAM) systems, and more.

The data gathered by NWDAF can be fed into an analytics engine to provide insights and take necessary actions. It is designed to defragment proprietary network analytics solutions and standardize the way mobile network data is produced and consumed.

The 5G NWDAF, combined with AI and ML, empowers proactive closed-loop network operations, ensuring the network can analyze historical data and learn from it.

The ubiquitous architecture of 5G includes an edge NWDAF co-located with core network functions and a central NWDAF. The edge NWDAF serves low and ultralow latency use cases, while the central NWDAF supports use cases that do not have real-time requirements. It also includes functions such as the data and ML models repository that help ensure the AI/ML models and continuously trained.

Along with NWDAF, 5G also introduces data analytics functions at the following layers:

  • Big data, management, and orchestration (Big Data/MDAF)
  • Application function level (AFDAF)
  • User equipment/RAN (DAF)
  • Data network (DN-DAF)

With these critical 5G functions and an edge platform, the network can meet the performance needs of more complex next-gen use cases. It will develop a system to capture network data from all functions and understand the network; measure and predict service performance; and proactively ensure high QoE, QoS, and network availability round the clock. Automating this system using AI/ML will enable operators to maximize return on investment.

Predictive analytics use cases

Some of the many use cases that can be powered by NWDAF and AI/ML include:

Load AnalysisNetwork Performance Service AssuranceDevice Behavior Analysis
Load level of network slice instanceCongestion information of user data in a specific locationNetwork performance predictions by analyzing traffic changes at the cell or area level Behavior analytics like communication patterns for individual or groups of UEs
Load analytics information for specific NFsNetwork load performance in an area of interestDensity changes in important alarms based on historical dataAbnormal behavior and anomaly detection for individual or groups of UEs

Analytics systems today and into the future

Key stages of network analytics journey

Key stages of a network’s analytics journey

The analytics journey can be classified into four stages:

  • Context-sensitive or diagnostic analytics gathers and visualizes data, identifies patterns in historical data, and detects why the event occurred.
  • Predictive analytics analyzes large volumes of data and forecasts probable future events, using machine learning techniques.
  • Prescriptive analytics provides insights and options to optimize the network.
  • Cognitive analytics takes optimized decisions to rectify problems without human intervention.

Broadly speaking, the industry is currently at the predictive analytics stage. With the advent of 5G analytics functions and maturity in AI/ML algorithms, we will soon see cognitive systems taking intelligent decisions without human intervention.

The future predictive network will analyze large datasets from multiple channels and identify complex network patterns, thus making near-accurate predictions. To achieve this, the operator’s monitoring and maintenance system must rely on 5G NWDAF and advanced predictive algorithms, both of which have equally innovative core functionalities.

Conclusion

Growing data is a reality of modern networks, and analyzing this data is the key to business success. It’s therefore essential for operators to devise and optimize their analytics system and continuously measure its maturity, especially as cloud technology permeates.

5G data analytics functions and AI/ML are set to disrupt the way we design and operate our networks. High compute and 5G network speeds make it easier to analyze huge amounts of data and transmit the results in real-time.

AI and ML technologies also enable the development of more sophisticated data analytics systems that can do more than analyze data and relay information. These intelligent systems can perform self-assessments, auto-adjust, and perform complex tasks on their own, without needing human intervention. As we see more widespread adoption, they will be transformative for the industry.

Anurag Agarwal

Anurag Agarwal

Director – R&D (5G)

A telecom veteran with over 20 years of experience, Anurag is a researcher at heart. He’s always up to speed with the newest technologies, including 5G, IoT, edge computing, network management systems, and more. After hours, he is a fitness buff who loves badminton, squash, cycling, and running marathons.

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Private 5G versus WiFi 6: will there be a winner?

Private 5G versus WiFi 6: will there be a winner?

Private 5G versus WiFi 6: will there be a winner?

March 23, 2022

Introduction

Private 5G and WiFi 6 are gradually going mainstream. Both come with their own set of advantages. Private 5G leverages next-gen technology and delivers it over a secure network for a host of enterprise use cases. WiFi 6 can be deployed in stadiums, office buildings, and a host of public places; can enable consumer automotive applications such as in-car entertainment; and provides a host of capabilities such as low latency, high data rates, and more. But are these features enough for WiFi to cover all types of applications, or should operators still use it alongside 5G networks?

How WiFi benefits cellular networks

Private and commercial WiFi networks have been augmenting legacy cellular networks to provide last-mile connectivity for several years now. WiFi has helped extend cellular network coverage in closed public spaces where it would otherwise be difficult for subscribers to find range.

Use cases such as WiFi calling and WiFi offload continue to help operators. They help save bandwidth, reduce operational costs, and reduce network congestion.

In addition, commercial WiFi networks also provide a revenue stream for businesses. As the network is tied to a physical location and has access to detailed information on network user demographics, operators can leverage data to create highly targeted ads and offerings.

And now, as 5G rolls out, WiFi will continue to play a pivotal role as a bridge to and from 5G.

How does private 5G work?

As the name suggests, private 5G is a secure and resilient wireless next-gen private network. It is designed for custom enterprise use cases that demand ultra-high bandwidth, speed, reliability, and ultra-low latency over a secure and private network. It can be deployed for enterprise businesses such as stores, malls, parking lots, manufacturing plants, mining facilities – the possibilities are endless.

Enterprises have the option to deploy and manage these private 5G networks on their own or have them managed by telecom operators or other vendors. Initially, a private 5G network may be somewhat complex to install and operate for an in-house IT team. Telecom operators, as well as vendors such as Amazon, are trying to address this by providing private 5G as a service to enterprises.

Many last mile 5G devices, from routers to phones to other end-use devices, are also slowly hitting the market.

In most cases, private 5G will run on unlicensed spectrum, such as the CBRS spectrum in the US. However, operators providing private 5G network-as-a-service can use other available spectrums for their private 5G deployments to optimize their networks.

Why private 5G is set to displace traditional WiFi

Why private 5G is set to displace traditional WiFi

With the same advantages of a public 5G network such as high throughput, immense capacity, low latency, and inherent security, private 5G provides advantages that far exceed WiFi. This means it has the potential to displace traditional WiFi and other legacy networks, especially in deployments where outdoor and large area coverage is required. This includes:

  • Critical communication networks such as a remote oil rig, where reliability is important.
  • Industrial wireless networks with several sensors, AR/VR, robots, and more, where high bandwidth and low latency are critical.
  • Campus use cases where the ability to make phone calls is important.

What sets WiFi 6 apart

Limited security, scalability, and efficiency have been challenges with traditional WiFi technology. Previous generations of WiFi focused on increasing data rates and speed. WiFi 6 (also known as 802.11ax), however, is the new generation of WiFi technology with a renewed focus on efficiency and performance.

With WiFi 6E, devices can leverage a huge 1.2 GHz (1,200 MHz) wideband over a 6 GHz unlicensed spectrum. WiFi 6E focuses on making the network efficient for multiuser access with performance gains to utilize 80 percent of the bandwidth for the data plane.

In 2021, over 50 percent of all WiFi product shipments were of WiFi 6. Technology research group IDC predicts that there will be 5.2 billion WiFi 6 product shipments by 2025, 41 percent of which will be WiFi 6E devices.

WiFi 6E access points will be backward compatible, which means existing WiFi-enabled devices will continue to work.

Also, WiFi has the advantage of being an incumbent and easy-to-use technology over private 5G. So, WiFi private networks will continue to serve various use cases, from commercial wireless hotspots and Industrial IoT (I-IoT) deployments to indoor high-density wireless networks for large venues.

WiFi 6 will enhance the private 5G experience

WiFi 6 will enhance the private 5G experience

Private 5G will compete with WiFi networks and likely win where security, outdoor coverage, reliability, and low latency are important. But the private 5G market is still in the early stages of adoption.

WiFi, especially with the introduction of WiFi 6E, will continue to be relevant for private networks, considering the devices it supports, ease of operation, and advanced technology. However, it will not sufficiently support all use cases, such as high-mobility and long-range communication requirements, for example.

In fact, for applications like Industry 4.0 use cases, WiFi 6 and private 5G will go hand in hand.

While public 5G networks roll out and provide high data bandwidth, data use will also grow at the same pace. Telecom operators will have to continue their strategy of leveraging private networks to offload calls and data.

Alepo’s AAA solution is designed for carrier offload use cases that benefit both private 5G and private WiFi networks. Further, enterprises that are adopting private cellular networks need a converged core (4G/LTE + 5G) solution so a large percentage of existing 4G devices can also be used on this network. Alepo’s Compact Core is designed exactly with this market need in mind.

Atul Kshirsagar

Atul Kshirsagar

Executive VP – Engineering

Atul drives 5G core and Digital BSS R&D at Alepo. With over 25 years of experience in the field, he speaks with authority on Telco/5G, Internet of Everything, and Cloud/SaaS. Apart from his love for technology, Atul enjoys sports and the outdoors.

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Top four 5G revenue streams

Top four 5G revenue streams

Top four 5G revenue streams for telcos

 

December 09, 2021

 

 

5G growth in the next five years

By 2025, there will be a total of over 1.5 billion 5G connections, according to a recent report by Juniper. And this growth is also expected to reflect in operators’ revenue margins. By 2025, many 4G subscribers will rapidly migrate to 5G and will also embrace the business use cases it enables. With this migration, 44% of global operator billed revenue is estimated to come from 5G, projected to reach $357 billion. Clearly, 5G is pegged for robust growth, so what revenue sources can operators capitalize on first?

Top 5G revenue streams

Consumer Segment

Customers today already expect superfast broadband, and this demand will continue to grow as more advanced services are introduced. In addition to providing high-speed services, 5G fixed wireless networks can provide last-mile connectivity to replace fiber infrastructure and are easy to deploy, making them especially relevant in locations where fiber deployment may be difficult. In other words, consumer ISP services are among the high ROI 5G revenue streams with high ARPU.

Rather than completely overhauling their offerings, operators will have the flexibility to create new revenue streams by modifying their existing business models in phases, leveraging their existing infrastructure and technologies. This includes plans with differentiated pricing based on speed, latency, reliability, as well as new usage charges. So, for instance, a CSP that currently provides voice, data, and video offerings can add value by introducing use cases that focus on meeting the Quality of Service (QoS) needs of different retail or enterprise customers.

5G provides a huge opportunity for innovative ideas, new products and services, and transformed business models. Combined with its ability to leverage data and gain advanced insights into customer usage patterns, it helps create new business opportunities like never before.

Some use cases include:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT), with new devices connected to 5G like home appliances, vehicles, and gaming devices
  • Advanced plans and bundles such as differentiated speeds, multi-device, on-demand, unlimited, QoS-based
  • Access to applications requiring enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and ultra-reliable low latency (uRLLC) capabilities, including immersive media and entertainment like enhanced video, AR, VR, cloud gaming, and live event streaming

Enterprise Segment

Along with supporting faster data speeds—roughly 10 times more than what 4G networks are capable of today—5G works with a host of technologies to enable faster, more efficient, streamlined business operations. It enables new use cases by transforming the underlying core network architecture to support virtualization and integrates edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), automation, IoT, cloud applications, and other technologies that help overcome the limitations of legacy networks. This fundamental evolution helps facilitate digital transformation for enterprises, creating new revenue streams.

Enterprises can gain from the advanced features 5G offers. In many scenarios, businesses can benefit from eliminating office wiring for fully wireless environments. They can remove last-mile bottlenecks using eMBB, and uRLLC can transform businesses in several sectors, including financial services, autonomous fleets, mining, energy, and more, connecting all devices and equipment and streamlining operations.

At present, many enterprises operate on WiFi and/or LTE, but 5G will revolutionize these networks by providing a secure, cost-effective solution that supports advanced technologies such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, IoT, AR/VR, AI, robotics, and more.

Private 5G networks further present high monetization opportunities with Industry 4.0 applications such as:

  • Smart buildings, cities, farms, factories, energy, security, transport systems
  • Connected offices, including sensor-based building management
  • Healthcare: virtual surgeries, telemedicine, implantable device monitoring
  • Agriculture: connected drones, sensors, cameras, RFID devices to monitor soil quality, irrigation systems
  • Education: virtual classrooms, remote learning, holographic AR
  • Retail: extreme personalization, immersive shopping experiences such as magic mirrors and virtual assistants, recognizing shopper behavior through video analysis, predictive inventories, automated checkout at unmanned stores

In addition to facilitating new technical capabilities, 5G networks can also enable a host of business outcomes, such as:

  • Improving employee productivity by empowering them with faster, more efficient, connected devices
  • Streamlining production, business operations, warehouse management, and leveraging data to predict outcomes
  • Enabling high-quality video and conference calls
  • Integrating immersive AR and VR experiences such as virtual walkthroughs for customers, employees, and stakeholders
  • Accelerating time-to-market of products and services
  • Transforming the customer experience

Partnerships

As consumer demand evolves, telcos will need to look beyond traditional buyer/seller models to enrich their capabilities. Building a wide ecosystem of partnerships presents high revenue potential, especially in the long run. Operators and ISPs are already evolving their business models that will enable them to create platforms or digital marketplaces in the future where they can connect users to services. Leveraging technologies such as open APIs and the 5G Network Exposure Function (NEF), they can launch new and innovative business models.

To develop viable 5G use cases, CSPs will need to collaborate with ecosystem partners for IoT, content, enterprises, cloud, and edge orchestrators. This could include companies that develop devices such as drones, robots, and sensors, technology partners, industrial manufacturers, and more. Implementing a complete 5G core, including SDMAUSF, CHF, NEF, and more will enable these partnerships.

Partnerships can enable new B2B, B2C, and B2B2X business models based on connectivity, shared infrastructure, IIoT, eMBB, uRLLC, mIoT for marketplace platforms, and more.

Some partnership-centric 5G business models that will offer tremendous revenue opportunities for telcos include:

  • Revenue-sharing – similar to content bundling and mobile services combos in 4G/LTE (such as watching a movie or live event and charging for it with the monthly bill), 5G will create multiple revenue streams through collaborations, IoTs, third-party communications, and entertainment bundles, each based on different business models.
  • Commissioning – open new monetization channels by treating your network as a platform, like iOS or Goole Play. When partners sell devices, subscriptions, or content through your marketplace you can earn a fee or commission.
  • Wholesale networks – leverage the massive investment of building a 5G network by leasing out a slice like a traditional MVNO model. In 5G, the types of MVNOs and service providers looking to host their own network will exponentially grow as the types of services offered expand.
  • Flexible charging and policy models – the modern, flexible, and advanced charging function (CHF) and policy control function (PCF) of the 5G core enable operators to truly harness 5G’s monetization potential with partners. CHF helps charge for everything, supports a wide range of service models, and allows real-time charging on various types of events, ensuring zero revenue leakage across services. PCF enables comprehensive policy management, helps implement network slice-based policies for high-end applications such as remote surgeries, robot automation, autonomous vehicles, cloud gaming, and more.

Slicing

Network slicing makes it possible for operators to build multiple dedicated networks, with each one designed to fulfill the diverse needs of different business verticals at the same time. While operators may not see immediate ROI, slicing holds strong promise for the future, especially once RAN is deployed everywhere.

From ultra-reliable communication for autonomous vehicles to enhanced mobile broadband for gaming applications, operators can build a different “slice” for each requirement by segmenting the physical network into multiple logical networks. Integrating Network as a Service (NaaS) enables the physical network to be split into these logical instances, helping operators market and monetize individual slices while letting customers control the specifications of their slices.

Some examples of slices:

  • Service-based slicing
  • Based on Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements: speed, QoS, security, reliability, latency, services, and more
  • Usage-based monetization
  • Slices for live broadcasts
  • Slices for massive IoT
  • Slices for industrial automation

Conclusion

The transition to 5G will initially require large capital expenditure, and ROI will need to come from more than consumer mobile business. As 5G permeates, we’re certain that private 5G will see widespread adoption. Operator deployments will be especially beneficial to small and medium enterprises, and our industry-leading 5G Core offerings equip operators to cater to these enterprise clients.

Alepo provides end-to-end solutions to meet diverse 5G transformation needs. To this end, we have forged partnerships with leading technology innovators. We also partner with local system integrators to ensure regulatory compliance and flawless implementation. Alepo is an early mover in global 5G implementation, and our solution undergoes continual R&D to ensure we provide market-leading innovation, enabling our customers to have an edge over their competitors.

Anurag Agarwal

Anurag Agarwal

Director – R&D (5G)

A telecom veteran with over 20 years of experience, Anurag is a researcher at heart. He’s always up to speed with the newest technologies, including 5G RAN, IoT, edge computing, network management systems, and more. After hours, he is a fitness buff who loves badminton, squash, cycling, and running marathons.

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How telcos can redefine CX with a zero-touch network strategy

How telcos can redefine CX with a zero-touch network strategy

How telcos can redefine CX with a zero-touch network strategy

 

November 19, 2021

 

 

Introduction

Telcos have been trying to keep up with increasingly digital lifestyles for years now. The pandemic has further amplified the demand for digitization, significantly impacting the way customers interact. More customers today prefer interacting with their service providers using digital touchpoints instead of visiting physical stores, and operators have already started to replace their conventional outposts. To remain relevant, MNOs need to fully digitize customer experience (CX). Having a digital-first strategy and building zero-touch networks enables them to move all customer interactions online while automating back-end processes.

Why zero-touch networks?

Zero-touch networks help operators minimize the need for physical touchpoints and support staff by ensuring all customer interactions take place through a website or mobile app using automation and AI chatbots. Operators can drastically reduce their investments of time, resources, and money by overcoming the constraints of physical infrastructure. The network can operate in the cloud, providing a lean alternative to the traditional network that does not require managing complex IT and network systems, large-scale call centers, and physical stores. Real-time data insights, gained from data gathered through various digital channels, enable sound business decisions and drive business success.

Major operator challenges today

Some challenges that operators need to tackle include:

  • Customer reluctance to visit physical stores and need for instant resolutions
  • Customers want to buy products and services with minimal human interaction
  • Competition from OTT services, many of which offer a modern and advanced CX
  • Advanced offerings to remain competitive with other operators while keeping costs low
  • Customers expect their service providers to grant them an effortless and personalized experience
  • Automating interactions and using data insights to personalize the experience

Zero-touch networks help address all these concerns, granting more control to customers.

Business benefits of the zero-touch model

Zero-touch networks enable operators to remain competitive, minimizing their dependence on physical stores, support staff, inbound call centers, and network infrastructure, helping them to:

  • Attract a younger, more digitally savvy clientele
  • Significantly reduce capital, operational, and resource costs
  • Complete sales and support activities in a fraction of the time with enhanced lead generation
  • Ensure faster and more meaningful interactions, letting customers control how they interact
  • Introduce personalized and contextual plans, campaigns, and promotions
  • Gain data insights to predict customer needs with advanced web analytics
  • Accelerate time-to-market for new products and services

How zero-touch networks transform CX

Business benefits of the zero-touch model

The all-digital strategy enables all customer interactions through a website or mobile app

The zero-touch network strategy helps digitize and automate the entire customer lifecycle, starting with marketing services to gain new subscribers, followed by registration, onboarding, and account activation. Campaigns and promotions can be configured for up-selling, cross-selling, and loyalty programs. And finally by giving the tools to solve their own problems, with chatbots and community forums.

Zero-touch networks help meet the growing demand from customers to have more control over their accounts. Customers can customize their plans, select the contract term, pick the mobile number they want, check for service availability in their area, choose from a range of personalized promotions and campaigns, set custom notifications, complete purchases using the online payment methods of their choosing, and more.

The CX can be further enhanced by coupling these features with a clean design that makes the UX easy to navigate. For instance, fewer screens to complete an action, clear CTAs and buttons, seamless experience to enable returning customers to pick up where they left off, and more.

Operations enabled by zero-touch networks

Watch the video: how zero-touch networks digitize CX.

Digital onboarding

End-to-end digital onboarding enables customers to self-register, verify their documents, and activate their accounts – completely online. On the operator’s website or mobile app, they can browse offerings, select the plan/s they want, upload their identification documents and have them verified through secure eKYC, make an online payment, order the SIM card to their address, and activate the SIM online, all within a fraction of the time it took to purchase a new connection through conventional means.

Operators are also beginning to adopt eSIMs, adding an additional security layer by eliminating the need for a physical SIM card and replacing it with digitally transmitted SIM data. Combined with a backend with fully automated workflows backed by AI and RPA, operators can ensure a smooth, seamless, and secure onboarding experience.

Automating customer journeys

Zero-touch networks enable operators to provide more personalized, intelligent, and dynamic customer journeys by leveraging the potential of modern digital platforms such as social media, chat platforms, and community forums.

Automated digital touchpoints provide customers with relevant recommendations depending on their usage patterns and preferences, enable guided searches, ensure a consistent experience across platforms, and more.

Operators, in turn, gain a holistic view of the customer journey, helping improve sales and marketing strategies and facilitating them to provide more contextual offerings. By providing omnichannel self-care, they can enable customers to interact using the language and platform/s of their choice. Implementing automation and AI chatbot integrations means only issues that cannot be resolved by a digital assistant are escalated to human agents, reducing dependence on human agents and helping phase out inbound call centers.

Advanced data gathering and insights

One of the greatest benefits of an all-digital offering is that it presents the opportunity to gather data at every touchpoint and interaction with the customer. In addition, operators can also encourage more engagement – more engagement means more data – through digital channels with quick surveys, opinion polls, participation in community forums, and more. Through advanced analytics, this data can be used to generate custom BI reports, segmenting customers for a more contextual and personalized user experience than ever before.

Improved digital security

In addition to the data from subscriptions and interactions, there is also an exponentially increasing number of connected devices from which networks gather data. New global and region-specific compliances provide a framework for operators to collect and store this data. They can counter security threats such as the risk of online identity fraud by implementing stringent identity verification systems and eKYC solutions that comply with these new standards and regulations. Employing new technologies such as eSIM and phasing out less secure means of verification such as postal addresses will further help bolster security.

Conclusion

The last two years have largely involved tackling pandemic-related challenges such as unprecedented demand for network services, the inability to operate physical stores and call centers, and digital payments. To accommodate this digital cultural shift, many operators have already implemented several structural changes to modernize their network infrastructure. Moving forward, they will need to continue this move towards digitizing their networks. As they introduce more digital offerings, it’s important for them to leverage AI, automation, ML, and other next-gen technologies to create entirely new experiences rather than replicating traditional analog functions.

The digital-first business model helps enable new capabilities for customers while driving revenue for operators. It streamlines sales and support processes, keeps capital investments and overheads low, and ensures a low resource footprint by operating in the cloud.

Depending on their business goals and current infrastructure (if any), operators may either choose to launch a separate new all-digital brand or digitize their existing networks. Alepo’s cloud-native Zero-Touch Network Solution helps meet every business objective, facilitating fully digital businesses for greenfield and incumbent MNOs. Its unparalleled expertise has recently facilitated a tier-1 North American operator to launch a fully digital mobile service brand – the first of many ongoing deployments.

Begin your zero-touch journey today: book a demo.

 

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Director, Product Management

Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 15 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS and 5G offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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5G and the future of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) services

5G and the future of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) services

5G and the future of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) services

October 08, 2021

Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X)

The automotive sector is on the brink of a digital revolution with the commencement of 5G, bringing new opportunities for cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology. Next-gen capabilities such as ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) and high bandwidth are set to transform connected cars and, ultimately, the way we travel.

Existing cellular technology addresses some V2X requirements, so what makes 5G so different? Combined with fast-developing AI and sensor technologies, 5G will enable completely autonomous vehicles. This means the possibility of eliminating or minimizing road accidents by enabling vehicles to share data in real-time and avoid accidents. In addition, 5G-powered self-driving cars will also vastly improve vehicular performance through energy optimization, ensure traffic efficiency, provide faster routes through accurate route mapping, enable safer roads by letting drivers “see” beyond their visual horizon, and much more. V2X will not only help vehicles communicate with each other and prevent accidents and hazards, but it will also help protect pedestrians with the PC5 interface integrated into their smartphones.

The result: significantly improved quality of life and tremendous monetary savings.

V2X capabilities and transmission modes

The connected cars of today have been evolving for years to become increasingly connected, intelligent, autonomous, and efficient. Apart from reducing latency and enhancing safety, cellular V2X also brings new capabilities to the table.

As a part of 3GPP release 14, V2X includes two transmission modes that collectively enable several use cases:

Direct C-V2X (Cellular V2X) – operates in its own 5.9 GHz spectrum that is independent of mobile networks. It includes the following use cases:

  • Cars connecting to each other – Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V)
  • Cars connecting to pedestrians – Vehicle to Pedestrians (V2P)
  • Cars connecting to infrastructure like street signals – Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I)

Vehicle to Network (V2N) – relies on traditional licensed mobile spectrum

In Release 16, too, direct C-V2X can operate without dependence on cellular networks. However, 5G connectivity helps build an ecosystem of highly reliable and accurate devices that enable autonomous vehicles. These include sensors, cameras, light detection devices, real-time car-to-car communications, and more. With 5G’s ability to support a large number of connected devices in a small geographical area, vehicles will be able to access more data about their surroundings.

C-V2X use cases enabled by 5G

The V2X ecosystem enables a broad range of services for connected car environments, and 5G takes accuracy to new heights. Some high-value use cases include:

  • Cars connecting to cyclists
  • Traffic lights broadcasting signals to cars
  • Dynamic maps in real-time
  • Central planning systems to coordinate traffic flow
  • High-density platooning or cars driving in close proximity to safely optimize road space
  • Positioning and ranging
  • Identifying empty parking slots
  • Hazard warnings
  • Cooperative driving
  • Collecting tolls without drivers having to stop at physical checkpoints

Why it demands an edge core

Today, autonomous cars like Tesla and Zoox are highly advanced and require mission-critical low-latency. 5G URLLC enables them to fully meet their potential. The 5G edge core is essential in enabling mobile network operators to cater to 5G connected cars by helping keep latency low, maintaining safety even for vehicles driving at high speeds.

How does 5G core enable V2X?

An edge core with high transaction per second (TPS) is imperative for C-V2X. Alepo’s 5G Converged Core provides V2X support, including V2X subscriptions and policies, the capability to configure and maintain V2X subscription parameters, and more. It allows UEs to be authorized for V2X capability in both EPC and 5GC. UEs can be classified into two types – vehicle and pedestrian – each having its own QoS parameters.

Alepo’s Policy Control Function (PCF) will help configure policies for vehicle and pedestrian UEs. The operator can launch innovative V2X services by defining parameters such as RAT, transmission profile, communication mode, and signaling protection mode. Individual services can then be associated with a V2X policy, customizable for different geographical areas and radio parameters.

With Alepo’s Subscriber Data Management (SDM) agent portal, each individual subscriber profile can be enabled for V2X services. This flexible configuration will enable the operator to achieve optimized end-to-end V2X connectivity.

Where we’re headed

Cellular vehicle-to-everything provides a host of benefits for all involved parties: vehicle manufacturers, drivers, pedestrians, those in charge of traffic operations and management, and, of course, 5G network providers. 5G enables the end-to-end delivery of V2X services, ensuring high ROI.

C-V2X can be rapidly deployed as it is compatible with LTE base stations. 3GPP standards help provide a roadmap for operators to evolve from LTE to 5G, ensuring a highly scalable and future-proof investment. Operators can leverage their existing network infrastructure for the initial rollout of services, and gradually transition as they evolve their networks.

It will be a while before the autonomous car ecosystem is fully functional. However, the technology is ready and communications service providers should invest in the necessary infrastructure now. Trials should be conducted to ensure the reliability and feasibility of the ecosystem.

Alepo already has 5G trials underway, and we’d love to share the details with you. To know more, write to us on market.development@alepo.com.

Nitish Muley

Nitish Muley

Senior Engineer

Nitish has spent years developing use cases for technologies like VR, AR, IoT, and is currently working on Alepo’s newest products. Always up to speed with the latest in the industry, Nitish is a voracious reader – and fervent writer – about all things related to tech and wireless standards. After hours, he wears a traveler’s hat, pursuing his love for photography as he explores different countries.

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