Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

22nd of October 2020

By now we all know that 5G’s ultrafast speeds, high bandwidth, and low latency will open a world of opportunities, its advanced applications transforming virtually every industry. From manufacturing, healthcare, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to AR, VR, and gaming, the possibilities are endless. Service providers have two ways of transitioning to a next-gen network: 5G NSA (non-standalone) and 5G SA (standalone), with SA being the end-goal. 5G NSA (4G LTE EPC plus new RAN) remains the strategy to quickly launch high-speed 5G broadband, yet lacks the new architecture and functionality that will allow 5G to fulfill its visionary use cases.

Unlike 5G NSA, which reuses the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), 5G SA uses cloud-based and Service-Based Architecture (SBA) that optimize network infrastructure with virtualized network functions (NFs), enabling operators to launch differentiated services, ensuring a high quality of service.

5G NSA: step one in 5G launch

The most popular choice of service providers to deploy 5G is 5G NSA, which is 5G radio using an existing 4G EPC. This option is considered the most viable and cost-effective. The only condition is that the 4G EPC needs to be 3GPP Release 15-complaint with additional functionalities to support dual-radio connectivity. This will enable operators to seamlessly launch 5G services and offer high-speed internet and improve access capacity.

5G NSA focuses on offering higher data speeds and improved radio coverage in densely populated areas, helping CSPs rapidly market 5G to gain a competitive edge. However, it does not offer many of the advanced use cases possible with 5G SA, such as ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

 5G-SA: the path to full 5G benefits

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has revamped core network architecture, having moved away from traditional telecom protocols to more open, modern SBA. The 5G Core comprises multiple NFs, each responsible for specific core network functions. These NFs use REST-based APIs to interface with each other over HTTP/2 protocol, which is collectively referred to as the Service-Based Interface (SBI).

5G SA key components 5G SA key features and components

With the sheer number of use cases it supports and the forecast for devices, traffic is far more dynamic in a 5G network. And so a robust underlying core network is necessary for the network to swiftly respond to demands. 5G SA enables just that. Some of its key features:

Multi-vendor ecosystem opens the doors for new vendors, who are not just restricted to the telecom sector, or in the legacy core. The adoption of new technologies that are in-line with modern infrastructure such as REST-based (HTTP/2 or Open APIs) widens the scope for innovative vendors to contribute and revolutionize network operations and processes.

Service-Based Architecture defines key 5GC components as NFs that integrate with each over modern APIs that support multiple varied core network functions.

Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) enables independent scaling between the control plane and user plane functions, facilitating flexible network deployment and operation. For instance, if the data traffic load increases, more data plane nodes are added without affecting the functionality of the existing control plane.

Network function virtualization (NFV) allows virtualizing entire network functions and appliances using standard vendor-neutral hardware and IT infrastructure in the 5G network. It helps operators achieve a faster service life cycle, rapid deployment, scalability, operational efficiency, agility, and more.

Network slicing enables operators to build multiple dedicated networks to cater to different business verticals with diverse requirements of high-bandwidth, ultra-reliability, low-latency communication, and more.

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) distributes computing resources along the communication path using decentralized cloud infrastructure. MEC brings data and computational capabilities closer to the source and network edges such as users’ devices, IoT devices, vCPEs, and more.

Some key components include:

Unified Data Management (UDM) enables managing all subscription-related data for authorization and access services.

Unified Data Repository (UDR) stores all structured data on a flexible and highly available platform, enabling the network to readily respond to critical demands in real-time.

Policy Control Function (PCF) is evolved from the PCRF of legacy networks, providing policy assets to handle access mobility related to policies, as well as handling data- and application-related policies. It enables advanced plan and policy customization for 5G use cases.

Network Repository Function (NRF) keeps a record of all network function instances in the network and helps automate the functioning of NFs.

Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF) plays an essential role in network slicing, dynamically selecting slices based on real-time information.

Network Exposure Function (NEF) ensures information is securely translated and communicated from external applications. It is fundamental in the authorization for any access request received outside of the 3GPP network, thus ensuring the network supports use cases like cellular IoT, edge computing, and more.

Business benefits you can derive with a robust 5G SA solution

A 5G SA solution is meant to enable service providers to adapt to key technological changes like a cloud-native and microservice-based architecture, helping achieve operational excellence while maximizing ROI. It can facilitate:

  • Rapid introduction of new services without interfering with existing services
  • Scaling to support changing network demands and growing subscriber bases
  • Offering differentiated services with high QoS
  • Automating functions like network slicing
  • Lowering operational costs

Alepo’s role in your 5G journey

Alepo offers core network solutions and a digital business support system (BSS) to support unified 4G management (EPC, IMS), C-IoT, and non-3GPP networks (such as WiFi).

Alepo’s 5G Core solution includes AUSF, subscriber data management (SDM), UDM, UDR, EIR, PCF, and Charging Function (CHF). It also includes a unified and highly scalable subscriber repository that holds identities and subscription profiles for both 4G and 5G. The 5G Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservice-based software architecture and supports public, private, and hybrid deployment options. And it supports both containerized and NFV-based deployment.

Alepo also supports operators who are not yet ready to move to 5G, bridging the gap by creating a modern next-gen omnichannel experience for subscribers by adding WiFi offload into the operator’s network as well as enabling unique and advanced IoT offerings on the legacy network.

Tell us your business needs, and we’ll help design network innovations to drive ROI. Connect with an Alepo expert today.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

 

19th of October 2020

Introduction

For leading mobile network operators (MNOs), 5G is mainly about offering high-speed connectivity to consumers, on devices that support fifth-gen network services. To smoothly transition from the existing legacy core to 5G, MNOs have two pathways: Non-Standalone (NSA) or Standalone (SA) architecture. And while they are both means to the same end, NSA and SA are structurally and functionally different.

 

NSA allows operators to leverage their existing network investments in communications and mobile core instead of deploying a new core for 5G. 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) can be deployed and supported by the existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC), lowering CAPEX and OPEX. To further lower network operating costs, operators can adopt the virtualization of Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) along with software-defined networking (SDN). These initial steps will help quickly unlock new 5G revenue streams and offer faster data speeds.

 

5G SA is a completely new core architecture defined by 3GPP that introduces major changes such as a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) and functional separation of various network functions. Its architecture has the definite advantage of end-to-end high-speed and service assurance, particularly useful for MNOs who are set to commence new enterprise 5G services such as smart cities, smart factories, or other vertically integrated market solutions. The deployment model enables the rapid introduction of new services with quick time-to-market. However, it means additional investment and complexities of running multiple cores in the network.

 

Architecturally, NSA includes a new RAN, deployed alongside the 4G or LTE radio with the existing 4G Core or EPC. 5G SA, on the other hand, includes a new radio along with the 5G Core (5GC), comprising completely virtualized cloud-native architecture (CNA) that introduces new ways to develop, deploy, and manage services. 5GC supports high-throughput for accelerated performance than the 5G network demands. Its virtualized service-based architecture (SBA) makes it possible to deploy all 5G software network functions using edge computing.

 

5G software network functions using edge computingAn overview of 5G SA and 5G NSA deployment options (Source: GSMA) 

 

5G Standalone (SA) vs 5G Non-Standalone (NSA)

 

5G SA Architecture

According to a survey, 37% of MNOs will deploy 5G SA within two years; 27% of operators plan to deploy 5G SA within 12 to 18 months with an additional 10% increase within 24 months. 5G SA architecture will allow operators to address the fifth generation of mobile communications, including enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-to-machine communications, massive IoT, and ultra-low latency communications.

 

Standalone 5G NR comprises a new end-to-end architecture that uses mm-Waves and sub-GHz frequencies and this mode will not make use of the existing 4G LTE infrastructure. The SA 5G NR will use enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and huge machine-type communications (mMTC) to implement multi-gigabit data rates with improved efficiency and lower costs.

 

5G SA also enables more advanced network slicing capabilities, helping operators rapidly transition to both 5G New Radio (NR) and 5G as the core network. Network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC bring ultra-low latency along with a wide range of next-gen use cases like remote control of critical infrastructure, self-driving vehicles, advanced healthcare, and more. However, the NR advanced cases are not backward compatible with the EPC, which is the framework that provides converged voice and data on a 4G LTE network. The level of reliability and latency that 5G provides will be indispensable for handling smart-grid control machines, industrial automation, robotics, and drone control and coordination.

 

5G NSA Architecture

 

NSA 5G NR is considered as the early version of SA 5G NR mode, in which 5G networks are supported by existing LTE infrastructure. It fundamentally concentrates on eMBB, where 5G-supported handsets and devices will make use of mmWave frequencies for increased data capacity but will continue to use existing 4G infrastructure for voice communications.

 

NSA helps MNOs launch 5G quickly for eMBB to get a competitive edge in the telecom market. NSA also helps leverage its existing LTE/VoLTE footprint to maximize the LTE installed base and boost capacity while increasing delivery efficiency. It will not support network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC, but its higher broadband speeds will enable services such as video streaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and an immersive media experience.

 

Non-Standalone 5G NR will provide increased data-bandwidth by using the following two new radio frequency ranges:

 

  • Frequency range 1 (450 MHz to 6000 MHz) – overlaps with 4G LTE frequencies and is termed as sub-6 GHz. The bands are numbered from 1 to 255.
  • Frequency range 2 (24 GHz to 52 GHz) – is the main mmWave frequency band. The bands are numbered from 257 to 511.

Technical Differences between 5G SA and 5G NSA

 

The main difference between NSA and SA is that NSA provides control signaling of 5G to the 4G base station, whereas in SA the 5G base station is directly connected to the 5G core network and the control signaling does not depend on the 4G network. In simple terms, NSA is like adding a solid-state drive to an old computer, which can improve the system’s performance, while SA is like replacing it with a new computer that has newer technologies and optimum performance.

 

Some benefits include:

 

  • NSA is extremely low in cost compared to SA.
  • NSA eases 5G network deployments as it reuses existing 4G facilities, thus allowing rapid time to market for 5G mobile broadband.
  • With NSA, the deployment is faster and time-to-market is lower, as 4G locations can be used to install 5G radio. SA requires building 5G base stations and the back-end 5G core network to fully realize the characteristics and functions of 5G.
  • SA involves a 5G core with SBA for scalability and flexibility to deliver a superfast network with ultra-low latency for advanced 5G use cases.

5G Usage Scenarios in NSA and SA Operation

 

The requirements of 5G NR for the SA provide a complete set of specifications for the 5G core network that goes beyond NSA. The three major usage scenarios defined for 5G by the 3GPP and GSMA include:

 

  1. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
  2. Ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC)
  3. Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)

Enhanced Mobile Broadband with 5G Major 5G usage scenarios

The Future of 5G Includes NSA and SA

Early adopters of 5G primarily focus on NSA deployments as they compete to deliver 5G speeds with a quick time to market. These MNOs can move to SA-based architecture over a period of time, which most plan to do. NSA deployment remains a mainstream solution given its ability to handle both 4G- and 5G-based traffic, keeping these early adopters ahead of their competition as they undertake their network transformation. 5G devices are not widespread so the need for SA-based architecture is still nascent.

 

In the future, the convergence of NSA and SA will help operators move to a full 5G network. A complete virtualized 5G architecture will allow MNOs to migrate and choose varied functionalities of their existing NSA solution to the 5GC platform, as new 5G services are launched, allowing them to monetize their investment gradually rather than move all at once and enabling them to recover their costs over time.

 

Although SA is a more mature network architecture compared to NSA, NSA will continue to be the more commonly chosen path to 5G. All NSA single-mode 5G phones launched this year or early next year will be valid for a decade, and as SA architecture permeates, more and more 5G SA devices will be in our homes and businesses.

Follow us:

Share on Social media:

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

Network Functions Virtualization: Basics to Benefits

Network Functions Virtualization: Basics to Benefits

Network Functions Virtualization: Basics to Benefits

 

 

03rd of September 2020

 

 

 

 

With rising competition from operators and OTT players, the major differentiator for telecommunications service providers today is delivering disruptive and innovative services. To support these services, they need a more stable, reliable, and scalable network, such as one enabled by Network Function Virtualization (NFV). NFV has been an industry buzzword for some time now, so is it all that it’s cut out to be? From its benefits to its applications, we break it down for you to decide how to use it for your network.

Key Components of NFV

A modern network architecture technique, NFV virtualizes entire network functions using standard vendor-neutral hardware and IT infrastructure, facilitating improved communications services.
Key components of the NFV framework include:

Virtualized network functions (VNFs) are software implementations of various network functions that are deployed in network function virtualization infrastructure (NFVi), that were historically coupled with proprietary hardware appliances. VNFs run on virtual machines and are hosted on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing devices, network hardware, and storage infrastructure. Common VNFs components include virtualized routers, DPI, firewalls, edge devices, signaling devices, load balancers, network address translation (NAT) services, WAN accelerators, and more. The primary hypervisors are OpenStack and VMware.

NFV infrastructure (NFVi) is the environment where VNFs run and comprises the hardware and software components from different vendors that are essential to successfully run the virtual network.

NFV management and orchestration (NFV-MANO) architectural framework is the key element of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV architecture. It is a collection of all functional blocks, data repositories used by these blocks, and reference points and interfaces through which these functional blocks exchange information for the purpose of managing and orchestrating NFVi and VNFs. NFV-MANO includes the following components:

  • NFV Orchestrator (NFVO): a central component of an NFV-based solution that standardizes virtual network functions to improve the interoperability of software-defined network (SDN) elements. It orchestrates network resources for a broad range network services, enabling real-time automation, monitoring, and service assurance.
  • VNF Manager (VNFM): responsible for life cycle management, including deployment, monitoring, scaling, and removal of VNFs on a VIM.
  • Virtual Infrastructure Manager (VIM): responsible for managing, controlling, and monitoring virtual resources and their association with physical resources. It maintains the complete inventory of NFVi.

Together, these components replace traditional architecture to build a high-performing, reliable, and scalable network that delivers low-latency real-time applications while improving the operational efficiency of telecom services.

Top Six Benefits of NFV

NFV enables the swift creation of new services and facilitates rapid deployment in mobile and fixed networks. Its key benefits include:

Hardware flexibility and vendor independence

Legacy vendors offer their network functions on custom and dedicated hardware that is not easy to upgrade and demands a large investment of time and money. With NFV, network functions are virtualized and run on generic commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, enabling service providers to share hardware across multiple network functions, giving them the advantage of software decoupling and building flexible virtual infrastructure that saves space, power, time, and costs. Operators can now mix and match vendors and functions for different features, software licensing costs, post-deployment support models, roadmaps, and more.

Faster service life cycle

Unlike physical hardware, VNFs can rapidly be created and removed on the fly. A VNF’s lifecycle is shorter and more dynamic since these functions are often added when needed and easily provisioned through automated software tools that do not require any onsite activity. In effect, NFV helps network operators commission or decommission services with the touch of a button without the need for physical shipping or delivery truck, dramatically reducing deployment time from weeks to minutes.

Rapid deployment of solutions

With the decoupling of software functionality and physical hardware, operators can deploy new solutions and put features into production rapidly, without requiring lengthy change requests or new appliances from legacy vendors. This expedited deployment process further facilitates NFV’s inherent support to use open source tools and software services.

Scalability and elasticity

Service providers always want to ensure they will be able to meet new requirements as well as scale up their capacity as their network grows. Doing so with traditional network equipment requires time, planning, and monetary investment. NFV eliminates these concerns as it enables capacity changes by offering a way to expand and reduce the resources used by VNFs. It enables scalability and automation, improves the flexibility of network service provisioning, and reduces the time needed to deploy new services. It efficiently ensures elasticity by offloading the VNF workload and spinning a new instance to implement the same network function and sharing the load with an existing VNF.

Lower energy consumption 

NFV helps reduce energy usage by exploiting the power management features of standard servers and storage, as well as workload consolidation and location optimization. For example, based on virtualization techniques, it is possible to focus the workload on a smaller number of servers during offpeak hours (such as nighttime) so that all other servers can be switched off or put on energy-saving mode.

Operational efficiency and agility

NFV is inherently automation-friendly and can maximize the benefits of using Machine to Machine (M2M) tools. For instance, a device management automation tool can be used to determine the need for more memory in a network function. NFV helps reduce downtime and also assists operators with various network maintenance activities. It helps temporarily reduce and free up existing VNFs for maintenance activities by spinning to a new VNF. This helps achieve In-Service-Software-Upgrade (ISSU), enables 24×7 self-healing networks, and minimizes operational loss of revenue due to network outages.

Leading NFV Applications

The benefits of NFV can be realized across a variety of network functions that can operate almost entirely in the cloud without the need for physical hardware. Some of its most popular applications include:

Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC)

Virtualized EPC helps deliver superior quality of service (QoS) by dynamically scaling to meet the growing traffic. vEPC ensures lower OPEX and TCO while ensuring faster services to the market, consistent service availability, and improved network efficiency. Deployed in independent slices of the controllers, user planes, and management planes, vEPC is generally free of the architectural restrictions possessed by the traditional nodes-based EPC.

 

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC)

MEC is an alternative approach to the cloud environment. It brings data storage and computational capabilities closer to the data source, which is considered as an edge of the network. It enables computing resources to be distributed along the communication path by decentralizing the cloud infrastructure. The source of data or network edge can be the users’ devices, IoT device, router, or CSP’s server infrastructure, which helps reduce latency and save bandwidth. This minimizes long-distance communication between a client and server and most user actions are processed in real-time.

Virtual Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE)

vCPE, or cloud-CPE as it is also called, essentially transforms hardware-based operations like routing and security into virtual software-based operations, delivering them to the branch or edge networks. Traditionally, CPEs are task-specific with one device dedicated to performing one service. This includes VPNs, firewalls, routers, and more, all of which are hosted through a remote service provider or centralized management platform. It offers many benefits, including easier and swifter deployment, scalability, lower investment and operational cost, improved service flexibility, and scope for innovation.

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Also known as a content distribution network, a CDN is a network of proxy servers and data centers, distributed across different locations to ensure high availability and performance. CDN operators enable the distribution of most content available on the Internet today, such as streaming media, web applications, downloadable content such as software, media files, documents, and occasionally security-related applications. While they earn revenue from content owners, CDN operators pay a hosting fee to ISPs and network operators.

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)

According to research firm Gartner, over 90%of edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will comprise vCPE and SD-WAN devices by 2023. SD-WAN, as the name implies, employs software-defined means to manage a wide area network. It decouples the control mechanism from network hardware, facilitating simpler management, and more efficient operations. One of its primary applications is enabling the building of WANs with improved performance employing more economically viable commercial Internet access instead of high-cost private technologies.

Virtual AAA (vAAA)

Authentication, Authorization, Accounting (AAA) server can be deployed in an NFVi environment using ETSI-based standard integrations or customized instances provided by the NFVi vendor. Specific and generic VNFs manage the entire AAA lifecycle smoothly. A carrier-grade, high-performing, stateless, and cloud-native AAA (such as Alepo’s) integrates with the 5G core network to perform a host of functions such as slice authentication, authentication and authorization for DNN provisioning, authenticating access from non-3GPP networks, and more.

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)

IMS enables the delivery of secure and reliable multimedia communications services (voice, video, text) over IP networks. Its 3GPP standards-based architectural framework provides a unified infrastructure to connect various devices and networks, standardizing the implementation and management of next-gen mobile networks. The IMS core includes Call Session Control Function (CSCF), Home Subscriber Server (HSS), Media Resource Functions (MRF), Signaling Gateway (SGW), and Media Gateway Control Function (MGCF), all of which together work together to act as the control layer.

Session Border Controllers (SBCs)

SBCs help control and secure IP communications sessions. While they were initially designed for VoIP networks, they are commonly also used for IP video, text messaging, and more for residential as well as enterprise applications. They facilitate communication between different parts of the network. Along with ensuring seamless connectivity, SBCs enable high quality of service, advanced security to protect against frauds and malicious attacks, statistics gathering, and more.

Network Monitoring

Network monitoring checks networking devices and components such as servers, firewalls, switches, routers, VMS, and more for faults and failures. When any discrepancy is noticed, an alert is triggered to notify the system administrators by email and/or SMS, enabling them to swiftly act to improve or rectify the problem. Part of network management, network monitoring optimizes performance, ensures high availability, and minimizes downtime.

Video Servers

Video servers help deliver video content using a host of devices. Broadly speaking, they are used in two key applications: security surveillance and broadcasting. In surveillance, a video server helps capture video using one or more analog and/or digital inputs, enables network connectivity for the analog components to digitize and stream the video over an IP network, and provides users to access it through a web browser or mobile app. In broadcasting, it offers a bidirectional platform to record video as well as ingest video from external sources, stores this video, and enables editing and transferring the final output to multiple video streams.

Service Delivery Platforms

A service delivery platform helps manage and control the entire delivery life cycle, from creation to execution. It provides the architecture for service providers to swiftly develop and launch convergent internet-based multimedia services such as IPTV, VoIP, mobile TV, multi-player video games, and more. Its telecommunications applications include value-added services (VAS), partner management, converged billing, and more. When used in the enterprise domain, it is especially useful as it lets operators run a dedicated platform for each enterprise, offering increased control to their customers. 

Security Accelerator Functions

Over the past decade, the technology protecting virtual and physical tools has considerably evolved, paving the way for virtualizing and, consequently, centralizing security. These network security functions include firewalls, spam protection systems, intrusion detection and prevention systems, virus scanners, and more. Virtual firewalls, for instance, are NFV solutions that protect virtual machines. As technology progresses, more and more of these security functions are expected to be virtualized.

Conclusion

Network Function Virtualization is imperative for operators looking to transform into digital service providers from mere traditional communications service providers. The next-gen NFV applications and use cases help them become successful in the digital era in the face of competition from innovative OTT applications. Plus, from the network operations perspective, virtualization employs an end-to-end service-based approach to replace traditional function-specific hardware, helping telcos achieve five-nines availability, lower CAPEX and OPEX, and ensure rapid time to market of new services. 

Keshav Pareek

Keshav Pareek

Solution Integrator

Keshav is a solution integrator working on DevOps tools and technology, with expertise in virtualization. Over the years, he’s helped facilitate tier-1 telcos to modernize their network functions using NFV-based deployment. Always keeping pace with the latest in the industry and often immersed in reading tech blogs, he spends his free time going on long bike rides in the countryside.

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

Telecom 2020: Growth Drivers and Trends

 

10th of February 2020

 

 

 

One thing is certain in 2020: if telcos want to embrace new technologies that promise to revolutionize the industry, they will need to invest in infrastructure that enables them to support and monetize these technologies. According to a recent global EY report, telcos will pump more into overhauling their conventional IT infrastructure, making digital transformation a major driver this year.

 

This new infrastructure paves the way for a host of advanced customer-focused technologies: 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), to name a few. Which ones are right for you and how can you maximize your chances of success? There’s no one answer: the key is finding the right mix of offering relevant to your market and context.

 

mobile money profitability

An analysis from Telecoms CAPEX: Worldwide Trends and Forecasts 2017-2025 shows that digitalization and 5G will be the key drivers affecting CAPEX growth.

Technologies transforming telecom

 

Here’s a roundup of the year’s biggest trends and what they could mean for you:

 

5G
Higher speeds and lower latency mean that 5G supports use cases like immersive content (augmented reality, virtual reality) and high-resolution video, helping CSPs deliver an unmatched customer experience to gain a competitive edge. As 5G progresses towards large-scale commercial viability, service providers have begun trials of new use cases, and the results are encouraging them to readily adopt the next-gen technology. As more devices and use cases become viable, the revenue potential continues to grow along with the need for flexible IT systems to support them.

 

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing in the telecom sector relies heavily on the adoption of data and logic separation principles, SDN/NFV, DevOps, microservices, and more. It gives telcos the flexibility to acquire the corresponding services – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), which extensively increases scalability, standardization, self-service automation, and reduces operational costs. Telecom players should adapt their IT processes and prepare for related security implications such as identity theft, unauthorized access, relinquished governance and compliance policies, data security and breach of privacy, as well as inconsistency across on-premise and cloud platforms. A recent Telecoms.com report predicts that 5G will mean wide-scale adoption of edge computing. The market is quickly evolving from a centralized to a distributed cloud, and it is expected that this year, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be processed outside of centralized data centers.

 

Artificial Intelligence
From virtual assistants and chatbots to knowledge engineering, smart machines, and autonomous vehicles, AI has the potential to replicate human cognitive capabilities. It will help telecom service providers offer a transformational customer experience while they manage, optimize, and monetize their infrastructure using different business models. Use cases include network optimization, predictive maintenance, virtual assistants, RPA, and many more.

 

Blockchain
Blockchain is a gamechanger for securely conducting business with third-parties while reducing costs and increasing revenue. CSPs can leverage blockchain to offer new services using tamperproof transaction management and automated contracting. Applications include 5G enablement, mobile financial services, data management, fraud management, identity management, instantaneous connectivity and transaction, IoT connectivity, number portability, roaming, and more.

 

Internet of Things
IoT will, in conjunction with 4G and 5G, change how people communicate and interact with technologies opening up new revenue streams for service providers. It is an essential part of capturing and transmitting data to power smart city use cases like smart lighting, smart grids, heating, and lighting. Telcos are applying IoT to home automation and wearable devices to enhance their overall customer experiences. In the coming years, IoT smart sensors will be implemented in gaming environments, healthcare, personal fitness goals, sports, and more.

 

Cyber Resilience
The telecom industry has always been the most vulnerable target for cyberattacks given the vast amounts of sensitive data stored on various complex networks. A few years ago, for instance, one of the more significant attacks compromised the personal details of 157,000 TalkTalk customers. 5G brings its own set of security threats, and telcos need to prepare for any kind of direct or indirect cyber attack. This means building adequate IT infrastructure and pairing it with talent and processes to support resiliency. Effective cybersecurity must include the implementation of threat detection, incident response methods, and prevention methods.

How to seize these opportunities

Start your digital transformation journey now

A recent report predicts that the OSS/BSS market is expected to grow from USD 2.77 billion in 2019 to USD 8.78 billion by 2026, indicating a significant potential for telcos to support diverse digital services than limited traditional services. To ensure successful digital transformation, CSPs need to upgrade to digital BSS, which can be implemented in phases to pace out investment. This helps operators seize data opportunities as the market evolves and ensures quick time-to-market, monetization, and smooth management of the latest communications services. A next-gen digital BSS stack also facilitates high-value 5G use cases, including IoT (management and offers), and experience-based charging.

 

Invest in 5G infrastructure
As 5G permeates, mobile operators will need to invest significantly in 5G infrastructure to deliver high data speed, low latency, and to support billions of connected devices. Besides the billions being spent on 5G RAN, the 5G Core is an important investment. 5G Core with cloud-native features expands the service capabilities of telcos; provides scalability and agility; supports 5G network protocols including extensive use of REST APIs and eases migration to service-based architecture.

 

Ensure strict regulatory policies
According to Statista.com, the number of devices connected to the IoT is expected to reach 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025. IoT-enabled networks are more vulnerable to major cyber invasions and crimes. Insufficiently protected devices such as laptops, tablets, routers, webcams, smartwatches, automobiles, and home security systems can be turned into weapons by hackers, cybercriminals, or hostile organizations and states, so it’s essential to implement adequate cybersecurity measures.

 

Overcome network coverage issues
Having reliable 5G network coverage will require a massive investment of time and finances. Operators can resolve network coverage issues by taking these measures:

 

Infrastructure sharing alleviates network coverage issues and helps operators deliver better connectivity and network performance by pooling resources to maximize coverage buildout.

 

The open radio access network (O-RAN) movement is separating the software and physical layers of RAN, eliminating vendor lock-in and allowing budgets to go much further in procuring equipment.

 

Network monitoring tools remain a powerful mechanism to resolve network issues. These tools provide real-time alerts to the concerned teams when there is downtime, device unavailability, performance issues, or any deviation from an accepted network baseline. Further, network configuration management tools help track any changes in settings and send alerts in case of unauthorized changes while providing a mechanism to roll back to earlier settings.

 

Also, Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi)/WiFi Calling helps overcome the challenges faced by subscribers due to poor or no network coverage. VoWiFi helps customers make calls and remain always-connected, increasing the quality of services and customer experience.

 

Automate inventory management
One of the major challenges operators face with 5G is managing billions of IoT devices. Further, with evolving technologies, the CSPs having diverse partnerships require constant efforts to manage and allocate resources and inventory. Inefficient management could lead to complicated and faulty invoices, increased risk of fraud, data breaches, insecure network endpoints, and revenue losses. To avoid these complications, CSPs should have a universal system with legacy and new automated inventory tools, which also maintain an inventory of virtual networking components and logical networks like network slices. Subsequently, deploying a next-gen inventory management system provides real-time inventory information with factual and predictive data, helping make quick allocation decisions that ensure the conservation of investment and help gain an edge over competitors.

 

Manage partnerships efficiently
CSPs need real-time billing and policy control capabilities to seize and monetize opportunities that all-IP 5G means new devices, use cases, partnerships, business models. This calls for diverse partnerships inherent in wholesale and 5G networks. With growing complexities of managing diverse partners, it multiplies the challenges to efficiently manage several partners like wholesale, interconnect and roaming partners, OTT/content players, distributors, MVNO, affiliates, and agents. Deploying end-to-end partner management and settlement solution (PMSS) helps operators smoothly and flawlessly manage the complete partner lifecycle and support distinct agreement policies, revenue models, and settlement modes. PMSS plays a vital role in the 5G business and has the highest potential to launch innovative 5G billing use cases like network slicing, device-based experiences, converged offerings, and more.

 

Digitize customer experience
A Walker study suggests that by 2020, customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Enhancing and digitizing the customer experience should top the list for every forward-thinking telco. 5G and IoT will likely emerge as the new battleground, with operators keen to employ new digital business models. And as expectations cross industry boundaries, telcos must remain focused on redefining the CX with more innovation, such as deploying AI-based tools and omnichannel support.

 

Be prepared for what’s next

5G is expected to significantly change the face of telecommunications. The three main use cases of 5G – Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine-type Communications (mMTC), and Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) – promise to deliver superfast wireless connectivity, lower latency, and digital innovations. And while it is expected to revolutionize the customer experience, 5G will stimulate the demand for next-gen devices, adding to severe network densification. With this forecast, CSPs have huge revenue potential from their retail and enterprise clients by digitalizing the customer experience. Additionally, they can offer B2B and B2C clients an enhanced spectrum of services such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and a host of other leading-edge next-gen services. Operators can unveil the monetization opportunities that 5G promises and achieve a high-level of orchestration and automation with a robust 5G Core solution along with a modern digital BSS stack.

 

Follow us:

Share on Social media:

Rani Shanmugam

Rani Shanmugam

Marketing Content Writer

Long story short, Rani writes about the workings of telecom networks. Short story long, she has a rich and diverse background as a developer, business analyst, and technical writer for broad-spectrum solutions across various industries, and is now focused on telecommunications marketing. She unwinds by painting with her toddler son and loves to whip up elaborate meals fit for a feast.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

Top 7 benefits digital BSS delivers, now and in 5G

Top 7 benefits digital BSS delivers, now and in 5G

Top 7 benefits digital BSS delivers, now and in 5G

 

14th of January 2020

 

 

 

As evidenced in countries where it has launched, 5G brings massive innovation potential but is challenging to monetize if its only unique offering is ultrafast speed. Many operators are aware that 5G success depends on their digital Business Support Systems (BSS) and bringing innovation to their own business models. A recent study by TM Forum reveals that 72% of CSPs believe 5G revenue growth is completely dependent on transforming their BSS and OSS. However, digital transformation is beneficial even before 5G is rolled out: a robust BSS stack enables implementing and monetizing key 5G use cases, such as OTT partnerships and new business models, on previous-gen networks.

 

5G networks are anticipated to deliver a transformational customer experience with improved speed, connectivity, network coverage, interoperability, and more. And this will be further enhanced with omnichannel support, which offers a highly personalized, consistent, seamless, and holistic view of the complete customer journey. Enabling faster speeds and connectivity, rapid service creation and monetization, and differentiated partnership models for new revenue streams will be a necessity for operators. Those ready with 5G Core (5GC) architecture before the 5G market matures will have a competitive edge. It provides a high-level of orchestration and automation with the use of a modular 5G service-based architecture (SBA) required to meet future challenges and business needs. An effective digital BSS helps to fully monetize this transformation and derive maximum ROI.

How digital BSS unlocks 5G potential

With limited features and rigid architecture, legacy BSS cannot keep up with the evolving demands of customers as they embrace a digital lifestyle. With a digital BSS stack, operators can seize the benefits of 5G – a fact they are well aware of. According to this report , the global digital BSS market is expected to reach approximately USD 7,416 million by 2025, at a CAGR of roughly 15% between 2019 and 2025.

 

A digital BSS provides an elastic, modern, and convergent system in a virtualized network environment, giving CSPs an edge over competitors and enabling them to readily offer unique 5G services. An effective BSS transformation helps modernize fixed and wireless networks, as well as support CSPs to introduce differentiated services and automate business processes.

What should you look for in a digital BSS?

5G facilitates real-time rating, metering and charging for sophisticated digital services, along with monetization schemes such as QoS tiers, OTT billing and charging, partner settlements (B2B2X), and more – all of which is possible only with a flexible and agile BSS platform. Robust digital BSS architecture using the latest 5G standards is essential in this competitive and ever-evolving market – today and well into the future – to be able to support a dynamic environment and provide quick time-to-value in delivering new features and functions.

Top benefits operators enjoy with digital BSS

Modern digital BSS features help improve and monetize legacy as well as next-gen networks, driving the following benefits for operators:

 

1. Rapid and phased deployments
A truly modern digital BSS is modular, cloud-native and deployed virtually. For operators not wanting to undertake a complete digital transformation at one go, it’s possible to implement in phases, so there is low risk involved in migration and fewer resources are required to launch it. Further, End of Life is less frequent, and the hardware is much easier to manage.

 

2. Accelerated monetization of use-cases
A 5G-ready digital BSS stack lets operators rapidly monetize the data network with innovative and personalized offerings, enhancing the digital experience for subscribers and improving customer loyalty. The elastic and convergent platform provides a network environment for CRM, convergent charging and billing, with REST APIs that offer the flexibility to quickly introduce a host of digital services with new billing models.

 

3. Centralized catalog management
With 5G, network slicing, and the surge of IoT and other data-intensive services like AI and VR, it will be challenging for CSPs to meet the demands to support new business models and use cases on the fly without expensive and lengthy backend code changes. A digital BSS stack with a centralized product catalog enables CSPs to swiftly respond to this network evolution. A common product repository and robust API framework allow CSPs, partners, and distributors to accelerate TTM for new products and services and improve revenue and customer engagement. With modern centralized catalogs, plans can be defined by many metrics such as volume, value, time, and quality of service. This core functionality helps ease teamwork and collaboration, manage offers efficiently, support multi-play offerings, and provide quick access to prebuilt use cases library.

 

4. Improved customer management
Customer relationship management covers all important aspects of the customer lifecycle, from registration and hierarchy to offering a 360-degree view to CSRs for subscribers as well as enterprise customers. With digital CRM, operators can implement automated workflows, streamline sales and support, and use chatbots and AI to reduce manual CSR workload. Additionally, it enables instant issue redressal and quick troubleshooting with web and mobile self-care including live chat options, lowering operational expenses and reducing churn.

 

5. Efficient revenue management
CSPs need real-time billing and policy control capabilities to seize and monetize opportunities that all-IP networks bring. Convergent charging facilitates automated rates and charging mechanisms. Further, revenue management solutions with reliable interconnect and billing for roaming help manage diverse partnerships, enabling CSPs to efficiently charge other operators for use of their voice, data, SMS, and other network infrastructure. A modern digital BSS with real-time APIs can also facilitate new 5G use cases like surge or congestion charging at times when the demand for digital services is high.

 

6. Enhanced partner management
A digital BSS stack with an integrated partner management platform helps improve operational agility by streamlining the partner lifecycle. It helps cultivate relationships with simplified onboarding, self-service, and support for a host of partner functions such as content, OTT, IoT, interconnect agreements, roaming, MVNO, and others. A partner management solution with open API integration works seamlessly with third-party systems.

 

7. Automated omnichannel support
Improving customer experience is not merely about providing better user interfaces on various devices, but also integrating the process across channels. Omnichannel support allows operators to provide a consistent, seamless, and highly personalized self-care experience through web, mobile and social media platforms, ensuring swift problem resolution while making customers feel more connected and valued. The most recent additions to this trend are WhatsApp-, AI- and NLP-powered chatbots for instant redressal of customer queries.

 

Telcos are already in the battle to build 5G networks and intend to offer improved quality of service to customers. And as they invest billions of dollars in 5G RAN, they must remember that an effective 5G strategy includes IT systems to generate ROI on that investment. Digital BSS has the great benefit of being modular so it can be rolled out in phases, mitigating the risks involved in a largescale migration of one’s billing system. To maximize their chances of success, operators must modernize their infrastructure with a digital BSS transformation today.

Follow us:

Share on Social media:

Rani Shanmugam

Rani Shanmugam

Marketing Content Writer

Long story short, Rani writes about the workings of telecom networks. Short story long, she has a rich and diverse background as a developer, business analyst, and technical writer for broad-spectrum solutions across various industries, and is now focused on telecommunications marketing. She unwinds by painting with her toddler son and loves to whip up elaborate meals fit for a feast.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter