This article was originally featured on Telecom Ramblings
With rising demand for real time, data-rich services, telcos have had to invest in upgrading their networks, both in the core and increasingly at the edge, while simultaneously seeing their traditional revenue streams eroded thanks to the dominance of OTTs in messaging, voice and conferencing applications. However, competition is not now just from OTTs. The hyperscalers – AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft – also have global network backbones that could, hypothetically, enable them to deliver connectivity services that would put them in direct competition with traditional CSPs. But – importantly – our view is that the future will be enhanced commercial relationships rather than marketplace warfare.
In practical terms, the telcos’ position as the primary providers of connectivity is unlikely to change any time soon. But the network world is changing, and the operators must find a way to deliver more value beyond the basic connectivity pipe and start generating new revenue streams.
The emergence of 5G standalone (SA) – which introduces a new 5G core – signifies also the first complete shift in telecoms towards cloud-native networks. This new 5G network is software-centric and designed to be run on both public and private cloud. 5G networks technology industry standards require that these networks are capable of being “open” in architecture – allowing “network as a service” and Private Enterprise Networks (PEN) to be offered by communication service providers to their enterprise customers. These enterprises will be able to design their own experiences on the 5G networks and monetise these unique experiences that they can design and control themselves.
So, how do CSPs open up their networks to enterprise and OTT services? And, crucially, how can they monetise these third-party relationships to drive growth? The key here lies in the ease at which telcos can integrate third parties into their networks. With 4G networks, CSPs had to guarantee high levels of scalability before opening up their network to others – this, in turn, was both expensive and slow to achieve critical mass, cutting off telcos from opportunities with smaller businesses and consequently cutting off the CSP from being a platform for innovation. Thanks to 5G’s cloud-native architecture, the barrier to set up is much lower. The practice of building new service from micro service means a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) can be launched and scaled up at a fraction of the cost and effort of how new 3rd party services were traditionally rolled out on 4G. This interoperability and scalability of cloud native 5G services will enable CSPs to unlock new revenue streams. Central to all of this is the Business Support System (BSS).
5G introduces a range of new functions and network attributes that can be exposed and managed through the BSS. This packaging of network functions such as policy, real-time convergent charging and service catalogues bridges 5G business and IT functions, and analytics within the 5G network, making it much easier to “open up” and subsequently monetise the network. Network and IT teams will need to work more closely as policy and charging become more closely integrated with core network functions, as 5G can enable policy to be positioned at the heart of 5G monetisation. This enables CSPs to adapt the network for individual services, allowing the different network characteristics such as ultra-low latency, high-bandwidth and network slicing use cases to have different pricing, charging rules and service level agreements.
Network Exposure Function (NEF) will be key to realising 5G’s value. The NEF facilitates secure, developer-friendly access to exposed network services. Through the NEF and its open APIs, CSPs can open networks up to third parties to generate revenue opportunities. The Network Data and Analytics Function (NWDAF), a new 5G function introduces a higher level of intelligence and makes the networks smarter through real-time data management and analysis. With this new depth of insight, CSPs can unlock further opportunities for monetisation and make a proposition which relies on Quality of Service as a reality.
But the question arises on how and who will roll out these new services. In the first instance I believe it will be through Private Networks provided to enterprises by telcos with connectivity capabilities as value added upsell. Later Edge will be included to make networks pervasive for IOT devices. I believe that 2022 will be made up of Private Enterprise Networks (PEN) for enterprises – sold to the enterprises via the telcos or via the enterprise SI’s.