Implementing a flexible billing system that can support new monetization opportunities is just as critical as enabling a microservice architecture to the network or launching value-added services. For how good is a network if operators cannot monetize it, and how profitable are new services if they cannot be billed?
The world is at the threshold of a 5G-powered golden era. The promise of a whole new slew of monetization opportunities convinced the telcos worldwide to invest billions of dollars in 5G architecture and infrastructure. The big question now is how the Communication Service Providers (CPSs) can put the big 5G to work and monetize their networks quickly for a faster return on investment.
5G, with its speed, capacity, low latency and agility, enables new and innovative revenue streams for CSPs in both traditional and emerging markets. The right 5G monetization systems can supercharge the communication service providers (CSPs) to deliver the promise of 5G from day one.
However, for CSPs to capitalize on the full potential of 5G, innovation must traverse across all domains, including Networks, services, organization and IT operation and billing, or else risk falling behind in the quest for quick ROI and monetization of 5G services.
The promise Of 5G
From taking online gaming outdoors to bringing the onstage performer up close to the back rows, 5G, is already making waves and creating excitement in the consumer segments. But, when it comes to 5G growth opportunities, B2B is said to hold the most promise. CSPs view this as an opportunity to explore new possibilities.
When combined with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT (Internet of Things), Edge Computing and Augmented Reality, 5G can deliver killer apps and use cases for consumers and businesses alike, opening up vast monetization opportunities for CSPs. CSPs are getting creative with 5G. The industry is witnessing the development and deployment of innovative consumer and business-specific applications. Each use case is more immersive and ingenious than the previous one. Listed below are a few interesting examples that make it to the top of a very long and equally fascinating list of how 5G can be applied to drive not just better service but can also be used to ramp up monetization opportunities for CSPs.
5G fuels remote healthcare
Healthcare is one of the most aspirational sectors when utilizing the 5G network's speed and low latency. From telehealth, remote surgery, transferring large medical files, tracking patient movements inside facilities, using wearable devices for real-time monitoring, or delivering continual treatment information and support to patients, the Healthcare segment is really harnessing the power of 5G to provide exceptional patient care promptly.
Skynet Phase II presents one such excellent example where several operators came together and leveraged 5G and hybrid network capabilities to enable geographically disparate hospitals to offer the same epidemic e-health services in remote locations seamlessly.
Hospitals were able to choose from a catalog of worldwide medical services, including legacy services such as voice and video and more advanced offerings such as remote robotic surgery, advanced diagnostic and IoT sensors, and drone and disaster management – all made possible through 5G network slicing. Orchestration and the OSS/BSS played a crucial role in enabling the globally dispersed operators' networks to 'talk' to one another and guarantee the end-to-end connectivity between the two hospitals, i.e. customer endpoints. It was complex but crucial as they needed to activate network slices on-demand on different carriers, using different methodologies, separate agreements and various contracts.
When enabling networking through 5G, Skynet takes into account end-to-end slices across hybrid networks, including physical, virtual, mobile, and fixed networks.
Another mention-worthy example is the world's first remote surgery using 5G network technology performed by China Unicom Fujian Branch, Fujian Medical University Mengchao Hepatobiliary Hospital, Suzhou Kangduo Robot Co., Ltd. in collaboration with their network partner Huawei.
In addition, to impacting Healthcare Service Providers directly, 5G also brings great promise up and down the Healthcare value chain. The coordination world will witness an emergence of a unique ecosystem of healthcare providers, pharmaceuticals and payers coming together to drive more efficient and accessible patient care.
With massive investment in the new 5G network standards, technology and infrastructure, CSPs view it as an opportunity to revolutionize existing solutions and deploy transformational and disruptive value-added services & applications.
Future of mining segment transformed by 5G
Usually not at the forefront of new technology adoption, the mining segment has taken everyone by surprise by quickly adopting 5G to transform their business and drive new ways to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, and drive a competitive edge.
The industry is leveraging emerging technologies powered by 5G to unlock advantages in safety, quality monitoring, and several other areas. A great use case is where a Canadian mining company subscribed to an unmanned drone solution from a third-party aerial monitoring and management company that delivers on-site and on-demand solutions on an industrial-grade platform. The end-to-end, fully automated drone monitors the truckloads and feeds back premium aerial images into the database in a faster, safer, and more efficient way. Based on the type of the load on the trucks (hazardous, general waste, mineral extract) and the haul road conditions, the transportation vehicles are then automatically directed to the most optimized and safe route. As the daily load varies in quantity, weight and type, the optimized routing must be done in real-time. The operator can remotely allocate more edge resources based on the daily requirements.
Cloud gaming is a landmark moment for standalone 5G
With shorter latency times, less jitter, and less packet loss, 5G is permanently changing the world of gaming by bringing Augmented Reality closer to the real world.
Gaming is a leading application, followed closely by industrial automation and autonomous transport, that forces us to rethink network architecture. These applications are extremely sensitive to network latency or lag. Edge computing and edge clouds put the compute resources closer to the end-user, making extremely low latencies possible (under ten milliseconds). It is one of the key features of 5G for industrial applications and mobile cloud gaming.
With 706 million wireless customers worldwide, Singtel boasts of interesting use-cases involving 5G and the gaming world. Average consumers own five to eight mobile-connected devices, bringing 3D gaming to every household.
5G will also tremendously impact esports, where milliseconds can make a difference between living or dying, winning or not winning the first-place purse, which continues to grow.
AR and 5G combined are revolutionizing marketing, making brands more omnipresent and marketing experiences more personal. Data, pivotal in creating effective marketing strategies, is now available in real-time unlocking great analytical potential.
One of the oldest industries globally - agriculture - has also gone smart. The Clover use case demonstrates how 5G makes it possible to adopt the latest tech to reduce resource consumption and add efficiency to overall operations.
The promise of 5G-driven new revenue opportunities has propelled CSPs to make significant CapEx investments in the Network with the underlying objective of laying the foundation for these and other new value-added services.
Key pillars needed to monetize 5G opportunities
Operators, however, need to take a holistic approach to get the promised ROI from their 5G investments. The CSPs must deploy the right strategies, business models, and tools, especially when they will unprecedently be opening their networks to partners. As they evolve the Network and develop their services strategy, they must concurrently implement organizational change and modernize various IT and Service systems. In their report, Monetizing the new telco vision, STL identifies four foundations of monetization that operators must build to make them 5G-ready and create a seamless customer and partner experience in the new world. The foundations of monetization that CSPs must consider to harness the power of 5G include
Network Operation Support System (OSS)
CSPs must move away from legacy architecture and adopt a new virtualized network infrastructure that supports serverless deployment. A microservices-based architecture running in independent containers for each component allows development teams to easily add, change or edit a singular service without redeploying the entire application. Such an architecture infrastructure can easily support new applications.
The virtualization of the network through a complex interlinking of individual components running as Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) has been around for a while and is not new to 5G. However, SDN-enabled network slicing has made it possible to virtualize the network fully - from radio to core, making 5G networks take a giant step forward in network flexibility. But it comes with its own challenges.
Past deployments across initial rollouts of 2G, 3G and 4G were done independently for each part of the network with dedicated OSS and orchestration to manage that specific network's infrastructure and service. It led to OSS silos for each part of the network, with little connection or transparency. CSPs have made significant investments in the network to lay the foundations for delivering new 5G-enabled services. Openness, virtualized infrastructure, real-time services, and the volume of devices and cell sites all play a crucial role in seamless 5G OSS and orchestration.
Hence, operators must take a holistic approach and rethink network management to deliver a successful 5G experience.
Cloudification is another significant change that the telecoms must quickly embrace and move away from stringent telecom-specific standards for a converged IT approach and enable a multi-vendor ecosystem.
As CSPs shift towards 5G, they must reconsider how they treat their Network. Gone are the days when the Network was considered a "service", enabling simple communications. With 5G, the Network is a holistic platform on top of which CSPs can layer value-added applications and services and create vertical and segment-specific solutions.
CSPs can leverage 5G networks to offer customized services to enterprise organizations and specific industry verticals. The network agility and modular architecture allow CSPs to 'slice' the Network or offer NaaS-based (network-as-a-service) solutions. And this is just the start.
The traditional telecoms have the image of being slow and bureaucratic with siloed business units. In the new 5G world, the telecoms must welcome or even initiate an ecosystem of Cloud-native developers and agile operators with open arms. To innovate quickly and help the business bring new offerings forward for each use case, CSPs must cultivate 3rd party solution providers, suppliers and a strategic partner ecosystem.
IT and Billing Support Systems (BSS)
The CSPs must also implement significant changes to their back-end IT systems to monetize these new services. Implementing a flexible billing system that can support new monetization opportunities is just as critical as enabling a microservice architecture to the Network or launching value-added services. For, how worthy is a Network if operators cannot monetize it, and how good are new services if they cannot be billed?
The right BSS systems help CSPs deliver an agile customer experience, seamlessly bill new value-added services and cater to all segments from B2B to B2C through a single platform to maintain bill clarity and transparency throughout the customer's buying journey. Amdocs Freestyle Billing is an excellent example of how the right BSS can drive a memorable customer experience and deliver flexibility and agility.