5G may have taken a bit of a beating from the critics but is still going strong. Despite the cynics, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has experienced rapid growth and is expected to reach 10.4 million connections in the USA by 2026, according to analyst GlobalData. 5G Americas is predicting global 5G connections to increase from slightly over 500 million in 2021 to 1.3 billion by the end of 2022.
The upgrade of the radio infrastructure of the network (that allowed for FWA) is only the first phase of 5G. The “real” benefits of 5G begin with 3GPP standards releases 16 and 17. The promises of more complex, valuable, and imaginative use cases have been thoroughly described by now, particularly in terms of the opportunities it will provide for (or perhaps even demanded by) enterprises and B2B2x. It is only now that many operators are redirecting focus to their core networks as opposed to the radio side of their business.
To get there and live up to the promises relating to 5G, most operators will need easy access to tools for partnership at scale. For many service providers, a deep understanding of industry verticals is not something they are very accustomed to. Within any given vertical, the diversity of use cases is so wide that even the most focused service providers will need help. For instance, people often refer to the “energy vertical” as though it were one homogenous thing when in fact it is made up of many discrete businesses focused on everything from production to distribution to marketing.
It is only when the core set of 5G functions is further enabled that the promises of 5G can be provided more optimally, especially in relation to latency, coverage, capacity, and density. A relevant analogy could be in drawing parallels to the making of music. To date, some pieces of the orchestra have been assembled with only a few notes and so the musical composition has not been completed. To further build on the analogy: 5G will provide the assembly of chords but it will often be partners that will make the music themselves.
5G’s exposure benefits
The democratization of service creation is likely to provide the most returns for many service providers in the foreseeable future.
Of course, when 5G-driven services have become more democratized, giving service providers further opportunity (or perhaps an obligation to stakeholders) to leverage their improved flexibility as it relates to charging. The adage “if it cannot be charged for it’s not worth doing” does not really apply to newer business models that follow a “try before you buy” mantra. Although, even then, charging still has a critical and arguably more nuanced role. That role is the 5G treasury and engine for service visibility, monetization, platform consolidation, and service diversification management. 5G-capable charging will need to be flexible enough to cater to emerging use cases as well as those that have yet to be imagined but will arrive swiftly. Being able to knit agile charging to a more flexibly enabled set of use cases that are driven by partners is an essential sweet spot for 5G.
Moreover, charging is often taken for granted. In a 5G context, this means something different now with a distinct set of expectations. It is more oriented towards enterprise customers availing of exposed network assets. Thus, making it more SLA-oriented. As such, it is more scalable as a set of Cloud-based and SaaS-driven microservice-based building blocks for those yet-to-be-imagined use cases. Further oriented towards value chains and hierarchical, multi-role access for businesspeople. In short, it is more flexible as a focal point for the vast range of opportunities that are emerging with partners. Cynics better beware.