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The network trends to watch in 2023 & beyond

5G has provided a solid foundation for the future features, standards & procedures of networks to come. From new markets to enhanced digital features & services, the future of networks is an expanding horizon of opportunities.

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Luc-Yves Pagal, Product Marketing Director of E2E Solutions

Amdocs Networks

19 Dec 2022

The network trends to watch in 2023 & beyond

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Upon reflection of the strides made in connectivity in 2022, we look ahead to the upcoming industry trends in 2023.

A Bird’s Eye View on 2023 Network Trends

As the end of the year approaches, it is customary to attempt tech-related predictions as accurately as Nostradamus! While such exercises can be amusing and intriguing, they can cause problems in uncertain times if such “expert” predictions are used to guide market trends and facilitate enterprises’ preparedness for evolving market conditions.

Despite market uncertainties stemming from the looming recession, supply issues, and war, telecom market executives and specialists must continue to focus their efforts on controlling costs, accelerating digital transformation, and raising market competitiveness.

Let’s peek into the most compelling network trends:

  • Disaggregated Networks
  • Network Exposure
  • Multi-Cloud Strategy
  • Data Analytics Functions
  • Network Slicing

The Promises of Disaggregated Networks

Non-monolithic, disaggregated networks have been promised in the industry since the inception of SDN/NFV. What has been achieved?

NFV's hardware-software separation influenced Network Functions Disaggregation. Avoiding hardware dependence and single-vendor hardware and software lock-in was the goal. NFV was never fully implemented; instead, a greater emphasis was placed on disaggregated functions consisting of networking cloud-native software, also known as NoS (Network Operating System), operating on conventional white-box hardware.

domains gradual evolution to cloud native
Figure 1: Domains’ gradual evolution to cloud-native

Network disaggregation eliminates the hardware-centric chassis and adopts a network cloud approach to simplify network operations. Disaggregated functions, unlike NFV, leverage cloud-native principles and are completely integrated into an OSS/BSS to minimize operational and administrative expenses and enhance service innovation by cross-selling services from different service domains.

Disaggregated networks have progressed rather slowly and have not yet turned into the overwhelming wave that was promised. There are several specific applications, including Open RAN, underlay networking with MPLS functionalities, overlay networking with SD-WAN or SR-VPN and Universal CPE.

The Elusiveness of Network Exposure

Telcos/MNOs and Enterprises intend to expand their operations or business boundaries by leveraging hyperscalers' ecosystems and establishing extended reach and footprint. How they expose their capabilities remains an elusive question.

How can collaborative organizations distribute their services and capabilities securely? Amdocs 5G Value Plane's NEF (Network Exposure Function) with additional complimentary exposure capabilities has consolidated interests and questions in a rapidly evolving 5G age.

wireless ecosystem
Figure 2: The impact of NEF on the wireless ecosystem

Exposure can take numerous forms, including NaaS (Network as a Service) and NaaP (Network as a Platform). For years, operators collaborated using NNIs (Network-to-Network Interfaces) for networking/connectivity services and reciprocal enrichment – but in the 5G and beyond 5G era this collaboration must be taken to the next level.

NaaP (Network as a Platform) is a novel idea, that expands NaaS beyond connectivity. In a disaggregated and automated operator world, a CSP/MNO or MVNO has a set of capabilities (networking, mobility, apps, services, etc.) that can be shuffled, categorized, and made accessible via APIs. Network Slicing and Network Slicing as a Service are credible NaaP examples.

Extended Reach with a Multi-Cloud Networks Strategy

Congratulations if your firm is exploring a multi-cloud strategy as you read this page. It indicates your OSS/BSS infrastructure is optimized to include multi-cloud implementation and configuration management with Terraform/CloudFormation. Your cloud-native strategy has advanced so much that your hybrid cloud vision can be driven by a unified IT solution.

Main benefits:

  •  Leverage multiple cloud providers for computing resources to reduce downtime and data loss
  •  Expand business reach to tap into new business horizons while managing cloud costs
  •  Avoid vendor lock-in and manage the risks of a sole cloud partner.

Main challenges:

  •  Hire and retain employees who understand cloud service providers' infrastructures and specifications
  •  Manage apps security for data and access permission and exposure strategy
  • Operational management and administrative responsibilities will grow more complex as every cloud provider uses different tools.

The Role of Data Analytics Functions in Tomorrow’s Network

3GPP defines 5G, Network Slicing, MDAF, and NWDAF data analytics functionalities. E2E service orchestration and zero-touch networks use AI/ML data analytics. Data intelligence models should monitor and observe network/service infrastructure. These actions produce performance, gap, and forecast analytics data.

OSS/BSS service layers offer the end-to-end network capabilities needed to build tomorrow’s networks and services, including network slicing, service monitoring, and zero-touch automation. Data Analytics sub-functions are required to support this vision with use cases such as AI/ML fueled anomaly detection, cross-domain correlation, root-cause, and OSS/BSS integrated remediation.

Data analytics is enabling telecom networks to self-heal without human involvement.

The Dream of Network Slicing

Network slicing involves turning a mobile service infrastructure into a network with logical divisions called Network Slice Subnet Instances (NSSI) for each operational domain (RAN, Transport, 5G Core, and even hyperscalers), stitching them together to create a Network Slice Instance (NSI), which is intuitive yet complex to implement.

The result is the ability to transition from a one-size-fits-all network to tailored, high-performance, low-latency network slices.

5G and Network Slicing are B2B and B2B2X-oriented. Thus, market velocity and exposure make Network Slicing as a Service (NSaaS) a commercial need. NSaaS naturally uses all features covered in this 2023 network trends blog:

  • E2E Service Orchestration for cross-domain resources allocation and Network Slice instantiation
  • Data Analytics Function fueled by AI/ML for cross-domain monitoring and observability
  • Network & service exposure capabilities combining several API standards and 5G NEF capability
  • Fully integrated OSS/BSS functions to flexibly establish and adjust chargeable events and align the service billing
network slicing meets data analytics
Figure 3: When Network Slicing meets Data Analytics

The subsequent phase of slicing will necessitate the support of cross-operator services, which will increase the demand for exposure, analytics, and automation, as defined by MOCN (Multi-Operator Core Networks).

A final word about 2023 network trends

These network trends for 2023 and beyond offer a lot to ponder. Vendors have typically been slow to implement cloud-native principles, but more advances are expected that will simplify operations across service domains and improve end-user experience.

NaaS is already mainstream, but NaaS and NaaP models will certainly expand in 2023. AI/ML will improve observability and automation for B2B and B2B2X businesses to reduce costs accelerate service fulfillment and enhance management efficiency.

Let’s see how 2023 unfolds …

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