However, many service providers still have a long road ahead with 4G services and it will be many years before all subscribers are using 5G. The good news is that 5G can bring many benefits to 5G services. Not just by freeing up huge capacity at peak periods – but also by delivering some surprising other benefits to 4G, which we’ll discuss below.
2021 is set to become an inflection point for 5G for sure. Various elements are now converging including: necessary 5G functions, devices, spectrum and even coverage, especially in urban locations. This is great news for home-based workforces, gamers and enterprises. But 5G is already providing some less-talked-about benefits back to 4G in terms of tools and best practices with resulting value for advancing service providers. This should be great news for service providers that have not yet spent a large amount on 5G spectrum and those that want to make the most of 4G assets.
Portability and updatability benefits of 5G functions built as microservices have been talked about in a 5G context for quite some time. But what about the application of such benefits to 4G? Of course amongst these microservices are “conversion” microservices such as Openet’s own 4G to 5G “data bridge” microservice. But what if 4G could more generally enjoy the benefits of microservices advantages? This is music to the ears of service providers’ accountants who are already enjoying the benefits of scale and licensing models from microservices for 5G. Microservices better suit flexible business i.e. revenue requirements of service providers in a digital age. Cloud and open-source
It seemed that, amongst other things, 2020 saw a huge surge in public-, hybrid-, and multi-cloud deployment discussions and decisions. Many of these decisions were driven by 5G. But these decisions also have implications for older 3G and 4G equipment. What if the scaling benefits of cloud (down as well as up) could also be applied retrospectively to 3G/4G assets? What if all existing hardware, even commoditized 3G/4G hardware on premises, was no longer needed and could also be more efficiently managed via the cloud? These drivers are why Openet has recently rebuilt its 4G PCRF (Policy Control) functionality for cloud deployment in addition to being microservice-based.
Perhaps DevOps is the secret sauce for true differentiation from which even smaller, more flexible, service providers can gain advantage. 4G missed out on it pretty much but it has been maturing nicely in a more complex 5G environment. Now that it has been proven with 5G-oriented DevOps teams interfacing effectively with the best vendors in this space – those teams can also turn their attention to 4G. After all, best practice is best practice. Whether that applies to 5G or 4G or 3G it doesn’t matter, as long as it is applicable.
All of this has implications for the service provider organization more generally – and in their preparations ahead of 5G. Rather than building a new 5G stack and skill base that somehow sits in parallel to the rest of the 3G/4G organization – with resulting overheads, the “new” organization becomes “the” organization. It provides benefits to end-user services also. Services are not seen as “3G/4G services” as opposed to “5G services” that need to battle for internal resources. Instead, the user is put at center stage along with service continuity regardless of the “G”. 4G markets can reap the benefits ahead of 5G. End-users will rejoice as well as accountants.
About the author: Frank Healy is Product Marketing Director of Openet, an Amdocs Company.