Patrik Regårdh, Head of Strategy for OSS & BSS, Ericsson
5G will be a major technology in growing industrial digitalization, creating and enhancing industry digitalization use cases such as immersive gaming, autonomous driving, remote robotic surgery and augmented reality support in maintenance and repair situations. Operators will look to 5G to add much-needed revenue streams from solving key challenges in digitalization for industries across several use case scenarios (see also The 5G Business Potential):
- Massive machine-type communications (MMTC) require connectivity for millions of devices, typically transmitting a relatively low volume of non-delay-sensitive data (low bandwidth and not latency-critical) via low-cost devices with extended battery life;
- Enhanced mobile broadband for mass mobile connectivity as demand for mobile broadband continues to increase; and
- Critical machine-type communications (CMTC) for ultra-reliable, resilient, instantaneous connectivity, with stringent requirements for capabilities such as throughput, latency and availability.
In the hands of digitally-savvy enterprises, new capabilities such as network slicing, differentiated QoS, boosted bandwidth, and mission-critical low latency will spur a limitless number of 5G use cases, most of which we cannot begin to imagine today. But such a consumerization of connectivity and communications services will not be fully realized if managed under traditional production orchestration models. For the most part, our industry has been very production centric, typically designing offers in the network and pushing them to consumers—eat what we serve, if you will. We have not been as genuinely interested as other consumer products and services sectors in the underlying user needs and what they were doing with what they were buying.
Case in point: allow me to illustrate the current consumer reality with a real-life experience in trying to complete what I hoped was a simple task—connecting remotely to my heating system at my summer camp. I envisioned that only two steps would stand between me and arriving to a warm, cozy cottage on a brisk autumn evening: Step 1, purchase a GSM switch module from the local electronics store; and Step 2, buy a SIM card from my phone dealer. As I was only planning on sending a few SMS’s a year (and to save myself a monthly bill of €20), I chose a pre-paid account. I configured the module, and put it into operation. Easy. Easy, except that pre-paid accounts expire if not topped up within 12 months (which I painfully experienced a year after installation). Easy, except that I had to create an account on the web portal of the operator in order to avoid being left with an inactivated SIM. Easy, except to activate my web account a login code was sent as SMS to my heating module, along with the top-up notifications to avoid expiry of the service.
If what I experienced is representative of our industry, then it seems clear that there is quite a bit of work needed to transform from the current focus on producing connectivity to consumers with phones in their hands, to playing in new markets where enterprises and consumers use network services for digitalization across a broad array of use cases involving all kinds of connections and devices. We cannot anticipate and preproduce all the variations that new technology can create. We need, as an industry, to think and prepare to be a value generating partner in the new ecosystems and business platforms that characterize this new world of 5G.
We need to look at operational models in a different way. 5G platforms allow us to turn the model around—from production driven, to enabling consumption models where the connectivity offering can be defined and packaged at the time of consumption.
In this context, a platform is an enabler from which operators can launch 5G services, encompassing network management, service management, orchestration, analytics, and monetization capabilities. Because of the diverse demands of complex end-to-end use cases, 5G can bring with it a lot of additional complexity, spanning the radio access network, the transport and the core networks, as well as the telco cloud. Operators can provide their users and ecosystem partners a platform to innovate and interact, while abstracting away some of the underlying technical complexities (e.g., sensors, data collection, connectivity).
To that end, operators are in the midst of digital transformation that will guide the modernization and deployment of new information technologies in order to be able to take full advantage of opportunities presented by 5G. Operators need to enable these innovative, fast moving services and expose control of their systems to digital enterprises who would like to play on top of stable, clearly understood platforms. In short, they must deliver value from connectivity in a platform-native way.
In a platform-centric world, the user experience is a result of co-creation at many levels: demands are defined by the configurations made by the consumer themselves. The consumer defines what they can get out of the network and the network can react, whether that comes in the form of a network slice for a remote monitoring system, or a burst of guaranteed connectivity during a natural disaster. The network adapts to the consumer need and the circumstances.
5G will drive new fundamentals from our industry. In a consumption orchestration environment, operators will stop thinking about how to sell the whole network machinery, but rather they will sell whatever is needed by each and every customer on that day at that time. If 5G is to be a great success for the industry, then operators should be interested in delivering anything the customer consumes, in any way they wish to consume it, in real time and over the long term. They must understand and embrace the holistic customer journey, and make their configurations interesting and relevant.
This ship has not yet sailed. Industry critics are quick to point out the success of cloud-native vendors who are running away with the webspeed and webscale platform economy. And yes, telecom consumers have been perpetually confused by a lack of transparency and participation. Production-centric operators may have only been interested in the underlying consumer needs when video gamers or YouTube binge watchers hogged excessive bandwidth.
But a 5G platform has the potential to change that dysfunctional dynamic and reintroduce the operator to the digital-savvy consumer or enterprise on their terms. While not a panacea for legacy restraints, 5G platforms can be the foundation for the true consumerization of telecommunications—out of sheer necessity perhaps. Trying to guess at the boundless configurations that will be of interest to the 5G user is not scalable. Herding marketing teams into conference rooms to monitor Twitter feeds and call center bulletins will no longer suffice.
An outside-in, platform-centric model by its co-creation nature will be more relevant and compelling, rooted in the actual use cases and benefits. I imagine that some day when I try to bring a high-tech feature to my cottage, I will have a virtual network at my fingertips, through a 5G enabled application, supported by end-to-end operator platforms. Easy.
More information on this topic can be found here