Adaptive service assurance is crucial for a successful 5G deployment. Service Providers in Asia that are leading the 5G march must make this a priority.
5G is still in its early days, so it is hard to know exactly what 5G standalone will really ‘be’ and how people (and machines) will use it. To make an educated prediction about what it might look like, we can look to Japan, China, and South Korea, where large-scale, commercial 5G deployments are already a reality.
According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), there have been 24 commercial launches of 5G networks in Asia to date. One notable example is the build-out of a ‘360-degree interactive sporting experience’ in Japan for the much-delayed Tokyo Olympics. Companies plan to use this to offer innovative AR and VR experiences close to the stadiums.
While this is just one example, 5G standalone promises several new use cases to help drive operator revenues. More than $400 billion in additional infrastructure spending is expected in Asia between now and 2025, and 80% of that will be on 5G.
5G standalone IoT is not ‘human’
5G IoT, potentially the most lucrative of 5G use cases, encompasses everything from industrial automation to remote health monitoring to home security and more. 5G IoT brings to the forefront an essential truth about service performance and user experience.
Simply put, humans are tolerant of poor network performance, but machines are not.
When humans experience mobile service issues, sometimes (though not often), they will call the provider to report the problem. A quarter of them say they’ll switch providers for a better mobile streaming video experience (Sapio Research, 2020). Humans have the capacity to put up with things not working perfectly every time, but the same can’t be said for machines.
If an IoT device that depends on its 5G connection to function experiences an outage, it simply fails. The knock-on effect of this failure can be severe—even impacting human lives if a connected health device were to fail. Less severe impacts from outages will still cause disruptions, hurt commerce and limit operator revenue. 5G IoT use cases can only be successful if the 5G networks they rely on consistently operate with high quality. To achieve this, operators need adaptive service assurance. Adaptive service assurance is an agile system that automatically pre-empts and resolves service problems to ensure a perfect user experience. But to make it work, you must have the correct data.
The right data for 5G standalone service assurance is small, not big
5G standalone brings new challenges to service assurance that largely render ‘big data’ solutions obsolete. Big data generally is expensive to collect, store, and analyze and is too slow to be useful for real-time decisions. With the disruptive infrastructure changes inherent in 5G standalone—cloud-native, virtualization, network slicing, and the massive increase in connected devices and traffic, big data is no longer an effective or practical way to identify and fix service issues.
Consider that 90% of quality of experience (QoE) visibility is lost in big data delays and aggregate KPIs (MNO executives on EXFO advisory panel; EXFO market research). This is a huge problem since half of 5G revenue depends on meeting per-device service level agreements (GSMA Intelligence).
Just as crucial as being granular down to the per-user/per-device level is the ability of adaptive service assurance to be contextual, seeing and understanding everything that happens with network performance, service delivery, and user experience. This is important because these factors relate to each other.
Context is what makes 5G standalone assurance powerful
The adaptive aspect of next-generation service assurance relies on context across the various layers of service delivery, such as the core, the transport layer, and the edge. When AI-driven monitoring integrates with existing systems, it collects relevant data from various sources, finds the context between the events, and coordinates with the orchestrator to prescribe and implement corrective actions.
The beauty of using a ‘small data’ approach is that all of this can occur in a very elastic, responsive manner that keeps pace with the user experience.
In other words, it happens in real-time.
‘Right now’ is the new ‘real-time’ for 5G standalone service assurance
Of course, ‘real-time’ is a buzzword that’s been thrown around so much it is almost meaningless. So let’s be more specific:
In the real world of virtualized 5G networks, service delivery and user experience are very dynamic. Waiting for piles of big data to be analyzed just won’t cut it. What does work is to use a combination of AI and machine learning for automated, orchestrated service assurance. This is how to get the game-changing combination of “the right data, in context, right now.”
‘Right now’ means dynamically predicting and detecting outages and impairments, figuring out the cause, and applying a fix before it causes human frustration or machine failure. It is now possible to diagnose service issues and outages up to 90% faster than traditional troubleshooting processes (EXFO and Heavy Reading market research).
The need to act quickly
By 2026, more machines are expected to use mobile networks globally than humans. In APAC, unique mobile subscribers are projected to reach 2 billion by 2025 (70% penetration rate), compared with 11.5 billion IoT connections. This trend will redefine the ‘customer experience.’ In Asia, implementing adaptive service assurance should be a top priority. Not only will this protect the region’s fast-growing 5G infrastructure—it will ensure that operators and governments see a timely return on their investment in 5G as well drive new 5G revenue opportunities, especially for enterprise and IoT markets. The technology exists—incorporating it into business strategies and network deployments is the challenge and the opportunity of the next mobile era.
Written by Michael Scheppke, VP of Sales, Asia-Pacific at EXFO