What do telcos actually need to transform for 5G readiness?

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When it comes to BSS and the requirements for 5G, one comment from the recent Openet white paper sprang out. When it comes to 5G and digital markets it is not just about patches and upgrades –

It’s a move from managing and monetising telecom services to managing and monetising anything that can be consumed on a device and delivered / managed over a mobile network.

In fact, when it comes to support processes, such as policy management, there are a wealth of new terms to add to our buzzword dictionaries. Terms such as ‘binding selection function, network data analytics function, network resource function, network slice select function and network exposure function’. Obviously each will be known by its three or four letter acronym.

The paper, as we have come to expect, is detailed yet an easy read. It is based on a survey conducted by Telecoms.com Intelligence among 420 telecoms professionals.

What is immediately interesting is where operators believe the majority of the revenue from 5G will come from. Bearing in mind that – with a very few exceptions – operators have not been able to get their heads around how to play in the IoT world, almost 70% of them believe that Massive IoT, Ultra-low latency services for industrial applications and Industry 4.0 will be the big earners.

That said, only 70% or so believe that 5G will boost ARPU and the rest believe that there will be no impact or even a drop in ARPU.

One thing to keep an eye on over the coming months is whether operators go for the enterprise or consumer play – or both.

South Korea provides an excellent example of the consumer play and demonstrates the importance of having availability of handsets at launch (unlike some ‘Gs’ we could mention).

By the end of June 2019, SK Telecom had a million 5G customers, a faster take up than 4G. There is a 325% (no, not a typo) increase in data usage over 4G, more than 8,000 content offerings are planned, AR and VR traffic is already at 20% of the customers’ usage and all for $42 a month with their unlimited 5G plan.

This does not mean that SK Telecom is purely concentrating on the consumer and has plans for enterprise application, smart cities and smart hospitals.

As well as the big picture of where operators see revenues coming from the paper also delves into the support processes and systems (particularly BSS). As the paper says,

For BSS vendors this means a re-invention of their systems to support, not just 5G standards, but also the way operators offering 5G services want to work. This includes enabling lower costs, dramatically increased agility, continuous delivery, automation, service-slice control, less dependence on existing vendors and a self-service managing and monetising services, enabled by ‘blueprints’, which are pre-built out-of-the-box flexible use cases templates.

Supporting this idea, the majority of operators believe that the biggest challenge to delivering 5G services is navigating the regulatory and partnership landscape and learning to charge for the services of others.

It is all too clear that there are challenges ahead. It is equally clear that we are about to live in extremely interesting times as the full potential of 5G becomes clear.

As Josie Smith, chief IT Architect with BT, said at the recent DSP Leaders Forum, ‘with 5G, you have to pretend it is your first day at a great new job and you have been given some very new and exciting tools to play with’. She believes that 5G will allow telcos to go from legacy thinking to unconstrained thinking. Inspiring stuff.

The paper is a very worthwhile read and available for free here (short registration required).

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