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5G Imperatives in Engineering for CSPs and System Integrators
Srini Lakkaraju Vice President | April 22, 2021
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5G will deliver business outcomes for CSPs. With the 5G network rollout, new kinds of spectrum bands are grabbing all the headlines. The truth is when it comes to 5G; radio access is just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath actually helps realize the lucrative business outcomes of 5G. The full potential of 5G cannot be unlocked without a move to the cloud. Cloud and 5G are not possible without automation and security. Moreover, this transformation is not possible without a common IP service fabric that can deliver massive capacity, elastic scalability, network slicing, and stringent timing. Finally, without edge, cross-industry, and IoT solutions, CSPs can’t monetize 5G beyond the connectivity solutions. CSPs must improve customer experiences and their own internal cost for effectively putting more skin in the game on the 5G imperatives.

CSPs are looking toward open source, container & cloud-based network infrastructures that meet the 5G latency, reliability, and flexibility requirements while being inexpensive to deploy and maintain.

The Ten focus Areas for CSPs and System Integrators

  1. Cloud-native Environment

    The arrival of 5G, NFV, and SDN are simultaneous along with the CSP efforts to digitally transform and become cloud-native. There is a huge potential for the CSPs to operate vast network capacity in flexible and automated ways. The rewards will be immense, lending a sustainable edge to the CSP business case. However, the changes won't happen overnight or in a single step. A protracted period of innovation, experimentation and deployment where CSPs migrate from 4G to 5G and previous generations will co-exist with 5G for many years. This intergenerational situation means the new cloud-native mode of operation must be accommodated into legacy networks.

    The system integrators have a key role to play in the entire journey of telco cloud implementation in the following areas:

    a) Blueprinting based on ETSI Standards

    b) VNF/CNF testing, certification, and interoperability

    c) Onboarding and integration of VNF/CNF in the telco cloud ecosystem

    d) Service chaining and end-to-end orchestration

  2. Enhanced Security Solutions

    The purpose of 5G is to open the network to a wider set of services and thereby allow the CSPs to underpin these services. So that CSPs can offer an unprecedented opportunity to uplift network and service security levels. 5G has designed various security controls to address many of the threats faced in today’s 4G/3G/2G networks. These controls include new mutual authentication capabilities, enhanced subscriber identity protection, and additional security mechanisms. It is an opportunity to protect services and consumers from many of today’s threats. The advancement of technology and the use of new architectures and features such as network slicing, virtualization, and cloud will introduce new threats that require new types of control implementation.

    The system integrators must bring innovation in the areas of a) Security reliability models b) Security assessment/maturity framework c) Vulnerability watch and management d) Detecting flaws proactively with auto remediation e) Device, content, and network security services

  3. Acceleration in the adoption of Cloud-based Open Network Components

    As the industry moves toward 5G, Radio Access Network (RAN) will become increasingly software-driven and built with a variety of vendors. The impact and potential of open/virtual RAN is one of the mobile industry’s hot topics.  The technology is quickly moving from lab work to fieldwork, as major global CSPs plan for large-scale deployments.

    As CSPs continue to adopt disaggregated, virtualized solutions that enable speed and agility, web-scale networking solutions are no longer merely nice to have. They are table stakes for CSPs looking to thrive in the next generation of the economy. The system integrators should enable CSPs with services such as a) Labs-as-a Service b) Multi-cloud environments c) Adoption services d) Migration frameworks e) Assurance services. Thus, they can quickly adopt these new and open architectures.

  4. Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive-led Network Deployment, Surveillance, and Monitoring

    It is essential for CSPs to have an eye on both the past, present, and the future, as they develop their plans for 5G rollout. This means integrating 3G and 4G, into new 5G network configurations, and replacing the 5G radio overlay infrastructure that the CSPs are instructed to remove from their networks.

    The system integrators must bring their E2E solutions (network to infrastructure to applications) together with artificial, cognitive, and data-fed services for effective maintenance of co-existed network while the CSPs transforming to 5G.

  5. Edge Computing- based Services

    The stage is being set on the edge of 5G networks for the next major digital transformation. 5G’s ultra-low latency and high-speed connectivity will bring new levels of computing power straight to densely distributed enterprises, consumer devices, and sensors. Edge computing enabled by 5G and global cloud infrastructure will open new opportunities for application developers and software vendors. This promises a flurry of innovation. Developers are creating applications that harness artificial intelligence for industry or powering smarter medical, retail, entertainment or transport services, thereby making CSPs a service line in other lines of business.

    The system integrators must build their edge computing offerings on top of the 5G networks that are essential to foster the next-generation development in cloud-based computing. The edge computing offerings will enable CSPs to move away from delivering commoditized, flat-rate packages of broadband and voice services, toward customized services for vertical sectors with private networks.

  6. Reliable Network with High Speed and Low Cost

    Currently, consumers (both B2C and B2B) cite reliability as their biggest gripe with 4G. With the promise of 5G, consumers are intrigued, but will they pay more for the reliability? With that in mind, 5G has the potential to rewrite consumer expectations. Reliability and speed may be less of a problem. Lower cost per bit will help make unlimited mobile data less expensive. Seamless mobile transactions will be a default. Consumers will develop new expectations of their brand interactions, and companies must be prepared to understand those needs, interpret that feedback, and respond in real-time.

    Today most of the system integrators are custodians of CSPs data in the form of managing the data lakes. Data-driven decision making is essential for any organization that wants to keep up with the customer demand and understand changing user behaviors. System Integrators should provide services such as a) Data-driven insights with artificial intelligence and cognitive solutions b) Increased ability to troubleshoot via self-service due to the advent of more IoT services c) Greater proliferation of AR/VR capabilities in effectively solving problems proactively.

  7. Drive Revenues beyond Connectivity

    After decades of growth, core telecom connectivity revenues are starting to decline. With 5G rollout imminent across the globe, CSPs are looking for new, sustainable ways to generate new revenue streams beyond connectivity and recoup costly network investments.

    The system integrators must take a new approach to risk, funding, and revenue. Traditionally the risk of the system integrator bears are centered around the estimated delivery time and the ability to deliver on time. In the new world, the system integrator has a different type of risk—one associated with the development cost of a productized solution. The return of this will be determined by the success of that particular solution in a broader market. The revenue stream for system integrators in the new world will most likely resemble something closer to a subscription model, as opposed to the project-centric traditional payment approach.

  8. Customer Experience is no longer enough – Deliver Incredible Experiences

    Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and digital assistance superimpose computer-generated images and content in real-world environments. This enhances a user’s perception of reality by combining physical and virtual elements. These technologies leverage 5G and present many advantages for CSPs in serving their customers. 

    The system integrators must come up with solutions to make it is easy to use, engage, and overcome the challenge of merging physical experiences with digital content.

  9. Sustainability

    Energy consumption is one of the CSP Industry’s top priorities. This is expected to be an increasingly limiting factor in network deployments during the 5G rollout. The CSP industry is generally positive about the potential for network virtualization and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce energy consumption. But less certain about the energy impact of edge deployments.

    For many years, system integrators are involved in several traditional efficiency improvement activities such as task automation, data center footprint reduction/migration, and others strictly related to energy usage reduction. But a system integrator can help a CSP reduce its environmental impact through operations optimization by connecting information coming from the network/infrastructure till its consumption.

  10. Simplification and possible adoption of Blockchain

    CSPs have embarked on simplifying their IT estate in the areas of applications, infrastructure, technology, and processes, to deliver 5G Services to consumers in a faster, cheaper, and reliable manner. 5G will provide multi-network slicing, multi-level services, and multi-connectivity network capabilities. To allow the required flexibility, agility, and economies of scale, these technologies will be delivered via virtual and containerized environments. This is a revolutionary way of working for the industry. Regulators and governments across the world are encouraging various sectors (including CSPs) to adopt blockchain technology, which will operate over a set of modular components/containers of business functionalities.

    The system integrators must provide the automation or execution solutions to CSPs to leverage with blockchain technologies. Containerization of CSPs, functions and then moving to the cloud with docker management are some of the key takeaways. System integrators also can create a consortium of business partners to help CSPs craft applications for a cloud-based blockchain platform for various business scenarios. For example, an abstraction layer Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) supports open standards and offers built-in integration with 3rd party applications.

Conclusion

5G promises exciting advances for CSPs. But the 5G rollout will be challenging and intriguing. CSPs are looking toward the open-source, container, and cloud-based network infrastructure that meet the 5G latency, reliability, and flexibility requirements while being inexpensive to deploy and maintain. Security is a factor to contend with as well, along with incredible end-user experiences. Finally, CSPs have to find ways to make money out of 5G.

In the past, system integrators have risen to many challenges. There is no reason to believe that the anticipated growth outlook from 5G will not translate into a new era of explosive expansion by the system integrators.