The excitement and enthusiasm for 5G networks is based on the promise of more reliable and innovative mobile services; low-latency edge services; and on-demand, dedicated network slices for enterprises. This will drastically improve the availability of high-speed internet in high-density metropolitan areas (and so much more), which will subsequently drive new services and innovative business models in industry verticals. Itís no surprise that Gartner projects the 5G network infrastructure market will increase to $4.2 billion in 2020.
While communications service providers (CSPs) have already started to roll out 5G offerings, there is still much work to be done before the network is widely available. In the process of preparing, CSPs are still figuring out the primary use cases, infrastructure investments and services they can successfully deliver first.
5G is a service-led architecture which means performance management is a paradigm shift from 4G and 3G networks. Itís not only about bringing faster mobile broadband speeds to market, 5G is also about delivering these mini-networks or dedicated network slices with performance and quality guarantees needed for that service. For the first time, mobile operators will have an architecture that can deliver dedicated virtual network slices with ultra low-latency if thatís required for the particular enterprise use case or application.
5G is evolutionary and service providers are still in the early stages of deploying 5G radio networks and upgrading core networks. Most operators are starting with relatively straightforward services of enhanced mobile broadband (faster mobile data speeds) and fixed wireless broadband (as a home or business broadband replacement). But they are preparing their operations and infrastructure now for more advanced enterprise services based on network slicing, which are still a few years away.
In order to facilitate the process, service providers are implementing performance management systems that can monitor KPIs at the service and quality of experience level, rather than deploying systems that only monitor the health of the network. This allows them to feed network and service intelligence back into orchestrators and IT systems.
Overcoming challenges in bringing 5G to market
New 5G use cases and services are being developed but itís not yet clear what the big winners will be. Each operator will look at prioritizing different services based on their individual market and business case. For now, the goal is to get 5G working and begin developing commercial packages and services. Itíll also be crucial for operators to ensure IT, customer care and network management systems are able to support 5G monetization and services.
A technical challenge for suppliers will be learning to speak the same language as operators and ensuring their solutions are aligned with an operatorís holistic technology framework and architecture - e.g. this means ensuring suppliers and operators are working within the same virtualization environments, for example, Openstack and Opensource MANO.
There are still concerns that standards are immature and that existing IT systems and processes (OSS, BSS and network management systems) need to be redesigned and upgraded to handle new 5G services, cloud networks (NFV/SDN) and edge computing platforms. In addition, given the mountains of data being generated from new connected devices and services, it will be important to implement analytics and automated systems that can keep up.
Communications service providers have a massive opportunity given the technical potential of 5G networks, but in order to capitalize on the benefits of 5G, they must begin preparing now to overcome the obstacles in bringing it to market. This will entail investing in performance management, analytics and machine learning technology that provide comprehensive, real-time visibility into both network performance and service quality (a requirement thatís crucial for 5G business-critical services). It will also require the implementation of cloud platforms, open systems and APIs to integrate and automate processes and ensure interoperability with orchestrators and external partners - both technology vendors as well as industry partners.
— Ramiro Nobre, VP Global Strategy and Solutions, Accedian
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