5G is a massive opportunity to create new services, explore new business models, provide a platform for real innovation in the realms of IOT, VR, AR and a host of other, as yet unknown verticals.It will be “the network”, a fully available reliable network that can support multiple use cases such as low latency, massive amounts of devices and very high throughput. Even the availability of the network means that there will be more verticals that can be addressed like integrated enterprise solutions, private cellular networks and a host of other use cases. Operators now have an infrastructure that allows for the delivery of many services for many different consumer groups.
Operators will have the ability to allow third party solutions to integrate with the network in order to provide more value to consumers, because the network is now much more flexible than ever before. This is a massive revenue stream for operators; the ability to not only leverage their own services, but also the ability to enable third parties to provide a seamless consumer experience.
The agility and ‘interchangeability’ of the network capability must be matched with the agility of the network control and monetisation in order to realise this potential.
The combination and interoperability of these services will be an enriching experience for the consumer, and these integrated services will add value at every stage. The smart phone has limited interaction capabilities with the consumer, it can perform many functions, but it is limited to the scope of the phone. Consumers would benefit from mesh integration, where the experience is delivered to the smart phone, but the services are global. For example, if I had a device in my car, I could tie that to my insurance for a reduced rate, a breakdown service for maintenance, a security system for theft, and apply limitations to my children’s driving. This combination of service delivers an exceptional experience to consumers, irrespective of them being private or enterprise consumers.
The 5G network can enable this from a connectivity perspective, but these services and the ability to launch them quickly and easily in an automated way is essential to leveraging all this capability. Controlling and monetising those services end-to-end through APIs, automated configuration and service integration is critical. Indeed, Openet has successfully obtained multiple US and European patents for its technology relating to the coordination of policy and charging across multiple disparate and heterogeneous network functions, so that the network, as a whole, can efficiently provide an end-to-end service. In other words, these patents relate to taking a holistic view of the network, and they recognise the advantages of utilising all parts of the network so that the right policy and charging controls are applied, in the right place, and at the right time.
Openet has created a policy mesh that encompasses several Network Functions. This policy mesh and its associated blueprint models can be used to define a service that has end-to-end policies. Openet has also developed several automation concepts that allow for both static and dynamic configuration models. This gives operators a level of control for these launched services that span several Network Functions, but it also allows for these services to be dynamically tweaked after launch. In an automated network, knowing that you have control over how the services are used is essential.
Openet conforms to the 5G standards, and Openet also realises that the level of abstraction provided for by the standards alone will not easily allow third parties or the operators to deploy services quickly and easily. Network Functions sometimes are still amorphous blobs with little flexibility. Openet has designed its Network Functions to be micro-services, thereby allowing massive flexibility. They are containerised so that deployment as part of the development of new services is easy and can be automated. Furthermore, a rich set of human readable APIs beyond the standards are also available to these micro-services that can be extended, changed, and interoperated easily. This also allows for the abstraction of Policy across the service, so that third parties who are not network aware can easily interact with the network. It is this flexibility and automation that allows for creativity by the service provider, be they the operator or a third party. It is also this flexibility and lightweight composition that allows for the Network Functions to run in a MEC environment, run several tiered instances, or just run as a standard PCF, NRF, or NSSF if needed.
Openet’s CHF/CCS is also designed in the same manner to be flexible by being realized as micro-services, and it is light-weight enough to be deployed as a MEC component. This flexibility however extends beyond the other Network Functions. The CHF/CCS has all the same capabilities that micro-services provide like flexibility, offers the same blueprints (off the self charging flows), but it also offers the capability to chain instances for complex rules, allowing for charges to be applied for the service that are particular to the user.
These features (flexibility, tiered charging, and automation) allow for not only new services to be deployed, but also automation of the business models so that third parties can launch services on the network without negotiation, APIs so that services can charge or change charging from an application function, and a host of other B2B2X and Enterprise models. Enterprises could even deploy a CHF/CCS within their own network slice for internal charging and accountancy.
Automated control and monetisation are essential to an automated network, because they give operators the ability to deploy and leverage millions of services to enterprise or private consumers. It is an exciting and flexible new world, where the flexibility and openness need to be across the network in order to exploit it.