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5G’s Great Expectations

June 11, 2020 - Frank Healy

Expect the unexpected and have the agility to react quickly

There’s no doubting the test that most service providers have successfully completed in the past several months. Services that have grown by several 100s of percentage points such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have held up well. Whether recent societal changes will manifest as more ongoing trends will remain to be seen. Many business users who have been home-based for several months may be creeping back to changed offices over the coming months. As they do so, some expectations have certainly changed.

Spontaneous service availability will be the assumed norm. Whether these are new types of video-conferencing apps or entertainment or edge-based, device-driven IoT services the number and variety of use cases can also be expected to grow exponentially. Therefore media, applications and consumption via AR and VR will need to be seamless or they’ll rapidly be considered a burden. Perception and expectations of public services have also changed. For example aspects of healthcare and transport services that were already changing rapidly prior to 2020 will progress much more rapidly now. Not all new connectivity-led service elements will be successful but some will be and providers with first-mover advantages surely stand to benefit most.

Expect the Unexpected

Planning for the unexpected includes enablement of yet-to-be-determined new device and service combinations. This points to a need for extreme flexibility and infinite scalability as services and service slices need to bubble to the surface and move more rapidly from introduction to growth phases than ever before. Service providers will now be thinking more confidently in terms of days or hours or even minutes rather than weeks or months when it comes to testing services. Resources may increasingly be infinite in the cloud but costs also need to be managed. As services move beyond maturity, their use of cloud resources also needs to be scaled back or dynamically reallocated.  Providers need to consider “multi-cloud” (public, private and hybrid cloud) options. There is no “one size fits all” for every service provider given the individuality of their existing legacy networks or their determination to move service capability to the edge of their networks for low latency (URLLC) services. But more flexible toolsets will be a source of greater value as the move to the edge continues.

One trend seems certain however: regulators will make it easier than ever for users to churn and more demanding users will insist on it as an upfront option in any event. Seamless optimisation of services across interworking 4G and 5G will be key to the end-user experience as well as optimal capex management. Enablers that can bridge the expanding range of services across the two standards whilst maintaining great user experiences will also be critical.

Consolidation and 5G Control

All of this points to a need for greater control as well as ease of launching new services. This was happening anyway with 5G but will now accelerate. What the past few months has surely taught is that flexibility itself is a source of advantage.

Whether it’s selling movies and games on demand or services that make life a little easier, consumers as well as business users have been willing to pay at least a bit more when they are “in the moment”. They will pay a lot more when they see business value. Such opportunities will continue as long as there is no sense of bill-shock or resentment. For many service providers, the trust built in the past several months will be their greatest asset as they launch or enable a wider range of new services in the coming months and years.

For more information on Openet’s Policy Controller for 5G (OPC 2.0), see the recent press release here.

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