Beyond Connectivity: Why Platforms, Partnership Ecosystems and Co-Innovation Will Take Service Providers to New Heights

September 3, 2020 - Openet

With the deployment of 5G networks, what it means to be a mobile service provider is changing faster than ever. The scalability afforded by 5G connectivity has opened the doors for mobile service providers to become true digital service providers. The industry is digitally transforming at pace, with the world’s biggest service providers moving IT stacks to the cloud and recognising the agility and speed which cloud-based architecture affords.

Taking this one step further, Rakuten has built an end-to-end cloud-native mobile network. Building a 5G network based on the concept of openness with secure open architecture entirely hosted in the cloud, is a challenge, but the payoff is an incredibly efficient network. With its expansive ecosystem of partners, Rakuten - unburdened by traditional service provider software and ways of working - is a dynamic web-scale tech company which has 4G and 5G networks to offer services over.

For service providers racing to find the secret recipe to 5G monetisation, following Rakuten’s lead in entering new vertical markets and creating a services-based partnership ecosystem could be just the missing ingredient. The difference is that unlike Rakuten, many traditional service providers - still in the throes of digital transformation - believe they can’t achieve the same level of agility and flexibility as the greenfield service provider. But, is this true? Can the right tools, methods and approaches see the traditional ‘legacy’ service provider become the Rakuten of tomorrow?

Collaboration breeds co-innovation

In a recent presentation Rakuten revealed a 5G roadmap for future transformation, including everything from RakutenBank and RakutenMedical to RakutenEnergy and even RakutenDrone. Rakuten today already leverages a massive consumer ecosystem, delivering over 70 consumer-focused OTT services. In doing so, Rakuten is rethinking how it uses its network and instead of being preoccupied with connectivity, it considers its network to be a platform to enable co-innovation.

Recent research by UK5G found that 60% of service providers were optimistic about future success, with 32% aspiring to become platform providers working with partners to bring services to market. In India, Jio is fuelling this optimism by becoming a 5G platform provider, having recently revealed it has designed and developed a complete cloud-native 5G solution, making partner integration easy. Like Rakuten, Jio is not tied down by legacy networks as it first launched in September 2016. Jio now looks set to follow Rakuten’s lead, offering lower-cost connectivity (like it did with 4G) and supplementing revenues by launching an ecosystem of 5G services.

Traditional service providers need to digitally transform to compete with the likes of Rakuten and Jio, as they are currently tied down by legacy infrastructure. To achieve the same level of agility they must rely on collaboration with partners to develop and launch new services. To generate revenue, service providers will also need modern 5G-ready monetisation tools to ensure new services go to market as quickly as possible. Going beyond connectivity provision and enabling new 5G consumer and enterprise services will unlock new revenue opportunities - but only if the right monetisation tools are in place.

Digital BSS and network slicing to the rescue

Cloud-based, platform-driven 5G partnership ecosystems are the route forward for incumbent service providers looking to compete with the expansive range of services offered by today’s greenfield digital-first service providers. This ecosystem allows partners to collaborate with service providers to deliver out-of-the-box services. Reliant on the 5G Network Exposure Function (NEF), which provides secure access to exposed network services, a 5G partnership platform harnesses APIs. This allows partners to develop new services with network capabilities on demand. In turn, service providers become enablers and begin delivering a host of new services - in the same way that Rakuten is doing.

Combine these partnership ecosystems with network slicing and traditional service providers are afforded the agility and flexibility they need to offer a huge range of services, based on individual SLA-grade requirements. Indeed, network slicing will be an important component of this partnership model, allowing service providers to scale network resources to match specific service requirements. This affords a greater depth of collaboration in a partnership ecosystem, as each service can be delivered and monetised on a slice-by-slice basis. The challenge is that to be able to monetise different levels of service provision and provide SLAs based on QoS, security, reliability or latency, service providers need the correct monetisation tools.

Today, this manifests as digital BSS, which provides the flexibility and agility in charging and policy to launch new services at pace and monetise them in real-time. If service providers are to grasp the network slicing opportunity and deliver new services with different partners, they need to ensure they can reap the rewards of what they sow by being able to create new streams of revenue from these services.

Service providers willing to overhaul existing IT stacks and embrace the partnership ecosystem model are on the right path to becoming digital service providers. Going beyond connectivity in 5G and delving into new vertical markets requires collaboration with new partners. This collaboration is core to a platform-based ecosystem that breeds co-innovation and is essential for service providers to compete with the likes of Rakuten and Jio. But it’s not enough to embrace new ways of working if the monetisation tools are still stuck in the past. As service provider’s 5G services portfolios expand, flexible and agile BSS will be essential to generating revenues.

Original article published in the Fast Mode here.


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