Here’s A Two-Tier Strategy For Deploying 5G

prodcastfour_blog5 Autonomous autos, remote surgery, sumptuous graphics blazing VR speeds, IoT devices everywhere – we’ve all heard about the coming wonders of 5G networking. But telecom executives are having a hard time sharing in the excitement, since much is unknown about just which use cases will pay off, and when.

But that’s no reason to stall investments in 5G. The question is which investments are best, and when. All situations are different, of course, but a two-step approach – looking at what’s doable today and what will likely be needed in the future – can serve as a general guide for prioritizing investment decisions.

Such a guide can be helpful because many telecom executives are less than enthusiastic about the promise of investing in 5G. A Bain & Company study of large mobile network operators found that 53 percent of executives didn’t see any compelling near-term business cases for 5G.

Bain notes that “With each generation, network operators invest capital to upgrade their infrastructure, with the firm belief that those investments will lead to more satisfied customers and reinvigorated revenues and profits.

“But this time around, something has changed. When it comes to the next generation, 5G, some telecom executives seem to have lost their faith in the power of technology to deliver more. They’ve become 5G pessimists.”

What these executives aren’t seeing is how 5G investments can help their business today, even without opening up a quick flurry of new, profit-generating use cases.

A Case For The Present: Building Out Infrastructure

Even though vendors from AT&T to Verizon are now proclaiming their initial 5G products, it’s going to be a while before those products are able to make full use of 5G’s top performance characteristics. In the meantime, telecoms will be well advised to prepare for the 5G onslaught by working on their core infrastructure. For many, that will start with 3G LTE.

Thanks to the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) compatibility standard, telecoms can start the 5G transformation by evolving their LTE networks to 5G, so continuing investment in LTE won’t be wasted. Creating robust LTE performance also has the advantage of smoothing out any automatic fallback caused by initial unevenness in 5G coverage, which is expected.

One means of building out LTE infrastructure would involve upgrading to massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology, which will also be essential for many 5G applications. Other performance improvements can come from clearing 4G congestion by re-farming 2G and 3G spectrum as a means of upgrading 4G capacity.

Making ongoing improvements in network function virtualization and other virtualization efforts will ease the transition to the next major step: moving to a native 5G infrastructure. This will require virtualizing the core network by, among other things, separating the user and control planes, and it will open the way to creating value added services that come from features such as network slicing.

An Eye To The Future: Use Cases And Partnerships

Major 5G advancements will be taking place in the next few years. More spectrum will be made available and products will appear to make use of the higher speeds and lowered latencies that will be possible.

Also changing will be telecom investments, which will move from core infrastructure outward, to building out the new small cells and related equipment that will be needed to handle the smaller wavelengths of high-spectrum transmissions.

This will be a time for evaluating new business models. Because of high levels of necessary new investment, however, carriers are warned to choose wisely, and to consider partnerships, according to PwC’s Florian Groene, quoted in the Corporate Counsel Business Journal:

“A big problem today is that carriers try to do everything across several platforms, vertical solutions and network technologies,” says Groene. , “Also, carriers are increasingly squeezed for cash, so we should expect an increasing focus on partnership-based approaches to tap into product and service innovation.”

“The affordability question of building 5G at scale is one that not all carriers will be in a position to answer. Carriers may be better off providing connectivity, distribution and potentially some platform enabler services through value-added wholesale-type arrangements to partners that overlay content and software.”

Telecoms may find themselves and their partners working more closely with enterprise customers, too, as they expand their offerings of value-added services.

After all, today’s enterprises are undergoing their own transformations to digital operations. They’ll be looking for application awareness and other intelligence from their networks, and 5G, with its network slicing, network function virtualization, multi-tenancy and other features, will give the telecom the tools to deliver that information.

Real-Time Analytics: Guiding The Way

Big-picture strategies aside, different telecoms are taking a variety of paths when it comes to working out the details of 5G deployment. But one thing they typically share in common is a reliance on cloud-based real-time analytics to help bridge the gap between strategy and implementation.

A real-time analytics superstructure can help ease the 5G journey in a number of ways. It can create a visibility plane across the telecom’s ecosystem that will show how underlying components, from routers and switches to customer applications, are connected. This is critically important as new components are brought in to replace old, and as software replaces hardware. Real-time analytics can be used to help test out customer responses to new features and functions.

And real-time analytics can help transform the idea of “disruption” from a negative to a positive. As PwC’s Raman Chitkara, also quoted in the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, says: “As a matter of policy, we refrain from naming specific companies that could be winners and losers. However, we can say that winners have a tendency to recognize the disruptions…embrace change and make the necessary transformation to their business on a proactive basis.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>