A version of this article was orginall published on TM Forum's Inform hub.
It is not as simple as one might expect to deliver slices of pizza or pie to the specification and satisfaction of particular customers, meaning customers who are quite particular. Restaurants may have to prepare up to five types of pizza to sell slices that meet customers’ varied preferences for mushrooms, peppers or anchovies – although who ever really orders anchovies? And there is a difference between serving a slice of pecan pie that looks pretentiously small versus a gluttonous slice that might be served in the American Midwest or South.
So, if it takes proper planning and management to offer the simplest of products by the slice, imagine the complexity of managing, orchestrating and monetizing 5G network slicing. This is the challenge communications service providers (CSPs) are facing.
This new report points out that 5G slicing will not go mainstream until there is widespread deployment of standalone 5G, which likely will take about a year or so. But the network technology alone will not turn slicing into a differentiating, profitable offering. That requires IT solutions for service management, orchestration and monetization.
These functions will in turn require cloud enablement, digital transformation and full lifecycle automation which begins with service design and creation and goes through fulfillment and assurance to monetization and ultimately decommissioning. The graphic below shows that lack of automation in CSPs’ networks is negatively impacting their ability to deliver differentiated, real-time services including 5G slicing.
How to monetize
Monetizing network slicing boils down to the ability to differentiate a service by providing all the network, cloud and management resources necessary, including resources in a service chain constructed with partners to deliver and assure tailored performance and other characteristics end-to-end in an automated way. On top of this, operators need a charging engine that can manage multi-party, real-time charging and compensation.
Monetization systems also must support an increased pace and variety of service types and business models. They must support transitory services that come and go based on demand for special events, emergency coverage, field trials, etc. They must accommodate both traditional and non-traditional payment methods and respond to the whims of customers’ self-service configuration changes. The systems should support what Amdocs calls “omni-monetization”, which provides advanced payment flexibility and gives operators new ways to provide and extract customer value.
Amdocs, which sponsored the slicing report, says it uses some of the features above with its charging engine to support every new service the 5G digital economy may come up with, from IoT and media to network slicing and edge monetization. This enables billing for network-slice-as-a-service (NSaaS) charging models. NSaaS uses slice templates, which are models based on user requirements and applications that are mapped to the network resources required to support them. Templates are built for different use cases and business models and additional features and capabilities can be added.
Templates make charging and billing easier and more consistent, but the more differentiated a slice becomes and the greater the number of ecosystem partners involved, the more practical the NSaaS model becomes.
There is a strong link between the monetization of services based on 5G network slicing and the automated, streamlined management of the service lifecycle and underlying slice resources. This requires a modern, digital BSS and OSS that can respond in real-time and fit into CSP automation strategies, which are increasingly necessary. A modern digital OSS/BSS also needs to support services and infrastructure running in the cloud as well as be able to operate in the cloud itself.
OSS and BSS suppliers have been transforming themselves to this end over the last two years with good results. Now it is time for CSPs to put them to the test to make sure they are ready to support the biggest potential game-changer in a generation.
Only then can they sit back and enjoy a nice piece of pecan pie – American style.
Learn more about network slicing by downloading the new report Monetizing 5G slicing: Turning a game-changing concept into an operational reality.
TM Forum is a global industry association for service providers and their suppliers in the telecommunications industry.