5G industry news

5G’s dependence on IT transformation underestimated

  • 4 minute read
  • Published by Catherine Haslam on 31 Jul 2018
  • Last modified 1 Aug 2018

For those of us that work in or with BSS/OSS, the relation between IT and future developments such as 5G is obvious. We recently carried out research identifying that 67% of potential 5G revenue depends on radical process changes, and I heard a number of comments along the lines of “isn’t it obvious that 5G needs IT transformation?” 

The simple answer is no, it isn’t. Too many decision makers within the mobile industry do not understand how reliant their future 5G success is on the complete transformation of their OSS/BSS and just how extensive the changes involved are. 

In a webinar poll we carried out after this research, 30% didn’t understand the importance of IT transformation to their organization’s 5G plans, another 30% understood the importance but not just what that transformation entailed and how difficult it will be and a further 10% understood the level of change involved but not the impact. That’s a mighty 70% convinced that it is anything but obvious.

Part of the reason this disconnect exists is because developing and deploying 5G New Radio and the new 5G core network are major challenges in themselves. We should not underestimate the incredible engineering achievements involved in getting a mobile connection to deliver connectivity speeds, latency and reliability previously only associated with fiber. However, neither should we assume that these technology upgrades will deliver revenue growth alone.

Differentiation a new mobile paradigm

The 67% of revenue identified in the report relates to revenue from services that are based on a mobile operator’s ability to differentiate the connectivity they offer. It is this differentiation capability – the potential to deliver different levels according to user and use case - that marks 5G as a major inflection point in the mobile business and not just another performance upgrade.

Service differentiation is new concept for mobile operators. It’s made possible technically by the combination of:

  • The performance of 5G New Radio (NR), which offers such high headline figures that not all or even most will require full performance levels.
  • The flexibility of virtualization, which enables operators to build networks capable of flexing to meet different demands
  • The differentiation of network slicing, which enables operators to support multiple different performance levels in the same network.

However, it will be OSS/BSS transformation that enables the differentiation to scale so that hundreds if not thousands of different requirements can be supported at the same time and for performance requirement changes to be made on-demand in real time. That transformation is all-encompassing.

We’re not just talking about upgrades to existing processes, rather their complete overhaul and the introduction of many, many more. Hundreds if not thousands of settings and actions will replace the dozens in existence today. Furthermore, those settings and actions will need to be made and changed in real-time, on-demand. Static manual processes just will not cut it in the future 5G world.

No time to waste

The level of OSS/BSS transformation required also means that it cannot be an afterthought. Often, telecoms in general, see IT only as a cost center; a necessary evil that will be sent a set of requirements to meet once the big thinking has been done by strategy, product and network divisions. This cannot be the case for 5G and indeed any CSP strategy that is based around differentiation. IT has to be included in the development of strategy and 5G business planning. As I have previously written this cost center legacy is stalling CSPs’ transformation and future growth; for 5G such stalling would be incredibly costly – two thirds of potential revenue costly.