5G industry news

Go-it-alone days are dead – partnering is a must for 5G

  • 4 minute read
  • Published by Tim McElligott on 19 Sep 2019
  • Last modified 3 Dec 2019
The days of communications service providers (CSPs) developing services and then looking for a market are gone, especially in the era of 5G. TM Forum’s new report 5G future: Targeting the enterprise looks at how 5G innovation will be driven by enterprise verticals and focuses on capabilities that CSPs and their partners can tap like co-creation, network slicing and multi-access edge computing to target enterprises with customized services.

The 5G enterprise opportunity cannot be won alone. This is not a statement about CSPs’ ability to do so. The same truth holds for suppliers, integrators and cloud behemoths like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

The go-it-alone days are dead. Partnering and collaboration are the keys to success in the 5G era and beyond. Multiple parties will co-create the future, co-deliver complex solutions and co-invest is shared infrastructure. But one-to-one partnerships alone will not be enough to deliver the scale and innovation necessary to carry communications into the new era. Digital ecosystems made up of many partners will be needed.

Make good choices

Therefore, one of the first and most important steps to serving the enterprise is to choose partners well. When evaluating partners, it is important to remember two things:

  1. This is not 1996. Partnering is no longer about best-of-breed, chest-thumping market leaders taking on other chest-thumping leaders in a winner-take-all death match for market share. Catering to the enterprise market will require a new kind of partnering and more diverse ecosystems. It will require open partnering and collaboration that delivers solutions on demand with dynamic performance characteristics. These solutions and services will come from companies who may be partners one moment and competitors the next. CSPs and suppliers alike must adhere to the idea of open platforms that allow and even encourage many partners to work together.
  1. CSPs may think they know themselves well, meaning they know their core strengths and weaknesses and who they need to partner with to make up for what they lack. In reality, however, they probably don’t. Corporate leaders are often the last to recognize their company’s weaknesses. So, before taking that first step in partner selection, CSPs need to make sure their self-assessments are correct. They should consider using a tool like TM Forum’s Business Architecture & Capability model, which can help companies better understand their current, not historic, core capabilities. CSPs can use the resulting capabilities roadmap to transform their businesses with partners.

Gotta serve somebody

Forty years ago, Bob Dylan’s new song, Gotta Serve Somebody, won a Grammy Award. To win the enterprise market, CSPs need to decide who they’re gonna serve with 5G. In other words, they need to pick a vertical or two to focus on.

Operators can no longer serve up general purpose services like voice. They will have to develop 5G services that focus on specific verticals use-case by use-case, so they must decide which vertical or verticals make the most sense for their business.

Operators should first consider vertical markets where they:

  • Have unique expertise or experience
  • Already have a working relationship with partners who have expressed interest in exploring the value of 5G and have the financial resources to follow through
  • Can deliver the latest generation of network capabilities or deploy capabilities quickly and easily to verticals that have a strong presence in the area and where both have the bandwidth and resources to engage in long-term, collaborative development
  • Can join an industry association like MxD in digital manufacturing to collaborate with multiple players in a vertical

Co-create to innovate

To address the 5G enterprise opportunity, CSPs should focus on three important capabilities: co-creation, network slicing and MEC.

Co-creation of innovative services – although methodologies may differ, co-creation in telecom is formal collaboration between CSPs and a mix of vendors, enterprise customers, leading innovators across industry verticals and academia, third-party developers, and even competitors to create infrastructure, digital services, applications and business agreements for delivering and monetizing them.

Network slicing – CSPs plan to use network slicing to create differentiated, use case-specific logical networks over shared physical infrastructure made elastic and programmable through network functions virtualization and software-defined networking. Each logical network is created in software based on the specified service level requirements of users.

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) – sometimes called mobile edge computing, MEC shifts centralized compute and storage resources and some applications to distributed cloud locations closer to users who require low latency and other high-performance service characteristics. MEC provides better performance while also lowering network congestion by processing traffic at the edge of the network and not sending it across the network.

To find out how operators are planning to use these capabilities, download TM Forum's latest 5G report today:

Download report