5G offers many new, exciting opportunities and a mind-boggling number of options, dependencies and unknowns. Building business plans is a tough challenge, and any attempt must focus on transforming operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) as well as the underlying technology building blocks and eye-catching use cases. Without the right IT structures and design principles in place, 5G will continue to be confusing and is likely to disappoint firms hoping for growth. Following are steps for operators to include in their 5G planning processes to bring the full 5G vision to life.
Plan in stages across divisions
Very few of 5G’s full capabilities will be part of early deployments, so setting realistic expectations is important. Firms should take a step-by-step approach involving technology, operations and business divisions to identify the key operational changes required to offer all kinds of 5G use cases, not just the technical ones. Differentiated service capabilities will require sophisticated business planning. Operators should build phased plans and ensure that the base technology and operational processes will be in place to deliver service offerings to market on time and that they will scale.
Think horizontally as well as vertically
Single use cases are unlikely to deliver the return on investment businesses are looking for. Flexibility is 5G’s great differentiator. Operators should build business cases based on multiple use cases using a single flexible infrastructure.
Introduce automation from the start
Developing services quickly and at scale is inherent in many 5G service offerings. Manual processes will not be able to keep up with the service demand, nor take advantage of the efficiency potential of virtualized networks.
Deploy artificial intelligence to replace human and policy-driven processes and move from reactive to proactive. This is likely to require a combination of traditional network engineering knowledge as well as advanced coding capabilities. These are rarely found in the same individuals and organisations must identify how they will bring these skill sets together.
Use a common approach to data
The business must adopt a common approach to data across all IT domains. Data from the network will be used to inform customers, and information from the customer will impact on the network and everything in between. Data must be made easily available and usable across IT. Use standard APIs, to enable efficient sharing and access to data.
OSS/BSS boundaries and IT operations silos must be broken down. Even the most effective siloed operation cannot guarantee the successful creation, operation and settlement of differentiated 5G services. Single processes must be replaced by a series of related process loops. Firms must coordinate orchestration and management to address this.
Start creating SLAs early
Service level agreements will be a very important part of selling differentiated 5G services and the majority of current SLAs and their supporting business and legal processes will not meet the future requirements of 5G. Solving these issues and particularly establishing flexible legal contracts will be essential and will take considerable time to develop.
Include the sales team in product development
Selling differentiated services is very different from selling basic connectivity. Learn from the experiences of fixed enterprise and wholesale businesses to understand how best to train sales staff and equip them with the necessary tools.
Understand risks and rewards in your market
Every market is different and will offer different opportunities. Understanding the needs of the end user will be important in building a successful 5G business plan.