What is a platform?
A platform strategy can have two key elements: a platform business model that sets up digital ecosystems or marketplaces connecting consumers with producers of goods and/or services (like Amazon Marketplace); and a platform-based IT architecture, which supports an electronic marketplace and facilitates the digital business model (like Amazon Web Services).
Many operators believe a platform approach is mandatory and they believe defining 5G as just a new air interface is much too narrow. 5G is about the complete transformation of the architecture into something that is highly agile, highly scalable and highly automated.
Ultimately, 5G, network functions virtualization, software-defined networking and cloud-based platform business models are all inextricably linked and represent the best (and perhaps only) way forward for CSPs.
More than just connectivity
By combining platforms and 5G, CSPs have an opportunity to move beyond providing just connectivity to becoming ecosystem curators and enablers of many different verticals – from smart cities to connected cars, the industrial internet of things (IoT) and more. By some estimates, this market will be worth close to a trillion dollars within the next decade.
“5G has become one of the biggest catalysts for change in our industry,”noted TM Forum CEO Nik Willetts “In the 5G world we are going to co-design what our customers need with the customer. And if we’re going to really capitalize on the opportunity, we’re going to need to transform our business as well as our technology.”
That’s where platforms come in. Operators need the flexibility of multi-tenant platforms to manage and monetize services with very different network requirements. Some applications, like IoT sensor networks, require relatively little bandwidth – they need to transmit small amounts of data sporadically but frequently. Other applications, like remote surgery, need huge amounts of bandwidth, extremely low latency and guarantees of availability and reliability.
Delivering these and other types of traffic using shared resources is not easy, but CSPs believe they can meet the demands by turning the network into a platform and creating network slices that are orchestrated and assured end to end through automated closed control loops using intent-based management, analytics and policy.
“We need to stop thinking about networks as providing connectivity and think of them as platforms on which we can build real-world applications,” says Dr. Lester Thomas, Chief Systems Architect, Vodafone.