5G, network functions virtualization, software-defined networking and cloud-based platform business models are inextricably linked and represent the best (perhaps only) way forward for communications service providers (CSPs). By combining platforms, the internet of everything (Ioe) and 5G, CSPs have an opportunity to move beyond providing just connectivity to become ecosystem curators and enablers of many different verticals from smart cities to connected cars, the industrial internet of things and more. Following are key steps to take to make it happen.
Understand the benefits of platforms
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; and a platform-based IT architecture, which supports an electronic marketplace and facilitates the digital business model. Going a step beyond this to define platform as a kind of “universal application layer” that can be used broadly to model any domain means CSPs can use the platform approach to transform all aspects of their businesses, from business processes to operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) to the network itself.
Start at the top
Adopting a platform strategy is a radically different approach for telcos, one that requires collaborating with customers and partners to develop services, encouraging experimentation and learning from failure. This takes courageous leadership.
As the head of strategy at a large Asian CSP, notes: “Telcos are used to having this integrated model where we try to do everything on our own and fight the OTT players. We need to change that mindset because they are here to stay; they will not disappear. We need to position ourselves in someone else’s value chain – instead of always being at the front, we as telcos will become more of an enabler, which is a different way of thinking.”
Commit to using open APIs
As operators progress with transforming their networks, business processes and OSS/BSS, the next step is dynamically exposing capabilities to partners through open application program interfaces (APIs). CSPs that have not done so should consider adopting TM Forum’s Open APIs for digital service management. By aligning around a common set of APIs, CSPs will be able to connect with each other and partners to deliver and assure platform-based services end adopt intent-based
Intent-based management abstracts the complexity of the network at a high level and then uses customer intent, analytics and policy to manage it. By combining intent-based management with adoption of common information and data models and standard APIs, CSPs will be able to automate service provisioning, configuration and assurance end to end across partners’ boundaries.
Partner with other providers
The real opportunity for CSPs lies in creating a network of platforms, delivering a connectivity slice across them, assuring the services end to end and offering data analytics along with charging and billing as add-on services.
Operators should seek out multiple ecosystem partners who can help them expand their digital footprint and deliver new revenue generating services.
Experiment with 5G
For mobile operators, 5G offers the exciting promise of being able to slice the network to accommodate a wide range of applications with very different reliability and throughput requirements. There are many challenges including how to manage mixed workloads, how to increase computing power at the edge of the network to handle the necessary analytics and how to get standards bodies and open source groups to work together on standardizing endto-end management for 5G. CSPs should get started with 5G trials and work with collaboration groups to solve the challenges.
Address security from the outset
Service providers need to build a security framework that includes internal and external security functions and policies that can be applied right from the start. Orchestration will be key here, particularly for remote device configuration and upgrades. Service providers also need to consider how they will implement end-to-end security lifecycle management and how data analytics can be used to identify unusual patterns of behaviour in both people and machines.