Smartphone usage. Voluminous streaming data. Multiple mobile devices tethered together. All of these activities are expected to have much smoother connections once 5G is rolled out. Because it’s touted as the answer to latency or slow speeds, network operators are anxious to get started with 5G. For example, Verizon’s 5G home internet solution recently went live in four cities.
However, while most mobile operators know how they will technically deploy 5G, many are less clear about what will make it a business success.
A big part of that uncertainty has to do with user experience, by far the most critical area to focus on since it remains the most significant cause of churn.
With previous iterations of network evolution, ensuring network quality of experience (QoE) and quality of service (QoS) has not been an easy feat. The complexities inherent in 5G will likely make this even more challenging and could produce significant network management problems for service providers. How can operators assure both their networks and the service layer? Three things come to mind that businesses must consider when building out their 5G networks:
- Monitor inside and outside. 5G is expected to revolutionize how users interact with their devices. For operators, these opportunities equal potential added revenue only if they can provide a solid experience to go with it. Traditionally, operators have used network monitoring tools to glean insights about their networks. Testing and monitoring have been the standard practice, but with the emergence of 5G, it is time to rethink conventional solutions. 5G brings with it many more third-party applications accessing the network; many of these will reside outside the direct control of the operator, in the service layer. As a result, traditional monitoring tools won’t work.
- Resolve problems, make customers happy. How can operators be sure the 5G network won’t fail? And if it does, how will they find the origin of the problem? These questions plague operators already with existing networks, and 5G’s complexity makes them even more crucial. The truth is, most operators cannot fully understand user service problems or how to solve them. With 5G, operators can’t afford to leave problems unattended because it will result in significant revenue loss. Performance assurance has to be a top priority—at the network, application, and service layers. It must also extend to the Internet of Things (IoT), where users may be at the end of a long line of connectors that reside well outside a traditional network perimeter. Visibility into these connections is necessary but creates a significant management obstacle. The solution is for operators to connect real-time benefits with granular visibility so that they can have total control of the network—including wireless, back-end components, and the services running on top. This creates a holistic picture of performance across the entire service chain, allowing a level of control capable of improving QoE and QoS.
- Cloudy forecast? Make it sunny! 5G networks are more complex than their forerunners, effectively acting as mobile cloud platforms. Native cloud applications can affect network latency, and thus performance monitoring must span a highly fragmented, dynamic and “multi-tenant” infrastructure. Humans will be unable to manage the interplay and orchestration of microservices upon which applications depend. (Such microservice require microsecond reactions to dynamic changes.) This is where artificial intelligence (AI) will play an instrumental role: ‘teaching’ self-learning systems what is a normal impairment and what isn’t.
Operators need to take action on these three factors as they build out and test their 5G networks. This is their opportunity to deliver what customers expect: dramatically better reliability and speed. Without taking these obstacles into account, 5G will be just another upgrade with broken promises. However, if operators commit to having complete visibility into all aspects of 5G—through a real-time granular view and machine learning for instantaneous course corrections—5G may deliver the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
About the author
In his role as Chief Marketing and Chief Strategy Officer at Accedian, Richard is responsible for strategic planning and investment priorities, ensuring a consistent brand communications and marketing strategy, as well as driving commercialization efforts in the areas of global product pricing, solution marketing, and business development. He has more than a quarter century of telecommunications industry engineering, sales, operations, supply chain, and analytics leadership experience. Richard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, RF specialization, from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
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