The 2018 Mobile World Congress was held between February 26 and March 1 in Barcelona, and more than 100,000 people attended the event. One striking realisation that emerged from the crowds in Spain was that despite all the excitement surrounding the development of 5G services, it doesn’t appear as if the industry is ready for it all quite yet.
A lot is riding on 5G, and the boost it is expected to give to communications. With 5G, providers are hoping to leap back to the forefront as a major source of innovative development in the worldwide digital economy, enable gigabits of connectivity on mobile devices and promote big increases in value in the B2B chain. However, there are a few issues that need to be resolved.
One is cost. It will not be cheap to roll out a new 5G network. Investment in infrastructure will be substantial, to the point that 5G will need to mark a significant evolution from LTE, and not just be a faster version of what already exists. Development in other areas, such as monetisation, along with other uses for 5G, such as autonomous vehicles and remote medicine, must come together to make the business case that will justify the investment needed in 5G.
It was thought that the big revenues from 5G would stem from B2B business systems and services. However, B2B users have already engaged with other business systems, such as VOIP systems, which lie outside telecoms and enable a whole raft of services on websites and apps that relate to functions via chatbots and different forms of messaging. It seems telecoms providers have also dropped the ball when it comes to digital identity and digital assistant integration.
Telecoms providers have some ground to make up to make big gains with 5G, and they need to make some improvements in order for this to happen. Providers need to look at creating communications resources via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and deliver seamless solutions for business systems customers to use these services in modes which enable automated, zero-touch, self-serve deployment, as seen with many cloud-based services offered now.
Two attractive facets of 5G that could generate large revenues are its potential to be a platform for all kinds of innovation, and network slicing, which would allow operators to deliver a dedicated virtual network that could be tailored specifically to a particular customer over the general infrastructure of the network.
However, most network business systems run along the lines of organising a range of domains that are disparate in nature and are specific to the technology, to the vendor, or to the service. The disparate domains are a hurdle that must be negotiated, since to virtualise networks on a large scale will require having end to end control of all those disparate domains, especially when services engage a number of domains. Domain disparity could be an obstacle to dynamic or on-demand capabilities.
DO or Domain Orchestration is required to facilitate a number of processes, including end to end services with a high level of automation via cloud networks, and to allow horizontal communication between different domains to enable integration. These are challenges to be addressed before the advantages of 5G can be fully explored.