The world today has become Digital, with technology interconnectivity being the primary reason, and a further push for this by COVID19, we are entering a new normal with an explosion of data and technology dependency, as can be seen in the COVID19 tech infographic. In 2020 alone, the world will generate over 45 zetta bytes of data, set to increase to over 175 zetta bytes by 2025, a large portion of this data would be consumed in real-time or generated by IOT devices and managed by cloud-based applications or platforms. This data explosion is further compounded by the Connected Ecosystem our world is evolving towards, with IoT and 5G technologies improving, low- latency, low power, massive number of connected devices would generate massive amounts of data. According to Gartner, there are over 21 billion connected things devices plugged into the internet, set to more than double by 2025, becoming over 5 times the number humans on the planet.
With four technology superpowers Cloud, AI, IOT and Virtual network as the foundation, business paradigms are shifting with innovative revenue models, allowing disruption across several traditional industries. The connected ecosystem is set to open up multi trillion $, worth of new use cases, business models, products, and services, serving many new markets in the next 5 years.
Cloud the foundational Catalyst
The proportions to which the connected ecosystem needs to grow, requires a robust scalable foundation, this would consist of hardware components such auto configuring small cells in a SON architecture, an open software defined core network architecture and virtualized OSS/BSS to further reduce cost and build in flexibility into the backbone network. With the need for lower latency, jitter, more bandwidth and cost-effectively providing multiple SLAs, Telco’s have to upgrade the backbone network and wireless infra which is very expensive and in several scenarios an unnecessary, or choose the software defined virtualization route and define several network functions as virtualised network functions and control them and other network hardware with a software defined architecture. With similarities in algorithms and development methodology of the ITIL/ITSM and FCAPS/OSS world, Telco’s are developing cloud based network components and absorbing IT best practices by increasing acquiring or partnering with niche network technology firm and Cloud providers such as Microsoft, to leverage their expertise in managing hundreds of SLAs for software functions, catalyse development and deployment an open distributed virtualised software defined network construct. With converging expertise, solutions, and standards such as SDN, VNFs, 3GPP releases, distributed intelligence systems & frameworks and vertical associations, Cloud providers have been tasked with developing the foundations for the connected ecosystem for the 5G world. Below are some of the telecom use cases that bring out the potential of the converging cloud and virtual networks.
With the new 3GPP standards release, carriers and network hardware vendors develop systems that can generate new revenue streams for mobile broadband, low power and cost IoT equipment, optimize WiFi roaming for new applications and Integrate distributed computing models with cloud providers. With agility in development and integration, as the need of the hour, cloud providers could acquire or partner with technology experts to drive the growth of this 5G ecosystem. Technology convergence is essential to build scalable foundational building blocks for vertical use cases; Enterprises would largely be dependent on leaders such as Microsoft, other cloud providers and technology leaders to provide the building blocks to enable this.
Phased approach to Educe technology Synergies
5G as a unifying connecting fabric, derives most value for its use cases from its ultra-low latency, massive device connectivity and low power IoT features; it will allow organisations to develop new capabilities, applications, and process large amounts of data in near real-time, providing enormous business benefits across verticals. 5G use cases can be broken into 3 main categories as shown in the diagram, while most use cases classified under these would be realised eventually, 5G would take several years to move thorough this hype period and set its foundations deep enough to deliver consistent ROI. Challenges such as network densification, massive deployment costs, low penetration ability and range, pose hurdles to the immediate realization of standalone 5G deployment though, the near-term reality is LTE-A and non-standard 5G deployments. Enterprises need to factor this on a country wise basis, while strategizing the development and release of use cases, products or services,
Understand 3GPP standards releases are important in this process, the recent 3GPP release 16, improves standards for Mobile Broadband and Fixed wireless broadband, improves Scale connectivity, enabling Time-sensitive networks and Low latency use cases to kickstart; this will help factory automation and motion control use cases and products the most. The next 3GPP release 17, will take two years beyond release 16 as mmWave deployment has to be done on denser hardware, it would also require specific field upgrades, which could add an additional year to the availability of features, scheduled to release in the second half of 2022, it would define standards for Extensive coverage, Identification and tracking features, for Edge, Multicast and broadcast scenarios which would have extensive applications in Healthcare, Aerial vehicles, and Precise positioning use cases. As for network coverage, 5G coverage for smaller countries will be much faster, especially for countries such as Switzerland and South Korea, followed by Germany; North America will lag a bit with 32% population 5G coverage by 2023 mostly around metro cities and china should lead the pack in terms of number of connections around 460 Mn+ connections by 2026, largely in greater china, the diagram is an Ookla 5G coverage map as of July 2020.
Enterprises are increasingly in search of new revenue streams and innovative business models, to achieve this they are accelerating the convergence of the connected ecosystem and upcoming technologies such as video analytics, mixed reality, game theory and facial recognition, to create new experiences and improve positioning and market share. The connected ecosystem could be used along with Intelligent systems, to pull telemetry data from its connected devices, massage it in data lakes and use the AI tools on the cloud or peripheral systems like MEC, to derive insights or action on intelligence, to create these next gen experiences. Microsoft and other cloud providers would take the lead here again to create the systems and building blocks for these enterprises, below are recommended guidelines to initiate use case or product development for enterprises.
Enterprises need to simplify the management and assurance of these systems as well, Cloud providers, CSPs and technology firms would implement advanced Intent based networks and security that can convert business intent into network and security policy, improving service assurance, alerting when there are potential failure possibilities and making the network better, smarter and safer. Many industries are set to benefit from the 5G roll-out, but few industries would benefit sooner than the others depending the 5G spectrum availability and feature rollout, for example in manufacturing, 5G and cloud would drive increased automation and aid the success of the advanced Industry 4.0 model very soon, followed by healthcare, in which 5G alongwith IoT and edge devices would make MR video consultations viable, and support use of edge connected telemetry and wearable devices for continuous monitoring and analysis. Parallelly for financial services firm, 5G and AR/VR could allow real time remote VR teller services or new AI-based services, that aggregate real-time behavioural data to create personalised financial recommendations. Major benefits in retail, will be use cases converging augmented and virtual reality experiences, digital signage, video, pattern recognition to offer a more integrated personalised omnichannel customer experience. A later use case automobile sector, where 5G IoT, cloud, edge, wifi roaming would mature to create autonomous driving and connected cars. The investments needed to enable these and other 5G ready use cases are being made and led by Telco’s and Cloud providers like Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and others but would also need Industry and technology experts, who can synergise technology, telco 5G and cloud foundational capabilities to create truly disruptive products and services.
The Way forward
In recent years, there is a fundamental shift in the way Telco’s are functioning, they need to collaborate with Microsoft, other cloud providers, technology experts and 3GPP organisation to competitively expand the 5G fabric and connected ecosystem. Emerging 5G technologies will not replace existing wireless technologies (viz LTE-A, NB-IoT or LPWAN), they will exist alongside or even complement them. Microsoft and other cloud providers would be at the heart of this transformation providing the foundational building blocks to enable it. While Telco’s would continue to strengthen their backbone networks and densify small cells with consolidation and 5G hardware upgrades, they would also partner with Microsoft and other cloud providers to transform their core networks & OSS/BSS to a more virtualised SDN open architecture and virtualise network functions, to strengthen their 5G fabric. Enterprises will increasingly consume these use case development capabilities, with an Intelligent Cloud as the foundation, to define next gen use cases and business models, Microsoft and other cloud providers along with technology firms will play a key role in developing this. Enterprises that develop technology roadmaps and product strategy that synergise these capabilities, taking into consideration the phased release of 5G standards, availability of telco and cloud building blocks, and the complexity of implementing these new 5G products and services, could improve revenues and attract market demand fast.
About the Author
Seasoned Business Consultant, with a focus on mindshare and solutioning. Focused on developing Telecom and Retail technology POVs, GTM attack plans, win themes, emerging tech use cases, P&L optimization and global sourcing solutioning. A certified ITIL Expert, CTNS & CWA network SME and an AWS accredited partner. Areas of interest include 5G use cases, Automation, DevOps, Cloud Analytics and Machine learning.