Rethink your BSS … Or fail at monetizing 5G (Reader Forum)

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5G is coming and bringing with it an explosion of data. In fact, experts anticipate that mobile networks will be handling more than 77 exabytes of data per month by 2022. That represents an astonishing growth rate of nearly 50 percent per year. But this data tsunami is not the end of it. Coupled with speed, performance and low latency characteristics of 5G, it means that tomorrow’s networks certainly offer the promise of enabling a wide range of new business opportunities to ‘cash in’ on the network investment. However, the successful monetization of those new opportunities is not always as certain.

While communication service providers (CSPs) worldwide are busily deploying next-generation 5G related technology, many of them may be overlooking another very important aspect of their 5G network — the business support system (BSS) that will allow them to profit from innovative new services. According to a recent study by TM Forum, 72 percent of CSPs believe that 5G revenue growth is dependent on transforming their BSS and operations support systems (OSS). In other words, those CSPs who only focus on deploying network equipment will fail to reap the rewards of 5G technology.

5G service strategy

Without question, 5G opens up a new world of opportunity for both consumer and enterprise services. Savvy CSPs are already in the race to build out 5G networks and aim to provide fixed wireless access (FWA) at home or enable better quality of service for on-the-go consumers in crowded city areas, in sports venues and at music events. Others assume the growth will come from robust virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) capabilities to enable delivery of a variety of desirable new services, including commerce and gaming use cases.

Beyond consumer services, the enterprise and industrial sectors offer even more new monetization opportunities. With 5G technology, CSPs will be able to support differentiated service levels based on network slicing, automated and digital business-to-business (B2B) services, autonomous cars, smart city applications that leverage the Internet of Things (IoT), and entirely new business models such as B2B2X.

Simply deploying the 5G network is not enough, however. For service providers to fully monetize 5G capabilities and get maximum return on their investment, their charging and billing systems need to be robust enough to keep track of every account, customer, subscriber and connected thing in the 5G network – as well as all related transactions. Next-generation BSS systems also need to be dynamic in order to implement changes and new requirements, as the new features and functions needed for the 5G era are still evolving. In fact, with this revolution largely still on paper, CSPs as well as vendors cannot really define in detail a ‘close list’ of all their needed requirements.

Nevertheless, there are some requirements that they will – no doubt – need.

Brace for BSS impact

In the 5G network, the BSS layer requires improved flexibility and agility to enable real-time rating, metering and charging for an entirely new wave of digital services, as well as new monetization schemes. Examples can be quality of service (QoS) charging, partner settlements and over-the-top (OTT) partnership and charging – but honestly, these are probably just a fraction of the new requirements that marketers will have for 5G monetization. So in this dynamic and ever-evolving era, CSPs need a strong and robust BSS architecture that is able to support such a dynamic environment, today and well into the future, and provide a quick time-to-value in delivering new features and functions.

In addition, to adequately monetize these new services and support demand of machines, connected devices and subscribers, the BSS needs to allow almost unlimited scalability. CSPs can’t be limited by their IT infrastructure because tomorrow’s 5G BSS will need to be capable of scaling in minutes, providing enough compute power resources to support peaks and ensure outstanding customer experience. Of course, the BSS should also be elastic enough to scale down as well, reducing costs when capacity is not needed.

When all of these factors are considered, migrating the 5G BSS to an agile cloud environment becomes the obvious choice. But the question remains, which cloud is right for telecoms service providers?

Build on solid ground

As CSPs consider moving their BSS solutions from on-premise to the cloud, it’s important to choose the right cloud that offers a robust and reliable foundation. Factors that should be considered include security, savings and operational capabilities.

Traditionally, telcos have placed their BSS stacks in their on-premise environments. As they consider cloud deployments, many CSPs look mainly to the private cloud, thinking it is more secure. However, research shows that security on the public cloud is superior to private cloud and on-premise implementation. Gartner’s recommendations for developing a cloud computing strategy state, “Through 2020, public cloud workloads will suffer at least 60 percent fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers.”

Moving BSS to private cloud also forces CSPs to pre-purchase and provision their compute and database resources without knowing if those resources will be necessary, or will sit unused in the data center. This is true for any production environment where you need to ensure some  buffer, as well as for disaster recovery sites and testing environments which are used only part of the year. It also still requires them to own the operation of the hardware and infrastructure, as well as all included availability, resilience and related aspects. These factors result in higher total cost of ownership (TCO), and they demand increased time and attention to manage infrastructure.

Moving BSS to the public cloud immediately expands data center footprint, resulting in massive efficiencies and the ability to offload significant investment in hardware, infrastructure and data centers to the public cloud. Furthermore, the public cloud provides elasticity, enabling CSPs to auto-scale compute and database resources when needed, and down-scale this when the demand is done. That means that you only pay for what you need when you need it.

Moving to the public cloud, while embracing a cloud-native architecture, also accelerates your time to market. With decomposition of your monolithic architecture and containerization of your decomposed modules, CSPs can benefit from a BSS that is agile in the sense of quick testing and deployment cycles. Having it on the public cloud also allows access to the latest innovations of the public cloud providers, in the form of AI/ML and other technologies.

Lastly, public cloud vendors offer fully managed operation services for data centers, infrastructures, networks and machines. So instead of focusing on managing their machines, CSPs get the freedom to focus on their customer base and monetize their assets. In competitive and challenging times, public cloud can also become the driver that gives CSPs the peace of mind to focus on the ‘right’ things.

As a result, moving the 5G BSS stack to the public cloud doesn’t just offer improvements in performance. Ultimately, the benefits of public cloud translate into significant savings — up to 80 percent in TCO reduction, and freedom to focus on what is important – your customer base.

Avoid epic failure

Make no mistake; the 5G era is here, and the race to the finish line will be highly competitive. In order for CSPs to be best prepared and positioned to succeed, they need to rethink their BSS strategy to enable maximum leverage of 5G service monetization. Migrating the BSS stack to the public cloud enables a robust and agile foundation for any future requirements, as well as quick time to market, agility and low TCO. The alternative is to fail to adequately monetize new services and risk losing billions of their 5G investments.

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