For carriers and service providers (SPs), transitioning from 4G to 5G will require more than a simple network infrastructure upgrade. More importantly, it will require a drastic shift in the strategies around the way we do business. We’ve heard countless times, unlike the progression from 2G through to 4G, this “G” is different, and it’s true.

5G is the first network designed to support services beyond telecommunications. It bridges wireless and wireline technologies, and will need to support both human and machine interactions, interchangeably and seamlessly. Together, these will amplify and propel the next wave of innovation, some of which we’re starting to see already, into the mainstream — the rapidly growing the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), autonomous vehicle traffic management, remote surgery using VR technology and more.

But for carriers and SPs to drive revenue in a 5G world, they will need to move beyond the practices that have become standard over the past few decades, pushing the boundaries outside of our comfort zone by adopting new and different strategies. Here are five major industry shifts necessary to drive revenue from 5G networks:

1.     5G is the G of Services
5G will not only connect millions more users and devices into the global ecosystem, but each user or device will require its own unique service level agreement (SLA) based on its scope and purpose.  Whether that means guaranteed bandwidth 24/7, or only at a certain time (prescheduled or on the fly), or perhaps super-low latency, or even five 9s availability, networks already under the pressure of fluctuating demand will need to comply with shifting SLA expectations and do so in a cost-effective manner. The SLA criteria will need to change from user to user, and along with that, the profitable new services also must adapt – from both time to time and situation to situation – dynamically, and while fixing issues in real time.

2.     Taking the Assurance Blinders off the Network
Today’s networks are “service blind,” as the network’s (bandwidth) resources are designed and built as a pool of resources against a general aggregate of estimated service needs. To match network performance to individual services, carriers resort to resource-reservation, or dedicating bandwidth to these services whether they need it all the time, or not. Truly assuring services requires not only large investments in monitoring equipment, but also a plan of action, along with necessary over-provisioning and redundancies, to ensure service availability.

With the performance level targeted by 5G, monitoring performance and effectively minimizing lapses must be achievable across the entire network. Because changes must happen on the fly, carriers will need to rethink previous strategies and deliver service assurance via dynamic, proactive actions. This alone will ensure that services are delivered in accordance with SLAs in cases of sudden traffic changes, network deterioration, or failures.

3.      Changing the Provisioning Paradigm
5G demands a radical change in how we set up and provision networks since current methods for managing SLAs will simply no longer work within the 5G environment. Today, providers often wastefully overprovision their infrastructure to ensure they meet SLAs, whether the bandwidth is needed at that exact time or not because they have no other tools to ensure the SLA. What we’re left with is a massively over-provisioned network that, nonetheless, still lacks basic assurances for both service diversity and availability.

4.     Dynamic Networks Need Dynamic Management
Static networks will fade out of use as flexible and dynamic networks become the norm to cost-effectively manage the fluctuations of a 5G world. Different service types will need to be dynamically provisioned, optimized and assured. To ensure SLAs are met, it will no longer be enough merely to rely on the (static) over-provisioning that worked in both 3G and 4G.

The network must be able to adjust and flex dynamically to traffic surges (often caused by external events like gaming, sports, world news, weather, etc.) or, in some cases, failures. It’s clear the demands of the 5G market will not be met through the provisioning and monitoring technologies developed for a pre-digital world.

5.    Embracing Artificially Intelligent, Multi-Gear Networks
In the era of 5G, the sheer number of factors impacting the network will be unmanageable (by humans). We simply lack the capacity to process and then act upon the masses of incoming information – either in real time or at any time. Because of this, automation is not just an option, it will be mandatory. Deploying successful automation solutions for 5G networks means doing so in conjunction with, and taking advantage of, technologies like AI and machine learning.

Networks must be multi-gear:

  • To have the ability to combine multiple packet and optical technologies in various ways to create network slices for efficiently transporting different service types
  • For the built-in flexibility to enable dynamic resource shifting from one network slice to another, based on the creation of new services and changing traffic patterns

Networks must be AI-driven:

  • In order to achieve  necessary self-organizing capabilities
  • Autonomously and continuously create and adjust network slices based on service needs, optimizing for SLA performance and network utilization
  • Use machine learning to continuously improve the network slicing provisioning, monitoring and assurance decisions
  • Instantly reconnect or divert the traffic, or add resilience and redundancy, to the network to ensure SLAs are met

With the promise of 5G changing communications as we know it, it should come as no surprise that the industry will need to make major shifts in the way we approach networking. While this approach may seem like a radical departure from today’s methods, the good news is that it can be introduced in phases. We can test where and how it is implemented while we gain experience and confidence, then deliver it on scale over time. As an industry, it is imperative that we evolve to accommodate the new paradigms of service delivery and the groundbreaking connectivity that comes with 5G.

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