Fifth-generation (5G) networks, with their built-in programmability and advanced capabilities, will drive new monetisation opportunities for service providers; however, network slicing will be key.
“Moving from the traditional third- or fourth-generation one-size-fits-all approach to one based on 5G network slices will enable services to be configured to the specific needs of disparate customers, applications and industries in Africa,” says Amdocs South Africa sales director Ockert Oosthuizen.
While 5G is still in its infancy in Africa, communications service providers in various countries on the continent are looking to 5G as an enabler to introduce new revenue streams, as well as to manage increasing capacity requirements in a more efficient way.
However, setting up 5G networks and realising their full potential to drive innovative revenue streams comes at a high cost, he said, referring to the leasing of new 5G frequencies and upgrading existing networks, besides others.
Communication service providers need to find innovative ways to monetise the networks to build a compelling business case and seek out ways of leveraging the full capabilities of 5G beyond just offering a single type of best effort service model for all users.
“The challenge for operators is not simply to think of new ways to charge for different services. It lies in creating a network that can be tailored or sliced to meet the needs of specific use cases, services, applications and customers,” Oosthuizen says.
With 5G network slicing, communications service providers can split the physical network into multiple, virtual networks.
“[it is] much like having a pedestrian walkway, a cycle lane, a regular lane and a high-occupancy toll lane all on the one highway,” he explains.
5G network slicing divides a single network into multiple logical networks on top of a common shared network infrastructure across the radio access network, transport backhaul and the mobile core.
“The objective is to allow service providers to tune each network slice to the specific service use case in terms of capacity, latency and connectivity and then to measure and charge premium for differentiated services and for enhancing the customer experience, just like charging a fee for controlled-access highway toll roads.”
5G networks, being virtual and with its built-in programmability, enable customers to scale network resources on demand as needed and to accommodate changes in service and performance requirements, as opposed to the traditional peak-time traffic management.
This allows them to offer varying levels of services, or slices, to enterprises and other users, based on any combination of performance characteristics such as quality of service, capacity, latency, volume of users, location, security level or time of the day, besides others.
“Ultimately, the move from a massive physical network to one that is service-driven and cloud-based requires intelligent management and automation solutions to ensure it can be properly monetised. If effectively managed, it can turn a game-changing concept into an operational reality,” he says.
“It is therefore evident that the promise of 5G is no longer rhetoric, but can be realised with a compelling business case.”
5G enables massively increased capacity, reduced latency or delay and massive connectivity.
“These three enhanced capabilities of 5G open a world of possibility, from smart sensor monitoring to fixed wireless access all the way to autonomous vehicles, smart cities, remote surgery and much more. It is evident, then, that the true potential and benefits of 5G are its ability to enable, deliver, measure and charge for premium differentiated services,” Oosthuizen concludes.