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Jul 12 2019

5G Changes Everything

On May 23 in Toronto I was invited to participate in the Nokia’s first Canada Innovation Day.  It was a great event with Nokia playing host to about 300 of Canada’s telecommunications professionals.  I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the opportunities enabled by the practices, systems, and technologies that we generally refer to as “5G,” and the need to take a platforms approach to enable innovation and speed execution.  As stated in the title of this blog, 5G changes everything.

First and foremost, 5G dramatically changes the nature of wireless communications.  5G radio is designed to deliver practically real-time communications at roughly 20 times the throughput at today’s 4G LTE, and 5G can host orders of magnitude more connected devices the previous generations of mobile networks. We are only just beginning to understand the impact this new infrastructure will have, but what we can see is staggering.  But changes to the radio are just the beginning - the nature of the relationship between subscriber and service provider may be more important. 

For many years now, the enterprise market segment has been on a digital transformation journey of their own by, in part, leveraging the cloud-based IT services offered by companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.  These digital suppliers have and continue to redefine the IT technology and services paradigm.  They have dramatically lowered barriers to service subscription and customer on-boarding with self-service engagements, low startup costs, and fully automated, instant-on services.  The effect is changing the nature the relationship with 

5g changes everything

and the expectations of their customers, and between their customers and their customers’ customers.  In this new consumption and relationship paradigm the digital Enterprise have developed new resilient and affordable digital services.  5G presents Communication Service Providers (CSPs) the opportunity to shift to this platform offering approach on which their customers will define and self-provision telecommunications services for themselves and/or their customers.

As I discussed in my talk, the ‘relationships economy’ is displacing the ‘transaction economy’ for consumer and for enterprise customers. Success is measured in lifetime customer value instead of the value of the last or next transaction. Operations must manage platforms that support a broad range of services and ecosystem participants, not silo’d, single vendor services infrastructures.  And services can’t be only pre-defined and pre-determined, but subscriber and machine customizable, and ecosystem driven.

How do we get there from here, you ask?  Let me offer a classic response, “One step at a time!”  But seriously, we see changes required to the technologies, systems and practices in three key areas: the network, operations, and customer experience.  

As I indicated earlier, a 5G network is game changing and a significant departure from prior generations. There is much to consider - many parts and many paths - in this migration, and CSPs should consider the benefits of migrating the network core even before spectrum becomes available.  

Operations has to focus on removing friction and time from requesting and accessing network services, and exposing network capabilities to ecosystem players that will incorporate those capabilities into their own services offering.  Machine learning, analytics and automaton are the keys to transformation in operations.

Customer experience must shift towards nurturing and managing profitable long-term consumer and business relationships by anticipating needs and customizing service offers by monitoring the subscriber’s service experience as a composite of local geographic and social conditions, customer care and subscriber status, and network conditions.  Artificial intelligence and next generation charging systems are required here.

Each of these changes will be fulfilled by software, and hopefully with Nokia Software.  In the paragraph above I joked that we will get there, ‘one step at a time,’ but given the number of steps and the depth of the changes needed, that would take way too long.  We need to start in each of these domains as soon as possible – even in advance of 5G radio roll-out – to ensure there is time enough to learn and operationalize the new systems and processes needed to firmly establish and expand our place in the digital value chain.  

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using  #CustomerExperience  #5G #5GNetwork

About Brian McCann

Brian is CTO for the Nokia Software Group, having previously worked at Alcatel-Lucent, which he joined in April of 2015. His role encompasses portfolio & technology strategy and management, common software foundations, DevOps, and central engineering services such as Performance/Reliability for Nokia Software.

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