5G is not just radio – it must be an end-to-end critical infrastructure
To make the 5G business case fly, many Communications Service Providers (CSPs) acknowledge they need to “climb the value chain” with 5G use cases serving selected vertical markets and offering value-added consumer services that go beyond connectivity. This calls for new business models and partner ecosystems. Essentially, today’s CSPs will evolve into Digital Service Providers (DSPs). Offering more stringent, even critical, use cases to their enterprise customers will lead CSPs to consider their end-to-end 5G network as business-critical infrastructure.
CSPs’ 5G radio investments in Europe may start in 2019 but will be limited. It is more likely that 5G radio investments will be at cruising speed in 2020-2021. In any case, CSPs cannot renovate all aspects of their networks at the same time. Apart from being impractical, such a big bang approach would bust their CapEx and resource constraints. Instead, CSPs can start to modernize their networks by adopting a step-by-step approach and monetize enhancements at each stage.
The 5G network then becomes optimized across all its parts. The good news is that such an approach enhances their current 2G/3G/4G offers while they prepare their network for 5G. It will make 5G one of their simplest deployments to date.
End-to-end 5G in Europe: from Wave 1 to “Enhanced Use Cases” in Wave 2
CSPs will not be able to launch complex or targeted 5G use cases for vertical markets on “Day One”. The first 5G smartphones will not support some key 5G features such as the Stand-Alone mode, which is essential for advanced use cases requiring “Network Slicing”.
That’s OK though. CSPs are likely to focus on gaining a first-mover advantage with consumer-oriented mobile broadband use cases, such as enhanced video or Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). 5G will bring additional capacity and throughput to enhance existing services. This first phase is essential to underpin the success of the 5G business case.
In the second wave of 5G use cases, CSPs will begin to turn into DSPs. Even though they may not yet be able to fully define the specific markets in which they wish to operate in the future, leading European CSPs are today setting out other dimensions of their network that need to be ready when the ecosystem is mature enough. This will bring their networks to an “Enhanced 5G” level. To give a few examples:
- locating their Edge Data Centers at the “right” positions in their networks
- considering end-to-end security to protect 5G critical infrastructure
- automating the creation and lifecycle management of network slices.
Nokia can help this network transition with a pre-designed, pre-integrated, yet fully open, 5G network, based on its Future X network architecture blueprint.
While discussions of these topics are happening at executive level, a recent Nokia assessment found only 20 percent of CSPs in Europe leverage the full set of dimensions needed for “Enhanced 5G” in their network evolution plans. This assessment is being presented and discussed with each CSP by Nokia. It will be conducted on a quarterly basis to monitor the technology readiness of European CSPs towards end-to-end 5G, so stay tuned.
5G is not just a radio play. It encompasses key 5G enablers throughout CSP organizations that are needed to realize the vision of “Enhanced 5G” and unleash its full potential.
And by the way, CSPs can already test “Wave 2” use cases using today’s technologies (such as 4G and NB-IoT), so they are better prepared for the full force of 5G.
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