Powerful new technologies always give rise to a crucial question: How can we make the most of their potential? With 5G, the answer grows out of an important realization — that its greatest value will come from the world-changing new applications that 5G can enable for consumers and even more so, for enterprises. That is where the real opportunity lies — in driving innovation across a diverse number of vertical sectors such as manufacturing, health, automotive, agriculture and mining, to name a few. 5G technology allows service providers to “slice” the network, which is like giving each connected 5G application its own dedicated network, perfect for meeting its specific requirements and for providing the precise, industrial-strength capabilities needed to attract enterprise customers from a wide range of industry sectors.
The comprehensive benefit for service providers
5G-enabled applications offer a chance to boost revenues in familiar markets — and launch new ventures aimed at enterprise opportunities. Right now, most service providers primarily serve consumers, and as an average, only 22% have customers in more than one vertical enterprise market. On the consumer side, 5G has the potential to help increase subscriber revenues with more exciting, immersive and convenient high-value services. Imagine offering a virtual reality, front-row view of a customer’s favorite performer. Or giving interactive game players a way to compete anywhere, anytime, with no special console required. The possibilities are endless.
But the potential is far greater on the enterprise side. 5G gives service providers advanced capabilities for driving innovation, safety and productivity across multiple enterprise sectors — helping to take industries into a more fully automated future. For example, 5G can deliver ultra-low latency that lets cranes offload containers with precision. Or it can combine low latency with high bandwidth to support video analytics that monitor production lines for anomalies.
By enabling these new kinds of offerings, 5G empowers service providers to address growth markets and move beyond a subscriber-driven revenue model. But to capture this growth, service providers need to ensure their network performs at its best, and that makes the following list of technical points essential for success.
1. Every part of the network must be ready for 5G — The network will only be as fast as its slowest link. Each element has to be dimensioned for 5G speeds. And for a true 5G experience overall — with low latency, high bandwidth and an ability to connect with billions of devices — an end-to-end evolution plan is needed. That means upgrading the core, radio and all the transport links that connect them. Every step on this evolution journey brings value, but this comprehensive approach is key to bring the 5G opportunity to life.
2. A distributed cloud-based architecture is essential — Much of the network must be pushed to the edge using cloud technology — a crucial balance between edge and centralized cloud that delivers cost-effective scale, agility and low latency needs to be struck. In fact, ultra-low latency applications would be extremely hard to create without localized service delivery, since light can only travel about 100 km in one millisecond round trip in a fiber.
3. Security is required everywhere and managed proactively — Enterprises and consumers want to feel sure that their data is treated carefully and only used for the intended purpose. This means that security needs to be incorporated into every element of the network and embedded in every step of network operations. Using artificial intelligence and automation to detect, prevent and help fix any issues is vital.
4. Gear up for services beyond connectivity — This means preparing to operate with new network service models, because offering gigabytes and gigabits per second is unlikely to allow a service provider to grow revenues. In the 5G world, a committed package of speed, latency and reliability (also known as a “slice”) must be set up specifically for the devices or sensors that will have 5G connections. The only way to do this as “zero touch” is with the latest AI and automation techniques: the complexity is such that it could not be done in real time without. Compared with the seven million base station sites currently in operation, Nokia estimates that there are fifteen million industrial sites around the world that could benefit from these kinds of connections, offering tremendous revenue growth opportunities for service providers.
5. Get ready to serve customers beyond consumers — A new end-to-end, cloud-native, secure 5G architecture can handle the complexity of many more use cases, in many more industries. End-to-end slicing allows enterprise services and applications to be individually customized. The possibilities are tremendous in our rapidly changing world. These could start with public safety services based on video analytics and surveillance, or remote robotics for manufacturing and logistics. Then autonomous driving and e-health with predictive remote health assessments. 5G can even enable entire ecosystems, such as a harbor that runs off-the-shelf applications for their remote cranes, autonomous vehicles, CCTV cameras and other devices.
This checklist is short, but powerful and comprehensive. It provides a foundation for making the most of 5G technology’s possibilities, monetizing every incremental investment linked to the uptake of new services, and combining them for business success.
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