Clear away operational complexity with end-to-end “use case” thinking
This is the second in a series of blogs on CSPs’ future mode of operations. More to come!
Service providers in the telecommunications industry have traditionally built their systems and processes around discrete operational functions — billing, fulfilment, service assurance and so on — based on taxonomies and business frameworks defined by industry consortia.
That means every end customer service needs to be designed and managed separately for each function. The result: highly siloed, enormously complex operational environments that are a serious impediment to the agility and simplicity that will be essential in the 5G era. And that means it’s time to rethink the traditional approach to operations.
Specifically, what’s needed is designing end-to-end operational systems that bring together all of the discrete functions and apply them, automatically, to overarching end-customer use cases.
Bringing value from end to end
The use case approach tailors operations to business intent — what’s needed from the network to achieve the end customer’s goal. It’s about connecting the network to the business. The customer could be a consumer, an enterprise or a third-party intermediary using the network to design solutions for either of those other two segments.
This approach can be applied to any digital service today, including those delivered by the 4G network. But 5G’s capabilities as both a platform and an open ecosystem for innovation provide a significant inflection point. Nokia Bell Labs has come up with a set of eight categories that the highest-impact 5G use cases are likely to fall into. The first four are near-term, while the last four will take a few years to mature:
- Fixed wireless access
- Video surveillance and analytics
- Immersive experience
- Smart stadiums
- Machine remote control
- Assisted and autonomous vehicles
- Cloud robotics and process automation
Adopting an integrated framework
For any 5G use case, real-time, end-to-end service operations will require a shift to an integrated framework that works in concert with and supports market-driven, “outside-in” services across five stages: Design > Deliver > Assure > Monetize > Care.
In practice, this would mean creating a common, end-to-end service specification understood by all processes involved, along with fully automated delivery of those specifications into every part of the network, a seamless handoff from deployment to assurance, and automated execution of service policies through insightful closed-loop operations. In addition, current operational systems will need to be redesigned as an integrated suite based on a shared data model, with a common view of the underlying networks and a single-pane-of-glass view across the entire end-to-end lifecycle of the use case (instead of just one function).
Let’s take a look at how this might play out with the first use case in the list: fixed wireless access (FWA), specifically in the context of the connected home.
The FWA connected home use case
FWA lets service providers combine mobile and fixed technologies to extend broadband services to more customers in more markets. For the FWA connected home, the business intent is likely going to focus on customer expectations of reliable minimum network speed — 50 Mpbs, for example. This is familiar territory for fixed network operators but less so for mobile operators.
If the business intent is to deliver 50 Mpbs, then every aspect of operations needs to serve that goal. That raises questions. What assurance mechanisms need to be in place? How is the customer experience going to be monitored and measured to make sure subscribers are happy and getting what they were promised? Will technical support issues be handled reactively or proactively?
We at Nokia have built on our leadership in fixed network operations to develop approaches that will help mobile operators take an end-to-end lifecycle perspective to FWA operations. While it’s easy to focus on the mechanics of deployment — definitely important, when a difference of five feet could have a 10X impact on throughput — but even more critical is how the service is designed, delivered and assured from start to finish. Having an integrated process view and templated 5G FWA slices would significantly reduce time to market as well as the costs of delivery and operations compared to today’s siloed systems. Slicing in particular will be key to delivering any 5G use case. When network slices are templated based on 3GPP specifications, they will be fast and easy to reproduce and deploy.
We believe a few main slice “types” will be suited to different potential applications: FWA for the connected home; enhanced mobile broadband for video streaming and gaming; massive Internet of Things slicing for wearables and robotics; and ultra-reliable, low-latency slices for human-critical public safety and emergency services.
The network as a platform
As we’ve said elsewhere, 5G is far more than just a radio network upgrade: it’s the transformation of the network into an open platform for value creation, enabling new ways for service providers to run their businesses. In part, those new ways require a rethinking of the operational systems and support (OSS) layer. That’s why we’ve launched our Cognitive Collaboration Hubs (C-Hubs), which bring together service providers, enterprises and other third-party partners to co-create innovative, AI-enabled 5G use cases and solutions.
In our next blog in this series, we’ll look more closely at how service quality is assured in the FWA connected home use case.
Additional resources: Download the Appledore paper – Tomorrow’s Agile Operations
On-demand Light Reading webinar - A Step-by-Step Approach to Reaching End-to-End Service Automation
Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #FutureOfOperations #Telcos #Operations.