Five telco trends and technologies to watch in 2022
Last year, 2021, saw a significant acceleration in the building out of 5G networks across the globe. Yet, the telco world is awash with many other developments that promise to make 2022 just as, if not more, important. I have been privileged to enjoy many conversations with decision makers at communications service providers (CSPs) and other industry partners. Based on these and looking at the industry’s direction, I’ve picked five top developments worth tracking during 2022.
Convergence of wireline/wireless and IT/ telco
Today, CSP networks are pretty much siloed. They use different access, transport and core domains, while wireless and wireline subscribers are served by distinct OSS systems, authentication mechanisms, databases and more. Some 50 percent of global CSPs have both fixed and mobile assets, yet a high percentage of them still do not offer fixed mobile convergence (FMC) bundles.
Converging networks and systems across wireline, wireless and Private Enterprise 5G networks will deliver benefits that include unified and simplified operations, unified service delivery, cost savings and opportunities for new applications that span all access types.
Meanwhile, the convergence of IT and Telco Cloud is a growing trend that takes advantage of common cloud resources for any workload to optimize and reuse data center investments, reduce operating costs, drive elasticity, and enable on-demand resources. The adoption of Hybrid Cloud to leverage Public Cloud for hosting 5G cloud is another trend that brings the benefits of OPEX-based consumption models.
A sharpening focus on 5G Advanced
5G 3GPP Rel-17 is nearing completion for publication in 2022. The focus will then shift to Rel-18 to establish 5G Advanced specifications, probably around the end of 2023 or early 2024. Paving the way to 6G, 5G-Advanced is an evolution of 5G New Radio (NR) and the 5G Core.
The expected enhancements will bring new capabilities to support advanced applications such as Extended Reality technologies driven by Web 3.0, drone control, autonomous self-driving and cloud gaming. Many performance enhancements are expected in areas including uplink coverage, beamforming, edge computing, IoT optimization and non-terrestrial networks.
In addition, CSPs can expect to make operational gains from data analytics with Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning (AI/ML), slicing enhancements, traffic splitting/steering and the realization of enhanced network energy efficiency.
Human augmented assurance of network operations
CSP operations are becoming fully data driven. It’s the only way CSPs can become truly customer centric. In 2022, we will increasingly see the use of analytics and AI/ML to turn data (from networks, devices, customers, services, social media and more) into valuable business insights and benefits.
Such real-time customer intelligence empowers CSPs to run dynamic and targeted marketing campaigns; augment and automate customer care; and provide intelligent operations guided by the predicted customer impact. Key is to eliminate organizational and domain silos by connecting systems and removing the manual processes that slow CSPs down. Immediate insights guide operational staff to take action to protect and enhance the customer experience. Many actions will become automated for instant response - customers won’t wait until analysis is pieced together.
A good example of such emerging capabilities is the Digital Assistant, which already provides capabilities to augment network operations. In the future, the technology will be able to report on network events not just when they occur, but even predicting them in advance. As well as suggesting operational actions, assistants will show the results of automatically executed actions.
Automation-driven insights to drive up CSP revenue
Network size and complexity will increase dramatically with 5G roll outs accelerating and billions more devices being connected as CSPs focus on new vertical markets like manufacturing, logistics and more. That means lots more data.
Fortunately, there has never been a time in which so much data can be processed, thanks to advances in compute power, cloud storage and analytics. Automation will deliver data-derived insights at lower cost and with more precision than ever before. AI/ML is a crucial tool for improving productivity and network reliability, but also to enable CSPs to provide new and improved customer engagements that will win revenue and protect market share from competitive rivals.
Expect a surge in new services enabled by AI/ML and automation. A good example is mobility analytics for insights into travel patterns, service use and behavioral analysis. CSPs will offer services to help improve city planning, transportation efficiency, driving safety, public safety and industrial productivity. And that’s just scratching the surface of the possibilities.
Software-as-a-Service to address new enterprise opportunities
As-a-Service models have boomed in recent years. Many enterprises are comfortable using subscription models to consume cloud services, for example infrastructure, software and platform as a service. Such consumption models are set for rapid growth in the telco world.
Core network Software-as-a-Service (Core SaaS) is an emerging opportunity for CSPs and enterprises. They can offer core network solutions with software and services bundled into a pay-as you-grow subscription. Core SaaS delivers simplicity and a more predictive, OPEX-led approach.
CSPs will need to make some investments to adopt Core SaaS. It’s essential to move away from manual configurations and embrace an orchestration and automation-led approach. However, as most CSPs have already started their digital transformation, many are well placed with enabling technologies like cloud and automation and can enhance their capabilities on programmability, customer self-service and monetization to become SaaS-ready.
What do you think?
These are my predictions for the top five technologies coming to the fore in 2022. Let us know if you agree or not. In my next blog I will be looking even further ahead to 2023 and describing five more technologies that will be making a big impact on the telco world in the longer term.