How to converge fixed and mobile networks to optimize your cable business
In a recent blog titled “Convergence of wireline/wireless and IT/ telco” my Nokia colleague Amit Dash discussed the recent trend in telecom and cable towards converging networks and IT systems across wireline, 4G/5G and Wi-Fi wireless and private enterprise 5G networks, and how this will deliver benefits that include unified and simplified operations, unified service delivery, cost savings, and opportunities for new applications that span all access types.
In this blog, I will be drilling into the details of what convergence of fixed and mobile networks means, and where and how to effectively implement convergence to seize the vast growth opportunities in the market today.
Convergence of Fixed and Mobile networks is really about giving your subscribers easy access to services and applications from multiple types of networks from fixed such as DOCSIS, or Ethernet, to Wi-Fi from home, office, or public hot spots, and in addition to 4/5G public and private networks.
Cable MSOs want their customers to experience the same high speed and high-quality broadband network from fixed and wireless access points to consume services such as streaming video or business collaboration tools like Teams, or WebEx, while accessing critical enterprise applications either from the home or corporate office, or while on the road in full mobile mode.
What is FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) all about?
The concept is simple and it's about giving your customers universal access to the services they subscribed to from fixed and wireless networks or all types including DOCSIS, Ethernet, PON, Wi-Fi, MVNO 4/5G, CBRS 5G, and partner networks.
FMC was originally delivered through virtualized PBXs over 18 years ago, which simplified the contractual complexities for enterprise customers, resulting in increased convenience and productivity for the business user sharing services across fixed and wireless devices, offering value features like call forwarding, find-me follow-me, or universal voice mail.
Cable operators are shifting from being network centric to service and customer focused and making services ubiquitous and agnostic to access network technologies results in a universal service experience accessible from any network.
Cable subscribers want anytime anywhere access their services such as broadband internet, streaming video, voice, and business services, whether they are individual subscribers, small or mid-size businesses, or large enterprises, and FMC is a key enabler to achieve this.
FMC is not new, so what has changed?
Fixed Wireless Convergence has been around for years, in the form of common business voice services which automatically switched virtualized PBX’s or handed off between “soft IP” fixed line phones to cellular phones. Other examples network convergence include Wi-Fi which converges with the Fixed cable DOCSIS network, or in the case of LTE wireless where the majority of the wireless service is carried by Fiber backhauled from cell towers into regional and core networks.
The Communications sector has seen a drastic shift away from the traditional voice services revenue model to a broadband first approach, with value added over the top services including voice typically delivered via virtualized SD-WAN solutions.
With the advent of 5G and CBRS shared spectrum, Cable operators are planning a new level of convergence of fixed and wireless services from the bundled offer side of the business to the network side where devices will be able to connect to multiple networks simultaneously to access services from the most efficient and cost-effective network available using technology such as DSDS (Dual Sim Dual Standby).
5G can deliver the sale services and features across not only 3GPP networks, but also trusted and non-trusted non 3GPP network access such as Wi-Fi, which has enabled this new multi network access paradigm.
Why is it more important now, and what’s the compelling event driving it ?
This new convergence of network access capability will drive a new model of service delivery agility, efficiency, and profitability previously unattainable. Cable MSO’s will now be able to cost effectively offer and monetize a wider range of products and services more personalized to subscribers and businesses.
New 5G technologies have made this transformation possible, such as 5G Network Slicing, FWA (Fixed Wireless Access), 5G NB-IoT, 3GPPP plus trusted and non-trusted Wi-Fi and Fixed access, and Private Wireless all of which can be delivered in a virtualized cloud and edge approach creating new economies of scale.
In addition to the recent advances in networks and devices, there are a host of new applications which when bundled with 5G, private wireless, and edge computing will create a new growth market for solutions such as AI/ML Based advanced video camera scene analytics for a wide range of use cases and industry verticals.
Where should convergence occur now, and why is it hard to achieve?
This new world of all seamless services accessible and available from any device through any network anywhere, anytime is wonderful and now possible from the network perspective, but managing, securing, and monetizing services in this new model becomes exponentially complicated, risky, and cost prohibitive.
The reason for this complication is that each network typically has its own silo stack of IT OSS and BSS (Operational Support Systems and Business Support Systems) to handle everything from the service offer, to provisioning, activation, fulfillment, and even billing. Offering all your services across all networks at the same time becomes a very expensive undertaking to change or merge all these systems.
So, to keep it simple, this new FMC convergence should be implemented in two separate domains within a telecom operation. The first domain is in the network at the 5G core, allowing fixed line devices to access via 5G residential gateways to seamlessly access the same services and features delivered through 5G wireless and WiFi, and in some cases simultaneously via DSDS (Dual Sim, Dual Standby) while moving between these networks with no lag or interruption in service.
The second and more powerful convergence is in a new B/OSS required to allow MSO’s to quickly harness the value of multi network access and delivery of applications and services to the market in hyper scale speed without having to re-engineer their existing complex ecosystem of siloed IT systems.
So what is the right solution to achieve optimal FMC convergence?
Multi Network FMC access to services and applications requires an end-to-end set of OSS/BSS (Operational Support Systems and Business Support Systems) applications specifically designed and configured to enable operators to quickly offer, fulfill, activate, secure, monitor, and monetize. This can be achieved with out reengineering all your existing network centric back-office systems, by leveraging an open framework approach, which has worked well in the hyperscale world of IT. This is what we call the Open Acceleration Platform concept which enables operators to quickly access the OSS/BSS tools they need to offer, launch, and manage new services feature, and devices across multiple networks simultaneously.
This approach will give operators a cost effective and agile way to guarantee a consistent delivery of expected speeds and quality on a customer-by-customer basis and knowing what network your customers are accessing so you can assure, secure, satisfy, and monetize the experience.
The openness and agility of the architecture allows for any network, device, service, BSS/OSS, or application to coexist for rapid Go-To Market of new monetized network and service capabilities which creates new rapid market growth opportunities for Cable and CSP operators as well as enterprises.