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Network as Code. 5G’s new currency?

Network as code. 5G’s new currency?

To think 5G is to visualize previously unimaginable consumer experiences and enterprise services becoming reality.

That’s the alluring vision for service providers as they endeavor to monetize 5G and secure ROI for their spectrum and infrastructure investments. Driven by 5G monetization, the entire industry is alive with innovative ideas, creative partnerships, futuristic platforms, and a growing portfolio of revenue-enabling solutions such slicing, digital operations, automation and AI-driven optimization.

As an industry, it’s in our collective interest to drive 5G monetization. For our part, we believe that reimagining the network ‘as code’ represents the transformational shift required to accelerate monetization and increase value creation for all ecosystem participants; be they provider, partner, customer or end-user.

In fact, we think the network as code has the potential to become the new ‘currency’ of 5G.

Currency enables

How so? Well consider the concept of currency. Developed nearly 5,000 years ago, the Mesopotamian shekel was the first known form of coinage. Currency has since evolved in various formats based on lead, copper, silver, gold, paper and now bitcoin. But it’s not its physical evolution that’s of primary interest here – it’s what currency enables.

In its purest definition, currency provides ‘a medium of exchange for goods and services’. It allows the economy to grow, as transactions can be completed at greater speed. It enables people to transact with trust, make fair comparisons and reach decisions based on an agreed measure of value.

So, if you wanted to successfully monetize your 5G network, you’d be seeking to do pretty much the same. Enable a wonderfully frictionless exchange of services and experiences; stimulate innovation, usage and business growth; deliver at speed; and, enable users to create and derive value.

And that’s where we believe network as code comes into play.

Digital ecosystem services

In the 5G world, we see a new digital ecosystem emerging, comprising hyperscalers, infrastructure, networks, and applications. We envision the digital ecosystem as an interconnected yet virtual hub, where participants combine expertise and capabilities on a case-by-case basis to create 5G services and experiences. In this way, new service chains combine to deliver end-user value.

One practical example is surveillance drones. Here the service chain comprises the network, the cloud, devices, native and third-party applications to deliver secure, high-definition video and scene analytics that protect critical facilities and infrastructure.

And with the adoption of edge cloud for enterprise and industrial use cases, multiple-participant service chains are already being assembled to provide the necessary horse power for edge cloud data processing. Think remote medicine, virtual reality, robotics, digital twins.

Service chains will be developed to make Industry 4.0, Web 3.0 and the metaverse a reality. We anticipate thousands of service chains being created across the digital ecosystem to deliver new consumer experiences and enterprise services.

But they will need a consistent approach to make 5G networks easy to find, develop on, and consume. And that’s network as code.

Networks as code – see what develops

With the network as code, we anticipate a game-changing shift in monetization opportunities created by 5G capabilities.

It shifts emphasis from the traditional network infrastructure point-of-view, and instead has us consider the digital ecosystem from the perspective of the applications developer. For example, how can 5G capabilities make applications perform better? How can customers enjoy an improved end-user experience for a service or application? In fact, with network as code, the applications developer become a ‘net new’ customer set alongside enterprises and CSPs

Network as code recognizes that applications developers are increasingly essential to the new 5G services mix. With the network as code, third-party apps developers that participate in service chains can now bundle specialized network capabilities into their native code from easy-to-use libraries. (Remember our Mesopotamian shekel, and subsequent generations of currency? Well, with network as code we’re moving from the hardware-led generation to the software-code era.)

With the network as code, applications become innately network-aware and adaptive to the relevant service chain. This enables not only highly automated experiences at scale, but also individualized, localized applications, deployed via edge clouds as part of the network.

By simplifying and exposing connectivity capability for all ecosystem partners via digital marketplaces, network as code delivers a major leap forward in developer enablement. The network succeeds in becoming easy to find, easy to develop on, easy (and better) to consume.

New value

Extrapolating industry data, we anticipate that more than 80 percent of 5G value will come from service creation in the new digital ecosystem. Network as code provides the gateway not only to get value delivered to consumers and enterprise customers, but also to create value for digital ecosystem participants.

Of course, capabilities such as network slicing, abstraction, and converged charging will remain important components of the near-term 5G monetization armory. But we believe that the network as code represents a hugely transformational monetization opportunity. For example, with the network as code, XR services can give sports and music fans the opportunity to teleport through the metaverse to the best seat in the house, or even experience their idol’s view of the action.

Here at Nokia, we are taking steps with internal and customer initiatives to drive the network as code approach and make this kind of experience a reality. As we do so, we recognise and acknowledge the importance of open APIs, cloud-native as standard, ease of integration and platform exchange. Of equal significance is the creation of effective, use case-driven ecosystems that are capable of driving distributed service chains. Collectively, that entails creating a flexible, resilient, trustworthy and common approach.

Does that combination sound like a form of ‘currency’? Definitely maybe. Regardless – is network as code the future framework for 5G monetization? Absolutely.

Raghav Sahgal

About Raghav Sahgal

Raghav is a global leader and entrepreneur in the cloud, software and communications space, paving the path to a secure and digital future.

In his current role as President of the Cloud and Network Services business at Nokia, Raghav leads the transition for communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprises across the world to cloud-native software and as-a-service businesses.

He has more than 30 years of experience leading high-tech companies in the areas of IT, enterprise software, and telecommunications. Raghav resides in the U.S. and enjoys golf, running, and globe-trotting, having lived all over the world including his native India, the United Kingdom, and now the United States.

Connect with Raghav on LinkedIn.


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