As telcos prepare for the upcoming 5G revolution, an important next step should be to overhaul existing Business Support Systems (BSS). In the first part of this blog series, Richard Doughty highlights some of the key 5G use cases and builds a case for resetting BSS.
Some years ago, the arrival of 3G was thought of as a game changer, bringing ‘high speed’ internet access to mobile devices and providing the connectivity platform for feature phones to become smartphones. Then 4G improved upon the 3G promise and made its applications faster and even more useful. The next big milestone will be 5G which is a completely new network paradigm, much ahead of its predecessors.
Now, 5G technology is going to change a lot of things. You can think of 5G as the enablement layer for the future technologies that you have been reading about in sci-fi books or watching in the movies. But what makes 5G different? Simple answer – vastly improved connectivity. 5G will bring a combination of high speed/low latency and high capacity (and hopefully omnipresence) combined with a pyramid of transport layers from 2G-5G that will provide choices to the Communications Services Providers (CSPs) which will translate into more options for end users.
Moreover, 5G isn’t just about the benefits of new spectrum. This new technology will also bring management tools which allow for dynamic spectrum allocation, load balancing and traffic prioritisation (subject to net neutrality).
However, let’s move on from general prognostication to what 5G actually brings to the table for customers, CSPs and the BSS.
Embedded value chain
CSPs are in an excellent position to provide the marketplace of building blocks that will create the value chain. Let’s take the example of driverless cars. End users do not expect to pay for the data service used in the car (and by that I don’t just mean letting the kids have Wi-Fi access in the back seats, I’ll stump-up the cash for that). 5G technology will enable business models that ensure people won’t have to pay for these things as add-ons as they will be embedded in the value chain itself.
5G capabilities will make driverless technology both functional and mass market. Think of cars communicating with other cars in real-time whilst we sip Mai-Tais with the seats turned around. Car-to-car communication systems, sync’ing with roadside waypoints, the telemetry back to base stations and the broadcast and narrowcast advertising that will both sweep for target vehicles and customer profiles as they enter and leave geo-zones, can all be a part of the driverless car ownership package. A next-gen BSS will need to support the value chain management and marketplace that enables partners and resellers to embed price components within each other’s offerings. The BSS will then need to evolve in order to manage the underlying catalogue and the overlying billing and settlement relationships.
In the example above, what sort of value chain are we considering? Well, the network that provides the identity (SIM/eSIM) and the data access; the smart devices/modules with embedded SIM/eSIM that are then embedded into the car themselves; the businesses that use that platform for the content they receive and transmit; and other interested parties who take a slice of the pie, such as advertisers. The cost of all this will need to be wrapped up in a single payment that’s ideally buried within another large payment or subscription that’s billed by the business that has the closest and most trusted billing relationship with the customer. Who’s that? The CSP, government or companies like Apple or Google?
Never talk to a human again! Does that sound like a good value proposition? Well, yes and no. 5G will also enable completely computer-managed services for customers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be the closest term to define these services but I am not referring to the grand vision of AI. These computer-managed services are simply about handling queries through pre-built workflows with fuzzy logic. Doing this efficiently, quickly and cheaply is best achieved through the use of third-party specialists in this area. All they need is nice, clean and standardised APIs in to the CSP’s platform
Replacement for fixed line broadband
Many countries (including the UK) have yet to achieve (and maybe won’t ever achieve) the level of true Fibre to the Home (FTTH) that customers want. Currently only about 3% of UK households actually have fibre in their premises because of the costs involved. For CSPs, the cost of disruption is too high in the cities, whereas there aren’t enough homes to generate ROI in the countryside.
Wireless broadband can certainly address this gap. One of the greatest costs is the Radio Access Network (RAN) itself, and then there is the lease on the land for the base stations and connecting these to the core. But 5G backhaul will allow CSPs to use existing geographical footprint and local distribution points which can be added without rolling out new fibre to the base stations. It will revolutionise rural and high-density broadband access.
Residential wireless broadband can be readily installed by customers themselves, while more complex B2B use cases will require an installation process closer to a traditional fixed line sale. The BSS should be able to support these types of ordering process and engineer/workforce management, along with more involved service qualification based on geography and network inventory availability, particularly if customers are being guaranteed a quality of service. Integration with physical network inventory, service qualification as part of the Configure Price Quote (CPQ) process, and engineer management will all be mandatory within the BSS.
According to a new report from the TM Forum, 67% of the potential revenue from 5G is reliant upon OSS/BSS transformation. It is therefore imperative that telcos plan their BSS transformation initiatives now in order to capitalise on the revenue opportunities 5G will offer.
In the next part of the blog series, Richard will deep dive into the benefits 5G technology will deliver for CSPs.