How should operators think about SLAs for complex, 5G enterprise services?
As the story goes, fully-virtualized, standalone 5G networks will provide tailored slices in support of enterprise services whatever that may entail–handling huge data volumes from sensors, providing high reliability and ultra low latency for precision robotics, or robust campus connectivity supporting everything from video conferencing and collaboration to AR-based way finding and workforce training. In the early days of commercial 5G services, properly (and quickly) handling that degree of complexity while also adhering to strict enterprise requirements is a big ask. So what should operators keep in mind while pursing this massive revenue opportunity.
In an interview with RCR Wireless News, Ericsson’s Peter Linder, head of 5G marketing in North America, discussed the process for engaging with and developing solutions for the needs of specific industries. “We have tried to put together different kinds of frameworks so we can have conversations both with communications service providers, mobile network operators, as well as enterprise customers.”
With a dialogue in place, Linder said the idea is to understand a particular business’s needs and look for opportunities where the network could address those needs. “Over the last four or five years, we’ve intensified the conversations with different types of industries. The process of navigating this is typically finding out someone that is strong in an industry, like an anchor player in that ecosystem.” Next, the problems are identified and sequenced from less complex to more complex; that information informs a collaborative roadmap for testing and scaling a solution.
So to the standalone point: Current 5G networks follow non-standalone architecture, which means a 5G carrier and supported infrastructure are added to an existing LTE core and RAN. Standalone contemplates a 5G core, RAN, enhanced transport and, to varying degrees, the deployment of edge computing capabilities. This combination would enable network slicing wherein a single, virtualized infrastructure supports logical network partitions that optimally support the bandwidth, latency, security and reliability demands of a specific service.
Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence, explored this topic in a pair of recent reports:
In the first report, Jarich details the importance of standalone in enterprise service delivery. “SA 5G networks will allow a wider set of enterprise use cases to be addressed thanks to improved latency, network slicing and IoT capabilities. These capabilities will allow differentiation against other connectivity technologies…but only if the associated business logic and assets necessary for selling enterprise services follow, including the proven ability to deliver on SLAs.”
Operators need to close the loop as it were between deploying technology, selling a service, delivering a service and constantly monitoring that service for adherence to a service level agreement. Among other things, effectively doing this requires investments in OSS/BSS.
Kevin Shatzkamer, VP and GM of Service Provider Solutions, Dell Technologies, summarized the need for telcos to fully leverage edge computing in the context of 5G services, along with the need for delivering on stringent quality of service requirements: “Where the real opportunity is on the enterprise side. Vertical industries will be transformed by the higher-speed, lower-latency, QoS-enabled capabilities that 5G networks bring. There are all kinds of verticals where [service providers]can create new services, specific applications that service those verticals. That, to me, is where the door is wide open from an opportunity perspective. ”