With Nokia expecting to see 5G as one of the biggest upsides to the whole telco industry, the future looks bright for CSPs. Intelligent CIO spoke to Folke Rosengard, Head of Business Development, Nokia Software, about how software is key for the realisation of 5G capabilities in an efficient way.
What is the function of the software sitting behind 5G?
5G technology is much more than simply a new Radio Access Network (RAN) generation: it affects all parts of the network, how service providers operate it and how they offer profitable and compelling services.
It is a whole new business system that enables CSPs to respond to the massive bandwidth needs and enterprise communication needs fueled by the IoT and digitalisation trend. Nokia expects to see 5G as one of the biggest upsides to the whole telco industry. This is due to two things:
- A massive amount of IoT connections; and
- The need to provide a multitude of diverse connections including use cases with high bandwidth, low latency and ultrahigh reliability.
Software is the key for realising 5G capabilities in an efficient way. Technical capabilities such as dynamic slicing of mobile networks and a service-based architecture to enable multiple and diverse use case requirements based on agile, flexible and real-time digital fabric are critical for CSPs to maximise and exploit 5G capabilities.
What should telcos operating 5G require from the software that sits behind their networks?
5G requires a tight connection between network, operations and business with all the systems and processes working together to deliver and monetise the 5G use cases for consumers and enterprises.
CSPs must have a strong digital fabric that’s built on applications with five key characteristics:
- Intelligent: Analytics and Machine Learning in everything are critical to manage an ever-growing volume of data. Great experiences are the ones that are personal, contextual and fast. These rely on the ability to augment human intelligence with Machine Learning and analytics. They use the data to provide a 360-degree view of the experience and decide what actions will produce the best outcomes.
- Automated: Manual processes are too slow to handle the big data explosion. As such, intelligence workflows and bots should push automation to extremes to ensure we can drive insights to action with efficiency and speed using closed-loop fundamentals.
- Secure: With more of our lives online, customers must know they can trust their CSPs to handle their data. The new digital fabric must include security in its foundation to provide customers with the highest level of protection in the digital world.
- Cloud-native: To respond with agility at a better cost point, software needs to be built for the cloud, from both the technological and consumption-model perspectives.
- Open: It’s unlikely that CSPs will rely solely on one infrastructure vendor or partner, one revenue-sharing relationship or service. Applications must be multi-vendor, open and lightweight – and the complexity of the network must be removed or abstracted.
How does this software ensure the security of the network?
5G will enable a range of new use cases with a variety of specific requirements. Use cases such as vehicle traffic control and industry control, require highly reliable network. Human safety and even human lives depend on the availability and integrity of the network service.
To support each use case in an optimal way, security capabilities will need to be more flexible. For example, security mechanisms used for ultra-low latency, mission-critical applications may not be suitable for massive Internet of Things (IoT) deployments where devices are inexpensive sensors that have a very limited energy budget and transmit data only occasionally.
Another driver for 5G security is the changing ecosystem. LTE networks are dominated by large monolithic deployments – each controlled by a single network operator that owns the network infrastructure while also providing all network services. In contrast, 5G networks may be deployed by a number of specialised stakeholders providing end-user 5G network services.
This is why Nokia focuses on dynamic 5G security solutions. The Nokia security programme focuses on the growing challenges of 5G security management and offers an in-depth analysis of tools that orchestrate, correlate, analyse and enrich security data from a variety of sources and give them business-specific content.
The programme enhances existing network intrusion protection with cognitive software capabilities for rapid detection of threats. It enables a dynamic, massively scalable, distributed security to ensure integrity across and through each layer and network slice of the 5G network. This is further enhanced by our Security Risks Index, which is a dynamic assessment that measures across 13 different security compliance domains.
How does this software process data quickly?
Nokia believes ‘Cloud Native software’ is a fundamental principle for software for the 5G era. There are many benefits of cloud native software for telcos, including more efficient use of cloud resources, operational simplicity and horizontal scalability. Proven by massive scale companies such as Google, Twitter and Netflix over years of use, horizontal scaling or adding more containerised applications within a cluster, enables CSPs to provision the processing capacity they need to process data quickly.
How can telcos ensure the software they use puts them ahead of their competitors?
To ensure this, operators need a partner with the right vision, modern software design and the breadth of experience that stretches from customer care down through the network. 5G is about technology transformation as well as organisational transformation.
CSPs must be committed to re-train their teams and re-assess their current processes and practices. A new toolset using today’s processes for service definition, deployment and instantiation will not yield result in any real transformation. Tools and processes will need to become AI-driven and Machine Learning based, enabling end to end automation to act in digital time.
How can software help telcos cope with traffic growth and further digitalisation of services?
Managing and reducing the complexity, while keeping operation costs under control, can only be achieved through injecting intelligence and automation into the transformation process. As 5G extends beyond radio technologies, deep into the cloud, across mobile and transport layers, it will be paramount to combine data from RAN and non-RAN sources and introduce Machine Learning-enabled automation to create algorithms for use cases that operate across all these data sources.
Today, automation is popping up almost everywhere in the network, and ‘closed loops’ are considered silver bullets for killing complexity.
A recent study by Nokia Bell Labs concluded that closed-loop automation can only work in combination with a new architecture and – even more important – an implementation master plan. The full benefit of automation can only be realised if it’s done in concert. Small benefits can be – and are being – realised with tactical, domain-specific automations, but those benefits can only be maximised if harmonised and orchestrated across all domains.
How can software help operators seize new business opportunities?
As non-telco companies digitalise their own product offerings, new opportunities will emerge for CSPs/DSPs. With the new network characteristics of 5G and cloud resources sitting close to customers, CSPs/DSPs will be in a position to offer capabilities no IT cloud service provider can match.
Software helps communication service providers to reinvent themselves as digital service providers. A key in this transformation is to recognise the need for far greater agility with frictionless business and operational adaptability.
In other words, digital service providers need to act in and capitalise on windows of digital time. To operate in digital time, service providers need a holistic and real-time view of what’s happening with business and operations to determine the next best action to take – this applies for all areas of operations from marketing to product management, customer experience management, network and service operations, care and monetisation.
Nokia Software takes a holistic, data-driven approach to connect domains, derive insights and trigger and automate actions in the moments that matter by providing 360-degree understanding of a customers’ experience, services and networks. We call this ability to connect domains, derive insights, trigger and automate actions in the moments that matter ‘connected intelligence’. Connected intelligence brings together customer experience, operations and networks.
Creating great digital experiences starts with understanding the customers and all of the things and people they connect with. The desired experience is then delivered and monetised with automated operations, with an elastic, secure and programmable network.