A successful 5G rollout is not just about upgrading existing basestations or deploying some new ones. Nor is it simply an upgrade of core network capabilities, although these will be critical to delivering low latency and network slicing. Rather, from a marketing standpoint, a successful 5G rollout will require network planning tools that enable operators to deliver a differentiated service experience versus 4G. And, from a financial standpoint, a successful 5G rollout must bring new opportunities for monetization while enabling the operator to keep operating costs under control. To address these objectives Huawei announced several new solutions at its recent products and solutions launch event in London on Feb. 20-21.
Huawei's SmartCare solution spans several areas including network planning and optimization. For this task it offers a high-precision propagation model and 3D coverage simulation that enables accurate site planning and radio frequency pattern optimization. Huawei has released what it calls the first-ever "5G Service Experience-based Network Planning Criteria" which are designed to address the strict requirements of 5G around data rates and latency. The SmartCare E-Planning Model includes three layers (and a two-step mapping between layers): from user experience to service quality requirements, and then to network capability benchmarks. Huawei believes this model makes carriers' network planning and investment more efficient while providing a high-quality of experience for 5G users. To learn more about this approach check out this Omdia and Huawei joint whitepaper: 5G Service Experience-Based Network Planning Criteria.
Huawei also launched what it describes as the telecom industry's first site digital twin solution for 5G engineering. Digital twins are now becoming widespread tools in various industries helping to optimize operations and plant maintenance, as described in this article: Digital Twins: A New Tool in the Network Management Arsenal. Huawei's digital replica of a physical site allows operators to accelerate their 5G rollout by using 3D and Augmented Reality views to guide onsite operations staff via mobile apps. The digital twin introduces technologies such as image recognition, curved surface geometry, and photogrammetry. This can replace much of the traditional site survey methodology of manual measurement, pen-and-paper records and tower-climbing. Furthermore, the number of site visits can be reduced by shifting acceptance from manual to AI-based image recognition. Huawei states it has delivered over 210,000 sites around the world using this digital twin technology. For further information, see this press release.
On the BSS side, Huawei released what it describes as the telecom industry's first monetization solution for 5G Stand Alone. The latest release (R20) of its Convergent Billing System (CBS) supports more than 1,000 billing factors over different dimensions, as well as more than 100 common 5G service combinations. As a leading contributor to 3GPP 5G billing standards, Huawei's CBS R20 adheres to the Services Based Architecture and 3GPP interfaces. The system supports Non-Stand Alone 5G for those operators (the majority) who are implementing this first before moving to Stand Alone. The system has over 300 APIs which Huawei says should help operators uncover new monetization opportunities by opening their platform to third party developers. Huawei's CBS is used by more than 200 service providers globally and the latest release has been deployed on STC's 5G SA network in Kuwait. To read more about CBS R20, and the changes in convergent billing architecture that 5G brings, see this article on Mobile World Live.
Operators across the world are still in the early phase of 5G deployment. It is inevitable that after years of hype, the initial 5G offerings sometimes fail to live up to expectations. However, as this recent article (5G Is Doing Surprisingly Well) suggests, the "race to 5G" is not a sprint. If it is a race at all, it is a marathon. 5G's "killer apps" may turn out to be complete surprises that only come to light as the technology matures and becomes more efficient and cost effective. As such, operators must be agile, ready to pivot to new use cases that emerge in the consumer and business market over time. For 5G to be a commercial success in the long term, operators must ensure that their operational and business support systems, from network planning to revenue management, are able to support this level of agility.
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.
— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading