The CSP industry has been instrumental in bringing Internet access to billions of people around the planet. But with fixed and mobile broadband Internet access increasingly ubiquitous, what role will CSPs play as the Internet evolves to support new consumer applications, such as virtual reality entertainment, and new business needs supporting Industry 4.0? With significant hype around the launch of commercial 5G services, will the technology live up to expectations and deliver something more than an incremental improvement on 4G?
These were the key questions that framed a survey Heavy Reading recently conducted of over 100 representatives from CSPs across the globe. The Future Networking Survey was conducted in partnership with industry standards body ATIS and sponsored by InterDigital, Nokia and Oracle.
What we discovered was a mix of optimism about the potential that new technologies such as 5G would bring as well as concern about the potential for increased competition. 5G is seen as a game changer that brings new opportunities as well as new challenges to existing mobile network operators. For example, 43% of respondents think 5G will allow new entrants (e.g., vertical market players) to challenge the incumbent providers. Nearly a third of respondents thought that operators would need to forge new relationships and work together with industry specialists to capitalize on 5G. Nonetheless, CSPs are confident that they can provide own-brand, industry vertical IoT solutions. They also believe this model will prevail over more marginal roles such as a channel partner for other IoT solutions providers or simply a connectivity provider.
Trust frameworks (such as two-factor authentication based on SIM cards and SMS) could be a means for service providers to strengthen their relationships with industry. Sixty-one percent of respondents thought that CSPs and vertical industries should work together to develop new trust frameworks. However, 50% of respondents thought that key vertical industries would also independently develop their own trust frameworks.
While it is too soon to talk of 6G, mobile technology and services will inevitably evolve beyond 5G. Nearly half (46%) of the survey respondents think the industry focus beyond 5G should be on a whole new set of use cases such as vertical applications beyond autonomous cars and Industry 4.0. A further 26% of respondents suggested the focus should be on using unlicensed spectrum to boost capacity.
Alan Carlton, managing director and vice president of InterDigital Europe, notes: "One of the key takeaways of this survey is the high priority of core network transformation. This aligns with InterDigital's view that much work remains to be done in this area. One of the early ambitions of 5G was to deliver a new open ecosystem in both the RAN and core network areas. The industry appetite for such a move in the former area remains evident in forums like the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the O-RAN Alliance. However, much standardization work remains before carriers will be empowered to a new level of flexibility and economic savings are enabled by a truly open equipment ecosystem."
Arnold Jansen, senior marketing manager of IP/Optical Networks at Nokia, notes: "This survey shows that a majority of CSPs see their current role expanding from basic Internet access to offering secure, industry-grade Internet services. Nokia believes that the IP network needs to be an integral part of the security solution and the first level of defense against volumetric DDoS attacks. The survey also reaffirms the importance of NFV, DevOps and cloud-native service architectures for more agile, next-generation OSS infrastructures. Big data analytics, AI and ML were almost equally important to improve network visibility. These trends align well with Nokia's approach to insight-driven automation based on a smart network fabric."
Todd Spraggins, strategy director of Oracle Communications, notes: "The survey shows that the industry is starting to see more traction toward network slice as a service, enabling service providers to unleash new revenue streams by operating in industry-specific verticals where they traditionally have not had a strong presence. Given Oracle's strong IT expertise, network pedigree and the overall Oracle Enterprise reach, it is exciting times for Oracle to help service providers reinvent their network and business, whether via best-of-breed components or end-to-end industry-specific network slices."
To find out more, download the Future Networking Survey findings and report here.
This blog is sponsored by InterDigital, Nokia and Oracle.
— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Intelligent Networks & Automation, Heavy Reading