RECAP: Network Transformation for 5G
Author: Derek Kerton, Chairman, Telecom Council
Hot on the heels of Thanksgiving, the ComTech Forum hosted a meeting about the Network Transformations around 5G. Of course, 5G is a radio interface, but it is much more. Not only does it include specifications for new spectrum, device-to-device comms, IoT, and more on the official side, it also unofficially is a trigger or “turning point” where there is no sense launching 5G if you haven’t digitally transformed your network. Therefore, we heard from speakers about the need for Software Defined Networks, virtualization, Open, and AI systems to manage and orchestrate these networks. The summary quote from the whole meeting could be seen as, “Yes, these things can be done as part of LTE, they can be done separately, but when done with 5G, they are BETTER TOGETHER.”
And 5G isn’t just a tech standard. It isn’t even a wave of digital transformation technologies that come with that standard. In the broadest sense, Pete Jarich of Global Data explained, we must also consider the BUSINESS MODELS that 5G enables, and prepare them with as much care as the tech. If 5G enables Network Slicing, then how do we sell that? If Low Latency allows new tiers of services and SLAs, how is it marketed? If Mobile Edge Compute allows super-low latency, on prem networks, and other benefits, how do network operators create the of B-to-B-to-C or aaS partnerships and business models to enable the end service, and participate.
Caroline Chan, VP and GM, 5G Infrastructure Division of Intel, picked up where Peter left off, offering some tools for network differentiation with 5G, and suggested methodologies for network operators to build services with new revenues on the new network. This was followed by a great panel looking at the risks and rewards network operators will face with 5G, and how they can get an ROI on that investment.
After rapid fire presentations from Vasona Networks, Mobilestack Inc, and Serena, all with offerings related to 5G, we moved into our group discussion.
Because of the nature of the presentations, an interesting question came up and dominated the discussion time for the room: IF network operators differentiate their network by QoS, latency levels, SLAs, and sell different tiers of service, does that violate the principles of Network Neutrality, which are enforced with different levels of rigor in various nations? The room disagreed on this point, with many saying that offering different SLAs was open so long as all levels are offered to all users without preference and at the same pricing. Others saw this as a possible creation of a slow lane, or at the very least, the tools that could create a slow lane. My take is that, yes, these tools could be used to discriminate and put some content in a slow lane that could violate NN, but it is only when those tools are used in that way that NN is violated, not just the existence of the tool itself. The tools are also very useful for product differentiation, competition with other network operators, offering buyers just the services they want. Of course, we didn’t solve NN, but the discussion illustrated both sides.
Thank you to Intel for hosting us. Presentations are, as always available in our Member Library.