It is a no-brainer. More than anything, 2019 will be dominated by 5G. Major operators are discussing roll-outs of different shapes and sizes, and OEMs are already hinting at the capabilities and prices of their new 5G-ready handsets. With its reliance on virtualisation and cloud for greater speed and bandwidth, and ultra-low latency, 5G is likely to significantly impact both network operations and customer expectations alike. With a simultaneous increase in AI and automation technologies, along with the continuing and exponential growth of the IoT, the next year will present operators with an unprecedented range of new opportunities, as well as the challenges that will inevitably accompany them.
Here follows just a few of my thoughts on what 2019 holds for the telecoms industry.
#1: Disruptive technologies will force BSS to evolve
As telcos’ services become increasingly digital, particularly with the introduction of innovative new applications that 5G will enable, there will be less pressure on operators to cut costs. The flipside of this, however, will be a greater need to improve the customer experience, and to demonstrate full transparency to subscribers.
While new disruptive technologies will undoubtedly be beneficial in addressing these needs, operators’ BSS systems will be required to evolve in order to adapt to the more complex architecture needed to support them.
Head of BSS Product Management,
AI, for example, will be increasingly used to automate more of an operator’s business processes than ever before, such as automatic bill checks, fraud prevention, and customer profiling. It will also play a more fundamental role in customer services, underpinning the chatbots, automated social media messaging and voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri used by a growing number of Generation Z subscribers who are moving away from traditional PoS call centres. All these make it all the more important for operators to update their BSS systems.
#2: OSS likely to be caught out by 5G deployments
We can confidently predict that 5G roll-outs will gather pace throughout the course of next year. This will lead to a number of issues with operators’ OSS systems, however, as they are found to lack the transport convergence and virtualisation modelling they need to support the automation of these deployments. As with BSS, OSS too will be required to evolve to meet the demands of this new environment - and fast.
As this happens, we predict that a perceived lack of benefits and reliable means of monetisation will mean that few operators will deploy VNFs in their networks. For now, at least, it’s likely that any investment in VNFs will be concerned with the Core network, with RAN networks following in late 2019/early 2020.
#3: The changing face of service assurance
During 2019 we will see an increasing requirement for the automation of service assurance processes. As progressive 5G deployments continue to change the environment throughout the year, operators will face a range of new and previously unexplored challenges, and will require new and more effective methods of tackling them.
We will also see machine learning functions dominate the integrated assurance and analytics domain. These will be further strengthened by the role ML plays in new technologies such as VNF, which is expected to become more widely adopted throughout the year, and its new management methods based on self-organisation, such as SDN, not to mention the need for managing the new 5G networks.
#4: Unleashing the IoT
2018 saw a great deal of interest in IoT solutions from small and medium companies. Next year, with 5G’s high speed and ultra-low latency set to unlock the IoT’s full potential, we can expect to see even more deployments.
They won’t necessarily be related to specific industry verticals, such as smart metering or manufacturing, however. Indeed, it’s highly likely that we’ll see IoT technology being deployed in industry-agnostic areas too, such as asset tracking or preventative and predictive maintenance, both of which can be applied within logistics, healthcare and manufacturing businesses amongst others.
Next year will also see a growing number of countrywide NB-IoT and LTE-Cat M IoT networks rolled out by telecoms operators, adding to the volume of overall IoT projects and solutions across the globe. Indeed, a desire to have greater impact on the IoT landscape and, of course, generate revenue from it, will see operators focusing their efforts on the verticals which they consider can be best monetised.
We should brace ourselves for what lies ahead in 2019. A change is coming, and it’s going to disrupt everything we know. A convergence of new technologies, combined with the unstoppable force that is 5G means that next year will be an evolutionary step in the world of telecoms, and operators will need to adapt in order to make the most of the opportunities ahead.