5G and what it means for service assurance

5G; first there was a vision, then there was hype, then there were promises.  Finally, it’s here (or at the very least coming soon to a network near you).  Even in the UK, a market that was in danger of lagging behind on its 4G launches, we’re seeing EE switch on its 5G services in six UK cities this week, with Vodafone UK hot on its heels with a July launch.

So now it’s real, it’s timely to ask what will these new 5G services be? What will they deliver? And crucially how we can be sure that the promised answers to those first two questions are being delivered against?

These questions will among those posed to CSPs at the upcoming Telecom Assurance Cloud Summit (London: 11 June).

Ahead of the TAC Summit we can still get a flavour of what these new services will (or is that ‘should’?) be, by looking at a TM Forum ‘Catalyst Project’ which focused on the lifecycle of a 5G-enabled service and the intelligent service operations that power them:

5G enables unprecedented engagement and immersive experiences such as on-demand 4K video streaming, real-time 360 VR/AR, Drone Based Broadcasting and IoT–driven statistics at popular sporting events such as the Tour de France. Dynamic and static network slices supporting eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC ensure that the network can deliver streaming 4K video feeds, IoT-driven stats, rider telemetry and emergency service connectivity.

– TM Forum Catalyst Project: 5G Intelligent Service Operations

5G therefore opens up new opportunities for enterprise services that require ultra-low latency (uRLLC) such as remote control of critical infrastructure; immersive and cloud-connected experiences that require enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB); and industrial IoT and enabling smart cities for which massive machine-type communications (mMTC) will be essential.

But if network slicing like the above is the ‘advanced 5G opportunity’, it is clear that with CSPs launching 5G networks today with promises of increase capacity, faster speeds and lower latency, there is an immediate requirement for them to be able to assure these promised experiences.

Afterall, how can CSPs – and their subscribers all signing up for a premium ‘5G experience’ – know that they are getting what they are promised?  Without knowing this, CSPs will struggle to not only justify charging a 5G premium but to monetise any new future enterprise services. This is a subject on the agenda of the Telecom Assurance Cloud Summit and, with 5G launches underway, one that is top of mind for every CSP.

The route to the answer lies in closed loop, automated, real time assurance, which is used to guarantee Quality of Service (QoS) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for multiple 5G network slices with different service quality requirements.

In their report Reimagining service assurance for NFV, SDN and 5G, AnalysysMason captured the key characteristics of what it labelled ‘new age service assurance’:

“New-age automated assurance systems must provide monitoring and operations automation capability for hybrid physical, virtual and cloud native networks and services. They must also support the new NFV/SDN-enabled 5G/IoT networks and associated use cases around ultra-low latency, edge clouds and network slicing. “CSPs and vendors must reimagine service assurance to support these business and technology imperatives. The new-age service assurance systems must demonstrate six key traits, with the ability to exploit the inherent capabilities of cloud-based networking infrastructure and a roadmap to support autonomous operations.” [You can see more about the six characteristics they identify here]

At the upcoming Telecom Assurance Cloud Summit, we’re going to see leading CSPs from around the world come together to share how they are not just digitally transforming to meet the 5G challenge, but how service assurance is critical to it.

Service assurance is critical to CSPs as they transform into digital service providers and deploy 5G services that will compete with web-scale companies on agility, on-demand service delivery, cost efficient digital operations, speed of innovation and much more.

So when you’re reading news of 5G service launches and of operators promising increased capacity, faster speeds and lower latency, take a moment to think about what this really means.

If this is to be more than a glib promise and deliver differentiated – and revenue generating – new services, CSPs need to digitally transform their operations, virtualize network infrastructure and embrace hybrid cloud to enable AI at scale and massive big data.

And at the heart of all of this? Telecom assurance in the cloud.