With 5G looming, the MNOs find themselves again in the position of deciding their own future and direction. And I say again, because is 2004-2005 all over again. Then, the Mobile Data was just starting to take shape and the MNOs were facing a dilemma: become content owners and control the end-to-end value chain of mobile Internet traffic, or continue their journey of offering their clients more speed and functionalities for connecting to Internet, using their mobile phones. Pointless, to say, they’ve chosen the latter. Or more precisely, their lack vision and their massive lead-times in adapting to trends, transformed the MNOs into bit-pipes for the FANGs of our days.
But now, the course of technology history is giving MNOs another chance.
It is estimated that by 2020, the mobile data traffic will increase 10x. Moreover, the IoT (Internet of Things) standards are maturing and becoming more stable and reliable, which will generate and incremental increase of the number of “things” connected to the internet.
There is simply no way possible in which MNOs current network infrastructures will be able to cope with this data demand.
For an MNO, all of this means high immediate pressure on the network capacity. Network transformation has become a must and the Operators are already commercially deploying SDN (Software Define Networking) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization), These technologies are the right solution to achieve Network Slicing.
With Network Slicing, multiple virtual networks are created on top of a physical infrastructure, which is then shared between them.
In this way the network become flexible in scaling up the capacity and level of functionalities required, based on different 5G use cases requirements.
For Voice Core, from fully virtualized VoLTE and VoWiFI to fully virtulized MSC the operators seem to have made up their minds. The 3G will get decommissioned to free up resources and decrease maintenance costs, the 2G will be kept for emergencies and as a voice fall back and the 4G will be organically migrated to 5G.
For Data Core, the massive data demand triggered the need to have a virtulized EPC is similar to the need of the mountain climber to reach the Summit, and from there he’ll go for the top of Everest, which for and MNO is the Network Slicing.
All of this will allow the Mobile Operator to scale up and down through software controlling and to meet all the demands and needs from 5G ever increasing use cases and applications.
The new functionalities introduction time will be reduced from 1-3 weeks to 1 day.
It remains to be seen if in the future the Network Slicing will be extend to RAN also.
The questions remain: Is 5G a hype or a reality in the making? and is this the chance for the MNOs to create and deploy their own use cases? or, will there be new players coming to reap the rewards of deploying 5G use cases, which means the MNOs remain stuck in the business of mobile internet traffic transportation?