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Enabling 5G Journey Of Indian Telcos

Indian Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are in the midst of a major transformation of the network and IT infrastructure to meet the expectations and digital demands of the evolving digital consumer. They are realizing that ever-increasing consumption of mobile data demands improved and superior customer experience. Further, the upcoming 5G technology makes it imperative for the telcos to evolve the networks to deliver newer digital experiences to both their enterprise and retail consumers.

5G will deliver a ubiquitous network, extremely low latency and ultra-speed broadband. This combination will enable service providers and enterprises to deliver smart cities, smart workplaces, smart homes and more. Indian telecommunications industry has already started to move towards 5G. The Indian administration has set up a test bed in collaboration at Indian Institute of Technology – Madras in association with Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Further Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has set up a high-level forum to make 5G a reality in the country by 2020.

In an effort to prepare the networks for 5G, Indian service providers like Airtel have already started adopting 5G technologies, such as Carrier Aggregation, and Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MiMO). The coming year will witness more and more adoption of 5G technologies as the Indian service providers move closer to 5G launch.

The journey to 5G will demand significant changes to the network. While the current 5G deployments are focused on non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) specifications, this will be followed by an upgrade to standalone 5G NR specification, which demands a new approach to radio access and core network.

Post the changes to the Radio Access Network (RAN), the service providers will need to evolve the Core network. The traditional mobile core network architecture will be replaced with a new Service Based Architecture (SBA), which incorporates principles from both IT networking technologies. The SBA combines IT networking, Cloud and mobile service technologies for enhanced innovation. A key component of this architecture is separation of control and user plane, which was introduced in 4G will now become an integral part of 5G core architecture.

Cutting A Thin Slice

A key concept of a 5G network is Network Slicing, which enables service providers to cut or slice a physical network into many virtual networks with each piece functioning as an independent end-to-end network. This makes it easier for service providers to launch newer services as per the needs of the market. The concept can also be used by industry-specific Mobile Virtual Network Operator services.

The Indian service providers will easily be able to leverage the advantages of Network slicing by working with providers of Network Slice-as-a-Service. The service will essentially allow the network operators to create a slice or a virtual network in keeping with a particular use case. It makes the network much more dynamic and opens up huge opportunities for the service providers, who will be able to easily try out new services without making huge investments. They can then decide on the future of that particular service based on the market response.

Addressing the Policy Challenge

The 5G network demands significant changes to policy management as well. The 5G technology is not just about speed but demands collaboration with various industry verticals. Further new concepts such as Network Slicing will change the contours of network deployment and management. Besides, a number of technologies including 3G, 4G, WiFi, fixed network will coexist for a long time. All this will increase network complexity.

Service providers will need end-to-end service orchestration to efficiently manage both the traditional and the virtual network infrastructure because they might coexist for some time. Unified analytics based policy framework will provide a consolidated view of data insights from various network slices and other network units. Policy management solutions which allow for various use cases, security considerations and quality of services will go a long way in resolving policy-related challenges.

The 5G technology will lead to enhanced spectral and network efficiency and also open up new avenues of revenue for the service providers. However, the telcos will need to make a number of changes to their core network, to reap the benefits of the new technology, whilst getting there they can leverage the benefits of Network Slice-as-a-Service to fully take advantage of the disruptive 5G technology and be in a more competitive position to launch revenue-generating innovative products and solutions to delight their customers.―Tele Analysis

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