Network programmability in 5G: an invisible goldmine for service providers and industry
Is 5G disruptive?
5G promises many disruptive functionalities, such as ultra-low latency communication, high bandwidth/throughput, higher security, and network slicing, all of which embed the potential to address new business opportunities not addressed by service providers today. But another functionality not always mentioned--and that has equal business potential--is network exposure, which can enable new levels of programmability in telecom core networks.
Programmability in 5G Core networks allows providers to open up telecom network capabilities and services to third-party developers allowing them to create new use cases that don’t exist today. This is possible thanks to standardized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on the new network architecture for 5G. With APIs, a new frontier for business innovation in telecom will surge. Application developer partners will focus on new services applications, while telco service providers will focus on a new dimension of experience called “developer experience” and increase its position in the OTT value chain. This is a true win-win situation for all developers, consumers, and service providers.
What is new with 5G?
Well-documented APIs have always existed for mobile phones; however, they were difficult to work with and lacked the capability we call a development platform and ecosystem. Privately developed applications were not trusted and their installation required expertise. Opening mobile phone operating systems for third-party developers meant not only inviting developers to use simple APIs that provided easy and secure access to the computational resources of the mobile equipment but also ensuring that the API capabilities were restricted to a set of safe functionalities.
The main disruption came in July 2008 when a very well-known mobile phone vendor launched a digital store to sell applications and invited third-party developers to program new apps for its phone, allowing them to use this new market place for monetizing the apps. Other companies followed the same approach later that same year and launched their own app stores. WhatsApp, Uber, Instagram, and Spotify are few examples of innovative applications that were invented and that captured millions of users, thanks to this trend.
In a similar way, 5G Core can bring disruption to the network level by opening up the mobile network’s operating system and exposing core network capabilities to external parties, so they can program their applications to use mobile connectivity and edge computing.
The new 3GPP 5G service-based architecture (SBA) for 5G core networks has been defined using an industry-standard REST architecture style, HTTP/2 protocol interfaces, and cloud native design to offer the efficiency and flexibility of 5G, and a network exposure function, which are needed to implement programmability in mobile core networks.
The 5G programmability value chain can be described as follows:
Common service provider questions now are, for example, how can APIs and the service composition tools empower application developers to create new apps for the industry? How can we create a network app store? How much money will we make with this? What’s the future of network exposure and how do AI and machine learning play a role in enhancing the current capabilities?
To learn more on this topic and how 5G Core service APIs can be used to create innovative use cases, download our paper “Network Programmability: A new frontier in 5G today.”
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