Webinar recap: Turn your BSS into a 5G monetization engine

The big challenge for service providers moving to 5G is to capture the monetization opportunities. Ericsson and IHS Markit experts recently discussed the technical details of 5G Monetization and the requirements the evolving standards place on Business Support Systems (BSS). Here are some highlights from the discussion.

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When industry analyst firm IHS Markit invited Ericsson to join a discussion with two of their leading BSS experts, Stéphane Téral and Stelyana Baleva, we knew we had to send a true technical expert. Annika Åhlberg is Strategic Product Manager for Ericsson Charging and, for the last few years, has been focused on 5G evolution.


The opportunity ahead

Stéphane opened the webinar to discuss the promise of 5G --- what service providers have been selling to their executives, and investors! He particularly investigates the 5G potential for industry, not just people. IHS Markit is forecasting USD$12.3 trillion – comparable with the annual GDP of each of the US and China. He points that, for example, already over 130 million cars are connected to the internet and he forecasts a CAGR of almost 20%! The opportunity to deliver wealth is enormous.

Stelyana gave us some more in-depth examples. First, drawn from South Korea where service providers are already selling 5G products. IHS Markit points out that new AR & VR services already account for 20% of 5G traffic. In the US, the story is similar but a big focus is cloud-based gaming, which allows gamers to instantly access mobile games without download.

The analysts then turned to how operators will monetize this new opportunity. IHS Markit conducted surveys of operators and asked them “what are the main barriers to making money from 5G?”. Surprisingly, only 5% of operators saw legacy core network nodes as a barrier but, less surprisingly, 50% identified BSS! So that is the problem Ericsson is working to solve: how to evolve BSS into a 5G monetization engine.


Nice idea – how do we get there?

Next on the agenda was our 5G charging expert Annika. Annika started by presenting the challenges identified in the “Modern monetisation systems are crucial to enable the effective monetisation of 5G” report from Analysys Mason which we sponsored earlier this year.

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One of the main things to consider when monetizing 5G is that the number of things that can be valued, priced and monetized is exploding. For example, as well as traditional network usage, it is possible to charge differently for mobility, or charge based on the number of times a device connects. Another important area for monetization is managing exposure and KPIs for an IoT partner’s access to their devices.

Last, but certainly not least, is the new concept of network slicing. At MWC 2019 we demonstrated how Ericsson Charging evolves to support 5G use cases. Network slicing allows charging for different service levels, but it goes beyond that to eventually allowing operators to create a specific slice tailored to the needs of a particular customer. For a price, of course!


What does this mean for BSS?

One of the biggest immediate impacts of 5G on the IT architecture is the role of Call Detail Records (CDRs). Traditionally, for both prepaid and postpaid (as well as for assurance purposes), the core network functions produced CDRs which could be used for billing, or to correlate information from the core NW nodes and the online charging system. With 5G, this changes: the core network functions are no longer expected to produce CDRs, even for offline charging. Instead the 5G network functions are expected to interact with the Converged Charging System, for both online credit-controlled sessions and offline rated sessions. The CHF produces both offline CDRs and rated CDRs which are then distributed to various IT systems.

Annika explains this in detail for various scenarios, including inbound and outbound roaming and covers the impact of this on the IT architecture and processes.

Of course, as well as this architectural impact, there are a lot of changes at the protocol level in the 5G standards, particularly the introduction of the Service Based Interface (SBI) and the Network Resource Function (NRF). Annika reviews how this works in 3GPP Release 15 and what Ericsson expects to see in 3GPP Release 16.

Annika’s final part is an important discussion about the Ericsson recommended ways to evolve the combined radio, core and charging from LTE to 5G. In particular, the new 5G charging architecture will be required at the same time as the launch of 5G Core to avoid limitations imposed by the Diameter charging architecture which will not evolve after 3GPP release 15. So our recommendation is to start on the charging evolution as soon as possible.


Be prepared

The webinar concludes with some very insightful questions, including how fraud management and revenue assurance will work, what happens if the charging function is not sufficiently resilient, and how Ericsson customers are actually approaching this change.

As Annika explains in this webinar, even if 5G is not your immediate challenge, it is important that service providers put a plan in place for how the technology changes, and business model changes, will be supported when the time comes. Some early 5G deployments are using existing BSS systems but some customers are already ordering the necessary upgrades for Ericsson Charging to enable full 5G support.

Whatever your plan, one thing you will notice is that, although previous networks have always been full of abbreviations, with 5G there are lots of new ones to learn! Annika insisted on providing a very helpful full list of the abbreviations used in the webinar at the end of the slide deck. You might want to keep that with you while watching. I have even printed it out and put it on my desk wall!

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