Enablers for 5G success: learnings from North America
In the final part of our three-part Ericsson Spotlight Series on 5G software, we look at the role automation plays in successful 5G services and examine what North American Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are doing today to realize the full potential of 5G Core.
In this final installment, Dr. Sally Eaves, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Foundation Cyber Studies speaks with Arvinder Anand, VP, Head of Architecture and End-to-End Solutions for North America Digital Services at Ericsson. Arvinder has been working closely with some of the leading CSPs in North America and shares his insights into the need for automation and how they are using it to overcome complexity and maximize the opportunity of 5G.
Arvinder believes that 5G is disruptively different from earlier technologies and offers CSPs an unprecedented commercial opportunity, which is enabled through openness and flexibility of the 5G Core. However, leveraging this opportunity requires more than simply implementing the technology. To be successful, 5G requires transformation at every level of the CSP’s business. A key factor in that transformation is the widescale adoption of automation.
Automating out complexity
In the interview Arvinder quoted a colleague from a tier-one CSP who said: "We have a lot of service complexity, and there is a tremendous amount of device complexity out there."
This complexity creates the need for automation. Automation is the cornerstone strategy to 5G success. While not all CSPs are at the same level of 5G maturity in North America, they all recognize the key technology enablers for 5G success:
- CI/CD [Continuous integration/continuous deployment]
- Cloud native
- Platform based approach
Most North American CSPs are taking a pragmatic approach to automation, but in terms of best practice we are seeing three clear trends:
- Cloud Native: migrating applications to cloud-native microservices which drives scalability, flexibility and modularity
- CI/CD: adopting CI/CD to accelerate the deployment of software including new services
- Partner ecosystems: creating partner ecosystems for new enterprise use cases and to monetize the 5G network
Another important factor for success in 5G is the need for standardization. Service providers are working closely with industry bodies to develop and adopt common standards for 5G networks. Common standards enable multi-vendor interworking, reduced SI costs and prevent vendor lock-in. Ericsson is working closely with a number of CSPs and industry bodies to help define and improve these standards.
How North American service providers are using automation to solve real-world challenges
Perhaps Arvinder’s most important insights are about how specific CSPs are addressing specific issues. He points out that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach with 5G, and CSPs must develop use cases that match their own particular circumstances.
While we do see some common 5G use cases emerging, the use cases deployed even today range from enterprise, SD-WAN, private networks, end-to-end network slicing, RAN, core (5G/4G core), and IT assets. As 5G adoption increases, the range of use cases and diversity of services, service models and business models will continue to expand as will the commercial opportunity.
Arvinder also highlights specific use cases where automation has had a huge impact including:
- Rogers, Canada: the first 5G Core deployment in Canada. Rogers used Ericsson Orchestrator to automate deployment and operation of 5G significantly faster than with traditional methods.
- Verizon, USA: Enterprise SD-WAN orchestration.Verizon used Ericsson Orchestrator to automate and maintain enterprise connectivity services in weeks instead of months.
We’ve also seen a number of CSPs use test automation to reduce the time-to-market (TTM) for new network functions and services. CI/CD has been used to accelerate the deployment of new software features and reduce maintenance time saving huge operational expenditure (OPEX).
Arvinder highlights some of the challenges around automation even in the advanced North American market. These are caused by a lack of holistic approach, reluctance to adopt new technology early and lack of recognition of the need to change ways of working. Most importantly he notes that the biggest challenge is not actually automation technology but the people and new ways of working around this transformational approach.
Finally, the interview explains that while 5G creates a huge commercial opportunity through openness and flexibility it also brings unprecedented levels of complexity. Service providers need to automate out complexity and adopt a pragmatic approach to realize the full potential of the 5G Core. Put simply: if you want to be the best, and if you want to beat the rest, automation is what you need.
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