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A digital blueprint for nations? Start with leadership in mobile networks

Leading operators are showing that service readiness, trustworthiness and enrichment are major focus areas in a 5G network blueprint increasingly underpinning digitalization.

Are mobile networks the foundation for truly digital nations?

Absolutely, today’s 5G networks – building on 30+ years of exponential capability growth - are paving the way for the digital transformation of enterprises, transport systems, and entire cities.

Recognizing this, forward-leaning nations are leveraging the latest mobile networks to boost national competitiveness, which requires forward-leaning CSPs. What can we learn from CSPs, is there a blueprint?

Informed by the discussions held with CSPs, I see three focus areas in a 5G network blueprint: service readiness, service trustworthiness, service enrichment.

digital blueprint for nations

Investments in network coverage, capacity, and performance are crucial for service readiness

Focus area 1

Takeaway: By 2029, global mobile data traffic is expected to grow over 3.4 times, driven by multi-cloud, multi-edge computing, and uplink-intensive use cases. Densifying high-traffic areas and nationwide 5G midband deployment with Stand Alone (SA) core is essential. Carrier aggregation (CA) enhances coverage and capacity, optimizing user experience and network efficiency.

Evolution of network demands and new use cases

Network coverage, capacity, and performance are the core pillars of service enablement. However, the fundamentals of being service ready have evolved overtime. New generations of mobile devices, services, and use cases impose additional demands on network capacity and performance. Supporting nationwide cloud-based generative AI (Gen AI) applications and extended reality (XR) will require a significant increase in uplink capacity with low latency and jitter.

Global mobile data traffic is estimated to grow to around 465 EB by the end of 2029, which is more than 3.4 times the levels at the end of 2023. The rapid evolution of device ecosystems and a global shift to multi-cloud, multi-edge computing paradigms will push new uplink-intense mobile use cases into the commercial mainstream, increasing network demands for seamless mobility and sub-meter device positioning.  Already, industry installations are experiencing significantly more demanding traffic patterns.

Ensuring adequate capacity to support service differentiation

Providing adequate local (city and indoor areas) and wide-area (rural and sub-urban areas) capacity will require continued densification of high-traffic areas and nationwide provision of 5G midband with Stand Alone (SA) core. This will enable new revenue sources such as Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), Gen AI devices and use cases, and high-performance XR in new wearable devices. 5G is already driving the number of FWA connections, forecasted to reach 330 million households by 2029, generating about USD 75 billion in service provider revenues.

Carrier aggregation (CA), i.e., the aggregation of several low and midband frequency bands into one stream, is a critical 5G technology to achieve indoor and rural coverage, peak data rates and capacity. With CA, users and mobile operators benefit from the best user experience and network efficiency. Two- and three band CA is now available, combined with spectral-efficient active antenna systems, and will be pivotal for high-capacity coverage with optimal resource- and spectral efficiency. Leveraging all spectrum bands (low, mid  and high) for 5G with CA controlled from the SA core network forms the foundation of the digital platform blueprint. Early markets include USA, Japan, Singapore, and Australia with many more to follow.

Leading the way in coverage and efficiency

SmarTone in Hongkong has extended its network coverage in densely populated areas along the Mass Transit Railway network. SmarTone CTO Steven Chau shared his insights into how they brought 5G to small and medium enterprise use cases and overcome challenges in hard-to-reach and densely populated areas through extensive coverage, reinforcing their reputation for exceptional network performance. Additionally, Steven highlighted their experience in enhancing user experience by applying AI in network operation and maintenance.

We are supporting hundreds of CSPs on this transformation journey. This includes Singtel, who recently became the first to deploy our Cell Sleep Mode function across their live nationwide networks, resulting in optimized cell sleep configurations and annual average energy savings of up to 8 percent. Singapore today has 95 percent 5G SA population coverage, and this is thanks to Singtel’s proactive approach to network innovation and energy-efficient solutions.

The importance of 5G Stand Alone (SA)

With 5G SA comes numerous enhancements, such as 5G network slicing, which is fundamental for driving 5G monetization. Additionally, 5G SA improves the user experience with faster time to content, better service coverage, higher user data throughput, longer battery lifetime and more. Upgrading 5G networks to 5G SA is crucial for a nation’s digital blueprint, as seen in early adopters like Singapore, India, China, and USA.

Invest in security, reliability, and integrity for trustworthiness

Focus area 2

Takeaway: Security, reliability, and integrity investments ensuring networks and services are fully resilient, critical for enterprises and public safety. Network resilience will be bolstered by AI/ML optimization and standards like time-sensitive networking (TSN).

In this decade, 5G will serve as the digital backbone for enterprises, industries, finance sectors, energy infrastructures, logistics and transport systems, and other critical societal and economic infrastructures.

Importance of reliability, resilience, and integrity

Network reliability and robust resilience – with defined Service Level Agreements (SLAs)– will increasingly become a key tradable asset in 5G markets. This is encapsulated in the term NRAR (Network Reliability, Availability and Resilience).

Enterprise leaders are increasingly investing in digitalization and automation to bolster future operational resilience. According to figures from Ericsson IndustryLab, 90% of enterprises with a well-defined resilience strategy are moving towards digitalization – 50% higher than those without a strategy.

The global pandemic highlighted the need for resilience and mobility for enterprises and public safety organizations. In a pre-5G world, mobile networks supported online commerce, remote education, app-economy use-cases, and enterprise video-call services. With 5G, networks can further impact society through autonomous driving, remote diagnosis, and mission-critical services. The scaling of technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), IoT, AI, and digital twins will redefine the value of resilience.

Resilience strategies are not solely driven by pandemic preparedness. Energy crises, cyberattacks, and natural disasters will also shape enterprise resilience strategies in the coming decade.

Future network resilience will be enhanced through various components, including:

  • Network Slice Differentiation: Tailoring network slices to meet specific needs.
  • AI/ML Network Optimization: Using artificial intelligence and machine learning for network optimization.
  • Redundancy Approaches: Ensuring network redundancy through standards such as Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) and Low Latency Low Loss Scalable (L4S).

Real-world applications

L4S made significant strides with their recent demonstration of a remotely operated vehicle on a road in Berlin, successfully navigating real-time congestion risks. This sets a blueprint for emerging time-critical applications such as cloud gaming, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), and drones, all of which present significant revenue opportunities for CSPs in the coming years.

Invest in network flexibility and exposure for service enrichment

Focus area 3

Key takeaway: Investing in network flexibility and exposure through open APIs enables CSPs to innovate with 5G attributes like bandwidth on demand and enhanced security. This fosters creativity, supports new applications, and offers significant revenue opportunities. Partnerships and dynamic network slicing are key to meeting enterprise needs and driving CSP growth.

Unlocking network capabilities with Open APIs

Unleashing the full capabilities of networks through network programmability with unified, open network APIs marks a defining moment for future network evolution and broad technological innovation in society and enterprises.

The emergence of business-enabling open network APIs empowers CSPs to foster a new realm of creativity for developers across cloud platforms, software providers, app ecosystems, and their own operations.

This cross-service provider, cross-application service provider ‘API toolbox’ will simplify the dynamic aggregation of powerful 5G attributes, such as bandwidth on demand, responsiveness, reliability, device information, and predictive coverage, along with user authentication, energy-saving modes, enhanced security, and identification.

The anticipated growth in the 5G app ecosystem, especially in enterprise sectors, highlights significant revenue opportunities for CSPs with high return on investment potential due to low operational costs and favorable scale economics. These opportunities are available now, and CSPs can gain early momentum by building these foundational ecosystems.

From best to smartest network

In conversation with Swisscom CTIO Dr. Gerd Niehage, he explained how Swisscom has evolved from the best to the smartest network, emphasizing that being the best is no longer sufficient. With the best network as a solid base, Swisscom is moving towards becoming ‘The Smartest Network’ in partnership with Ericsson. External developers are aiding Swisscom in delivering best-in-class customer experiences with new applications with the reliability and flexibility needed by Swisscom’s customers.

Innovations in 5G-enabled devices

In Barcelona, Sony showcased 5G-enabled professional cameras for mobile news reporters, allowing them to utilize superior 5G uplink performance ordered over a Quality on Demand network API. This innovation reduces costs and increases flexibility by eliminating the need for cabling, satellite vans, and cumbersome installations. Dynamic network slicing will bring such enriched network services to life, and today fully automated 5G network slicing is ready to go. This will be crucial in supporting CSP revenue growth in the coming decades.

The core of this opportunity lies in new business models that offer tiered pricing based on specific service requirements, which will be essential in meeting enterprise needs and driving CSPs enterprise revenue growth.

Together with Intel and Microsoft, we recently demonstrated the future potential of multiple network slices deployed on cellular-connected laptops for simultaneous consumer and enterprise use. This long-awaited advancement into a device ecosystem beyond smartphones, creates a gateway for CSPs into the enterprise segments.

Conclusion

For CSPs, 5G enabled businesses will require long-term network investment cycles that balance both near-term revenue opportunities with long-term strategic objectives. Early market successes offer a strong start for future growth but offer no guarantee of longevity. Instead, CSPs need a network investment strategy across eight network dimensions: coverage, capacity, performance, security, reliability, integrity, flexibility, and exposure which will provide an edge for the leading CSPs.

At Ericsson, we are committed to supporting CSPs in their efforts towards 5G excellence and in the evolutionary journey to 6G during next decade. We believe that this network blueprint with the three focus areas serves as an example for maintaining the leadership for innovative CSPs, distinguishing them from the rest.

The Ericsson Blog

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