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5G expectations - how will mobile operators meet customer expectations?

Augmented reality, drone deliveries, remote-controlled robotics, cloud gaming, high-definition video services.

Customers already have high expectations for 5G. Some of this is based on 5G market hype but in general, customer expectations have been steadily increasing with digital services adoption. According to GSMA Intelligence, nearly one-third (31%) of operators say their number one market challenge is meeting the ‘extremely high’ customer expectations around 5G.

Gone are the days of ‘best effort’ consumer mobile services. Over two-thirds of mobile operators see enterprise services as the most promising source of potential 5G revenue. 5G’s service-based architecture can deliver ultra-reliable and guaranteed low-latency connectivity and new customer experiences.

This is the dream, but the challenge is making network operations efficient enough to keep up with the massive increase in traffic, while learning about new technology (e.g., network slicing and cloud native software) and meeting strict service performance goals. This massive jump in traffic will be fueled in part by the fact that more machines than humans will be connected to the internet over the next five years across a diverse set of industries.

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Network operations need the best tools

Facing 53% YoY traffic growth, virtualization, and the sheer number of new devices and massive machine type communications, network slices, and edge clouds, operations risk drowning in their data lakes. This will be the case if lakes are overflowing with data too voluminous to analyze fast enough to take effective action. Even though there are big plans to digitally transform network operations, there are no big plans to increase headcount to manage 5G networks and the data they will create.

With 5G the stakes are high in terms of creating new service experiences, monitoring critical low-latency or high throughput services (both people and devices!) in real time and building value in 5G services, beyond just speed.

Caught between shrinking OPEX budgets and increasing pressure to deliver more reliable services, operations teams must rethink their approach.

Operations are working to reduce manual tasks, eliminate technical debt of legacy silo systems and determine the best ways to automate service provisioning and assurance, service quality issue detection and troubleshooting.

Currently there’s a lack of end-to-end integrated visibility across mobile networks–access, transport and the core–which leads to operational blind spots.

The top reason why CSPs are adopting network and service assurance automation is to enable digital transformation in operations (according to 90% of respondents)1 And there’s good reason for that.

About 70% of CSPs' operational time and money is spent on issue discovery and root cause analysis, a reactive process triggered by customer trouble tickets, KPI breach alarms in the network operations center (NOC), or network/service outages.2

Reactive processes will not work when it comes to mission critical 5G in hospitals, factories and cities that rely on critical networks and services, whether they are public or private 5G networks. Mobile operators will need to fully stand behind their solutions and assure mobile services with enterprise SLAs.

Omdia (formerly Ovum) analyst James Crawshaw puts it well, “they must give their operations teams the best tools to understand network and service performance and rapidly troubleshoot quality impairments.”

5G customer experience and meeting expectations

A new kind of quality of experience (QoE) visibility—customer-first visibility—is required to develop the market and to delight, rather than disappoint, customers.

As much as 98% of poor user experience and 80% of customer churn is caused by degradations, not outages.3 Yet most operators can’t detect these short-lived issues fast enough to prevent their impact. With 5G, these types of issues must be automatically detected and resolved.

Service provisioning and assurance are more closely entwined and automated with on-demand 5G services. Customers order services via a portal, operators automatically provision services ‘right the first time’, based on ‘accurate inventory’ showing that required CPE and access lines are in place. Next, service activation testing and active monitoring is performed to ensure services are continuously meeting SLAs. Data and KPIs are then correlated and reported directly back to a customer self-service portal.

Actively monitoring the service experience of a customer or device as it relates to the infrastructure (physical and overlay), access, transport and core, puts operations in a strong position to detect and address service quality issues right away.

Even today this is often problematic. On average, a communications service provider uses six different systems to determine the root cause of issues. Only 3% of service providers have integrated these siloed systems4. When systems can’t talk to each other, or have conflicting information, automation becomes impossible.

Another key pillar of automation is having a unified and dynamic view of inventory and topology. Today, only 15% of service providers have an accurate view of network and services inventory5. An inventory federation overlay solution together with an end-to-end dynamic topology view of network, services and customer dependencies that’s kept constantly up to date will greatly improve data quality and accuracy. This is critical as 89% of U.S. operators, 65% globally, believe data quality issues prevent automation6.

“You can’t automate with aggregate visibility. 5G devices and users have diverse performance requirements that can only be met with customer-centric, insight-driven automation.” Peter Jarich, Head of GSMA Intelligence

Enterprises expect every device to be monitored in real time, backed by SLAs, tailored to their needs and reported in real-time via APIs. In short, they expect nothing less from mobile operators than what they get from hyperscale cloud providers.  

Find out more about how Nova service assurance for 5G can help you:

  • reveal the 90% of degradations that are invisible to legacy tools
  • accelerate MTTR by up to 40% and reduce root cause analysis from hours to minutes with automated AI diagnostics

1 IHS Markit
2 Analysys Mason, 2020
3 Heavy Reading survey conducted on behalf of EXFO
4 Ovum/Omdia survey conducted on behalf of EXFO
5 Heavy Reading survey conducted on behalf of EXFO
6 Source: Ericsson