5G Standards – Should Telecoms Follow?
An experienced CTO may claim they know best, and there’s a chance they might be right – this is how we explore new ground. But in reality, the chances of this CTO being successful with a different approach than that defined by a panel of experts at SDO are rather slim.
These days, we are bombarded from all directions with new reference architectures, API specifications, best workflows and recommendations. It can be difficult to know what’s spam, and what really matters.
We have reached our level of civilization mainly through knowledge sharing and learning from mistakes, whether our own or those made by others. A standard published by an experienced body is a combination of both. We gain access to recommendations from field experts who have already explored previously uncharted territories. They also learned hard lessons by doing things differently for us.
But this is just the beginning in the context of 5G. We can get much more with a standardized approach in telecoms. What will 5G standards give us exactly?
5G Standards - standardization as a factor facilitating stack modernization
Will your software stack withstand the 5G revolution? Telecoms have been building their IT systems over many years, and those that make our cellphones ring are huge and very complex. Software maps that I saw during “as is” analysis at customer premises resembled spaghetti rather than something what could actually work. How can they run efficiently?
With 5G emerging all around the world, we can notice another trend – reworking software stacks. The process of standardization goes hand in hand with this. When a telecom decides to simplify the IT side of its business, the first question is about compliance with standards. If a solution supporting globally recognizable standards is selected and incorporated into the legacy landscape, it is a step in the right direction for the entire IT department. The resulting exchange or expansion of software allows smooth integration over standardized API, instead of time and cost-consuming analysis and development of two legacy APIs.
This approach allows the composition of telecom software in a manner similar to Lego® blocks, where each block is compatible with the others, and all you need to do is connect them.
How to offer 5G services in multi-vendor environments? Through standardization!
In the context of 5G, we need to talk about orchestration, automation, zero-touch provisioning and maintenance. How can you do this if your network consists of more than 10 different vendors and includes all the exotic technologies available?
Imagine if your vendors comply with the standard at the level of API you are integrating with their systems. You do not need to concern yourself with vendor-specific data modelling or different ways of managing objects. All the complexity is hidden under the standard API. All you have to do is ask your vendor for the standards-based API. The path here it not an easy one, though. In most cases, it means an investment on the supplier side, which they’re most likely not keen to make. Standardization of API is also a risk for the vendor (which is not a secret). If APIs are standards-based, then replacing the vendor is much easier and cheaper. But, from the telecom perspective, the advantages are obvious - let the best win.
Low OPEX – and how to achieve it? Again – go with the standards.
As mentioned above, standards allow the easier replacement of software. But that’s more about CAPEX than OPEX. So where is this OPEX saving? Well – if your APIs are standards-based, it is much easier to use an umbrella solution on top by aggregating data from all the domains into one unified dashboard and decision point. Real savings await here. With all this information in one place, you can save within multiple dimensions. Unified dashboards mean fewer dedicated systems to monitor. Unified data at the central decision point also enables AI/ML analysis which can provide a true zero-touch network experience for all domains and vendors in your telco’s landscape.
I hope that this post has removed any doubts you may have had. ETSI, 3GPP, GSMA and others make every effort to obtain the best possible results - not only to avoid the same mistakes repeatedly. With 5G technology blooming, 5G standards give us so much more. We now have a real opportunity to remake our software stacks so that they can operate efficiently in global, multi-vendor and multi-domain environments. When we think about efficiency, we mean lower costs of operations and higher speeds for new service provisioning and recovery in the event of failure – which are just what 5G network slicing promises.