Network slicing in need of OSS/BSS support

Martin Kurth/Gartner

As telecoms operators worldwide trial and deploy 5G, they have to tackle value creation, in conjunction with the operational and monetization complexity that this new technology brings. The proliferation of 5G not only promises massive bandwidth, higher data rates and reduced end-to-end latency, but also the facilitation of new multi-faceted, disruptive digital business models, such as digital ecosystems through massive machine type communication.

The characteristics of 5G services will be distinct from current telco connectivity centric services. 5G services stem from unique events, such as individual transactions and interactions as part of evolving digital ecosystems. They are increasingly real-time and meta-data driven, and potentially deliver usage based operating models, such as pay-as-you-go and on-demand based digital business models.

Industry insiders anticipate the value that 5G entails for businesses is to generate new revenue streams. In this context, network slicing is an extensively trialed use case scenario for 5G technology. The benefit of network slicing pertains to the fact that one network slice can enable multiple use cases, business models and services. These may range from ultra-fast internet, cloud apps, smart city and complex M2M/IoT ecosystems. 

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Beyond operational efficiency benefits, such as auto scaling, self-healing and flexible virtualized resource management, network slicing is expected to be the revenue enabling 5G scenario with the highest ROI potential. However, network slicing management systems infrastructure (OSS/BSS/CRM) is ill prepared to support 5G service complexity.

Operators will require a specific architecture that facilitates end-to-end processes, tailored to cross-domain physical and virtual infrastructures that are a prerequisite for an adoption of 5G services at scale. Operational and business complexity will increase exponentially to create, design and roll out network slices due to evolving event-based, transactional and interactional based characteristics of 5G services.

For example, operators might establish partnerships with enterprises to provide network slices dedicated to a given party, such as an airport, a sports event institution or a university. Network slices may be instantiated to enable specific types of services with unique characteristics, such as IoT ecosystems. In such a 5G network slicing scenario, the growing ecosystem of connected things will produce and consume massive amounts of insightful, event-based data in a highly efficient manner. A real-time, meta-data driven, intelligent management systems infrastructure will be required to operationalize and monetize such network slice instantiated 5G services.

Thus, network slicing requires a dedicated operational infrastructure encompassing an underlying cross-domain and per-slice tenant management capability (as shown in the figure below):

  • End-to-end service orchestration
  • Network slice configuration and service slice lifecycle management
  • Network slice service assurance

Cognitive, fully autonomous, closed loop operations will be central to this infrastructure. Network slices will be instantiated based on analytics/AI insights driven events, such as sporting events, congestion or weather disruptions.

Network slicing is the most promising 5G use case in terms of business enablement potential for digital infrastructures. However, telco product managers need to tackle operational and business complexity in terms of cross-domain creation, design and instantiation of network slices for event-based and transactional 5G services, and overcome constraints on current OSS/BSS.           

Martina Kurth is a research director within CSP Technology at Gartner

 

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