Wednesday, December 24, 2014

5G is Likely to Fulfill Promises if the Business Architecture Succeeds

Many fifth generation network proponents are fond of saying 5G is not about faster speeds or network performance, but “heterogenous” network access or lead applications. In other words, the expectation is that 5G will represent not just a “faster network” but a network characterized by its application focus.

That said, proponents now say a minimum of 50 Mbps in the mobile environment, and up to 1 Gbps in fixed indoor environments, is a baseline. So “faster networks” might not define 5G, but speeds will grow.

Though 5G networks will feature “much greater throughput, much lower latency, ultra-high reliability, much higher connectivity density, and higher mobility range,” 5G networks also will feature the ability “to control a highly heterogeneous environment, and capability to, among others, ensure security and trust, identity, and privacy,” the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliances argues.

Many suggest that Internet of Things or machine-to-machine applications, for example, will be key characteristics of 5G, as will on-demand provisioning. To be sure, the desire for a flexible network able to shift “on the fly” has been a service provider goal for decades.

One might say all of those are reasonable extrapolations of current trends in thinking about next generation networks in general. The “highly heterogeneous environment” includes a mix of fixed, mobile and untethered access, all sorts of devices and types of user interactions.

The whole network virtualized functions and software defined network philosophy emphasizes flexibility and on-demand control of network resources.

In other words, the network itself should enable “flexibility to optimize the network usage, while accommodating a wide range of use cases, business and partnership models,” NGMN argues. That implies a network able to support on demand bandwidth and features, in an agile and cost-efficient manner.

The NGMN association argues that new revenues can be generated by providing third party application providers higher quality and lower latency access, as well as proximity, location, quality of service or authentication services.

In the current vision, services are available anywhere, anytime ; with consistent experience across time, space and networks; on multiple devices and access technologies; supporting multiple interaction types;  contextually and personalized; securely; reliably and responsively.

Proponents believe that sort of network will enable new revenue streams earned from providing third party app providers with wanted features.

The problem. as the network neutrality debate has proven, is that app providers are well aware of the “two-sided” (revenue earned directly from end users and from business partners) revenue strategy, which makes service provider revenue a cost to the app provider. So the issue is whether app providers can replicate those functions themselves, or actually believe the access provider value proposition really is so valuable.

You might say hopes for 5G are congruent with an industry hope to add more value and avoid becoming a commodity supplier of bit transport and access. In other words, the hope is that 5G will create a platform for higher application content.

The debate over network neutrality already shows one side of the expected resistance from app providers to the whole notion of “network-provided services that cost money.”

The issue is whether the 5G vision ultimately develops as planned. Next generation network architectures proposed by the telecommunications industry have a way of failing, or developing in unexpected ways.

In the case of 5G, so much of the vision relies on “business architecture,” not “network architecture.”

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