5G is truly poised to take off in 2022. For communications service providers (CSPs), that’s great news—but it does bring some challenges, along with the need for new and better tools.
Chances are that your business has gotten more complex over the last year or two. More CSPs are deploying standalone 5G networks and working with hyperscale cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Yet 4G adoption continues, even if 3G networks are starting to be switched off. So, you’re probably juggling the best solutions for your customers using a range of (mostly) 4G and 5G networks.
Looking around today’s highly competitive market, it’s never been easier for customers to move from one CSP to another. That means your 5G offering absolutely must live up to customer expectations because you can’t afford to lose customers. In particular, the 5G reality must not disappoint, or your revenue will suffer.
To achieve that, you need total insight. You need to know what’s happening in your networks so you can quickly fix issues and deliver high-quality services.
Enter automated assurance— solutions that offer a user perspective, enabling operators to monitor real-life customer experience and report problems as soon as they emerge in order to trigger steps that can lead to faster resolution.
Let’s look at a few of the current challenges in maintaining service quality, then explore our predictions for the top five service assurance trends in 2022 and how they can help you better serve your customers.
CSP Challenges and the Need for Automated Assurance
While every industry has been disrupted by the changes COVID has forced onto their businesses, this is truer for communications services than for almost any other field.
And those changes aren’t going away anytime soon, with a McKinsey report indicating that the biggest changes, such as remote work, are most likely going to remain with us permanently.
That’s driven up standards for home access, forcing operators to pivot from their previous focus on mobile; at the same time, patience with latency has gone down. Just 0.1s improvement in load time, according to one Deloitte study, boosted retail consumer spend by almost 10%. Today’s users simply don’t want to wait.
Adding to the challenge is that, unlike the pre-COVID period when peak times and network usage were consistent and predictable, in the post-COVID world, demand is far more subject to fluctuation; this means that peak access on home broadband can now come at any time of day, not only in the evening.
All these factors mean CSPs need to work harder today to keep quality up for home broadband service. Yet as demands increase, they’re also cutting into your margins. Meanwhile, on top of the expense of rolling out 5G, you’re also possibly dealing with cutbacks and attempts to run lean network operations teams. So, boosting revenue—doing more with less—has become even more essential.
Automated assurance is a solution that bridges the network-facing and user-facing aspects of your business. It can break down silos, helping you work proactively to identify network issues in real-time that could be impacting the customer experience.
Effective service assurance depends on three major factors:
- Data: Gathering a massive volume of data from across all your networks and devices, giving you a constant stream of data from the field
- Artificial intelligence (AI): Analyzing data collected to create a baseline of network behavior and automatically detecting and flagging anomalies, which could impact customer experience
- Orchestration: Reacting to anomalies by intelligently redirecting network traffic, rapidly finding an alternative to bottlenecks, and resolving latency fast
Service assurance platforms can monitor networks for a massive volume of devices and data and translate these into actionable KPIs—which will, in turn, help you ensure that you’re meeting SLAs.
Service Assurance Trends to Watch
It’s obvious why service assurance has quickly become indispensable, but, as with all tools, it’s constantly growing and changing. Let’s explore five trends to watch, including key takeaways that will help you understand the essential features of a service assurance platform.
1. Emerging Use Cases
On top of the challenges mentioned above, it’s important to understand well in advance how market changes could affect your business. Here are two of the biggest use cases emerging for 5G in 2022:
- Fixed wireless access (FWA). FWA enables mobile operators to cover the last mile relatively easily and cheaply, opening the market for 5G home broadband, bypassing expensive cable and fiber alternatives. FWA can create a level playing field for cable and fixed-line operators, increasing the proliferation of 5G networks. Because 5G demands much more infrastructure than traditional cell communications, conventional wisdom says that areas outside of major city centers are going to have to wait for 5G. The rollout of FWA changes all that, leading Deloitte to predict a near-88% growth rate for 5G FWA connections between 2020 and 2026.
- Private networks. When AWS Private 5G was announced at re:Invent 2021, it surprised many people. But it shouldn’t have. Private 5G has taken off among a wide range of enterprises, efficiently bridging cloud and telco operators. Microsoft, too, has rolled out 5G capabilities through Azure Edge Zones. In fact, a recent survey of CIOs shows that 90% believe private 5G will become the standard network choice over the next few years, given that they offer a fast, effective way for enterprises, government bodies, and other organizations to introduce customized, high-quality 5G. Private 5G goes beyond WiFi for coverage, speed, and security.
For both use cases, and to ensure that your service assurance solution can grow with the industry and with your business, look for a platform that is cloud-native and has built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automatically detect and monitor multiple telco clouds to ensure high-quality services, along with a vendor you trust to keep up with changing use cases as they emerge.
2. Adoption of the Cloud
The 5G core is cloud-native, containerized, and generally deployed using Kubernetes or a similar container orchestration system. This creates an extremely heavy dependency on the cloud, and there is growing collaboration between CSPs and Google, Azure, and AWS—with each offering a suite of solutions for telcos. However, while cloud-native cores offer the flexibility to scale, this can also quickly drive-up costs.
Meanwhile, CSPs are expected to deploy multiple different clouds (especially at the edge), which introduces the need to monitor these constantly to ensure that service quality is delivered across all clouds.
When selecting an assurance solution, be sure that it incorporates cloud-native automated monitoring across all major cloud providers and is developed using Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to offer rapid updates and deployments with no downtime.
Communications providers realize they can save money and meet SLAs better with predictive analytics. The best automated assurance solutions leverage intelligence coming in from non-stop data feeds of all kinds to monitor networks and identify anomalies quickly that could affect customer experience. As we noted above, AI/ML-driven assurance monitors the network and uses predictive analytics to react in real-time.
Increasingly, this type of prediction and anomaly detection is linked up to operate together with network orchestration to create a truly closed-loop solution. This is the “Holy Grail” and the closest we can come today to intelligently self-healing networks.
Your service assurance platform needs to be proactive, rather than reactive, and that depends heavily on AI/ML to integrate with your network orchestration solution and provide automated real-time network intelligence.
4. Network Security and Encryption
One of the perks users expect from 5G is that it’s more secure than 4G. This is an essential principle given 5G’s promise that it will be used to run secure devices—whether IoT, OT, or critical infrastructure components (e.g., robots, self-driving vehicles, and a range of life-saving healthcare applications).
In standalone 5G, operators are making this promise a reality, securing their networks in several ways, including adopting TLS 1.3 to encrypt traffic. However, this encryption leaves operators blind when it comes to understanding the customer experience, increasing the need for a smart monitoring solution that enables them to gain visibility into customer experience by using highly sophisticated decryption and machine learning.
Your service assurance solution must offer you more intelligent ways to monitor traffic in situations of less-than-optimal transparency and respond proactively when needed.
5. Transition to O-RAN and Use of Multiple Spectrum Bands
Beyond greater security, 5G architecture also holds the promise of flexibility over legacy architectures. Central to that has been the development of Open RAN, the next evolution of radio access network (RAN) technology, which allows for the disaggregation of mobile network base stations (centralization) along with “cloudification,” the decoupling of hardware and software.
Despite some speed bumps along the way, O-RAN may ultimately help you control costs by eliminating vendor-locked radio equipment, letting you choose “best-of-breed” providers that offer the best balance of features and cost. As with any new technology, there are kinks that still need to be worked out, but regardless of which direction this trend runs, it is essential to ensure that your assurance solution offers the capability of monitoring O-RAN as well as the network core.
When it comes to assurance, you need a solution that is flexible enough to work with your RAN network both today and into the future. It’s important to monitor all cell coverage for low, mid, and high-band spectrum to ensure cell locations are optimized, and the customer experience is maintained as customers move through different areas.
Automated Assurance Holds the Key
There’s been more hype around 5G than just about any other technology in recent memory. Enterprises and consumers are already sold on the promise of 5G, and now they’re eager to get started.
You may already be seeing a deluge of interested parties—and you can’t afford to disappoint them.
Customers today are more demanding than ever. And they have a right to be. As one Vox writer put it, they just want their phones to work. “We all just want our phone service to work when we need it. We want to tweet our tweets, share our pet photos, follow our baseball teams, and do so with as little inconvenience as possible.”
And hype certainly won’t help when it comes to customer retention. RADCOM helps you give end-users what they’re asking for. As a communications provider in a tight market, with tight margins, and business growing more complex by the minute, you can only stand out by providing a superior customer experience and taking a proactive approach to assurance.
RADCOM helps you do this with an automated service assurance platform that’s…
- Built for 5G
- Ensures complete visibility into the customer experience
- Powered by advanced AI and analytics
Stay proactive; fix problems before they affect your customer experience; unlock the promise of 5G.
With automated assurance from RADCOM, you can anticipate anomalies before they affect user experience. And then you’ll have the solutions in place to make automatic adjustments, close the loop and optimize service quality.
Learn more about our automated assurance solution for 5G.