“Network Slicing Requires New Automation”

With just a few days to go for Voice&Data’s “India 5G Evolution—For a Really Smart World” conference, Manish Vyas, President of Communications, Media & Entertainment Business, and the CEO of Network Services at Tech Mahindra, talks about the future of 5G and the transformation it will bring to the world.

Voice&Data: What are your offerings for Indian Telcos as they plan to deploy and start test-beds for 5G deployment?

Manish Vyas: Our offerings for Indian Telcos will to a large extent mirror what we are doing with a number of CSPs worldwide whom are more advanced in the 5G journey and have more mature 5G development plans. We are offering network platforms along with our strategic partners and offering full network lifecycle services ranging from consulting to network design, realization, and migration and managed services.

  • We are consulting with a number of operators including a major Tier-1 Operator in the US in their 5G implementations including on their 5G roadmap, networks, applications, and monetization aspects.

 

  • We are working with another Tier-1 US Operator for a truly, fully virtualized pre-5G trial where TechMahindra will be the Systems Integrator (SI) to integrate, inter-op, and deploy systems from multiple vendors.

 

  • We are integrating pre-5G/5G network functions, including on CUPS (Control & User Plane Separation), integrating pre-5G Core to realize distributed Core Architecture at Edge and Centralized Clouds for the CSP.

 

  • TechMahindra is also working on Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) solutions to enable monetization of 5G networks. Integrating Enterprise Breakout Applications with MEC to address low latency enterprise applications and enable Digital monetization for CSPs. Similarly, we are integrating Online Gaming with MEC to deliver a better experience with 5G.

 

  • Our VNF-Xchange is playing a central role in realizing these MEC solutions and we anticipate VNF-Xchange to play a pivotal role in realizing more 5G driven solutions for faster monetization of 5G.

 

  • We are setting up a 5G Center of Excellence (CoE) powered by Intel technology. The CoEs will be set up at Tech Mahindra’s Intel-enabled VNF-Xchange Labs in Redmond, Washington, and Bengaluru, India. The CoEs accelerates 5G Network Rollout by helping operators optimize their Capital Expenditure (CapEx) on 5G rollouts and accelerate new revenue-generating services that will lead the transformation journey. The work in this CoE will provide for acceleration and support of Software Defined Networks/Network Function Virtualization (SDN & NFV) technologies by creating and testing the new Network architectures like 5G, MEC, but more importantly develop new social and industry relevant use cases.

 

  • Further, TechMahindra is the deployment partner for one of the world’s largest scaled rollout of mmWave network in the US; while this network was built primarily for high-speed point-to-multipoint backhaul, it has only strengthened our position for building mmWave networks for CSPs.

 

  • TechMahindra is playing a key role in driving innovation for 5G both with our partner eco-system and with open source industry bodies. TechMahindra is among top five contributors of ONAP and we are executing a number of ONAP PoCs with leading CSPs across the globe.

 

  • SDN/NFV will be the bedrock foundation for 5G networks and TechMahindra continues to be the ‘Innovation Orchestrator’ for the CSPs as they transform their network infrastructure and gear up for 5G. TechMahindra continues to make strong progress on SDN/NFV as we engage with the number of CSPs on their network transformation.

 

  • TechMahindra is closely working with AltioStar on virtualizing the RAN; vRAN will be the underpinning for the 5G network.

 

  • TechMahindra played a pivotal role in the award-winning TM Forum Catalyst for “5G Intelligent Service Operations”. This Catalyst focused on automating network slicing for 5G networks.

 

  • By automating network upkeep with our TRUe platform – TRUe leverages AI and ML to classify and automatically resolve network faults. Manual intervention, and therefore error, is significantly reduced, ensuring SLAs are met. Furthermore, leveraging RPA, TRUe automates follow-on remediation required to correct the identified fault. All said TRUe takes service provider networks a step closer to end-to-end automation.

Voice&Data: How ready and steady is the 5G technology – for networks as well as for devices and handsets?

Manish Vyas: The Third Generation Partnership Project, the standards body that writes the rules for wireless connectivity, agreed in December 2017 on the first specification for 5G. The Non-Standalone Specification of 5G New Radio standard covers 600 and 700 MHz bands and the 50 GHz millimeter-wave end of the spectrum. That agreement paved the way for hardware makers to start developing handsets with 5G modems inside.

  • The non-standalone specification applies to 5G developed with LTE as an anchor. In June, the standards body completed the rules for standalone 5G. Now network operators can start fine-tuning their software using equipment that complies with the completed standard. The standard really sets the stage for interoperable systems and field trials with operators in 2018, and it starts the clock for being able to build standards-compliant devices heading toward the last half of 2018 and early 2019 launches. Companies such as Qualcomm and Intel are working on 5G modems that will fit into phones, cars, smart-home devices and other device forms that have yet to take shape. Those radios are in the midst of testing to make sure they are interoperable with network operators and infrastructure companies.

 

  • First-generation 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018 with a focus on fixed wireless- providing broadband access and data-only connections to new customer segments. 5G is also expected to empower use cases across industries. The first module-based 5G devices, supporting ultra-low latency communications for industrial process monitoring and control, are expected during 2020.

 

  • With 5G networks set to be deployed in 2018/2019, service providers are poised to embark on a new journey, which will be defined by fresh revenue opportunities but accompanied by an equal, if not deeper, set of challenges. With over 100 publicly announced 5G RAN trials as of 1Q18, and progress being made through standards groups, capacity concerns are being addressed, but deploying a new air interface and mobile core is only a portion of what will be required to excel in the 5G era.

 

  • To build an agile, programmable, and elastic network, operators will need to embrace NFV/SDN adoption throughout the network infrastructure stack. Doing so will produce a differentiated network, able to offer premium custom-fit services on the fly. Those able to overcome identified barriers related to NFV/SDN, such as integration and interoperability, are likely to separate themselves from peers in both service delivery and business outcomes, particularly when 5G, IoT, and digital media services achieve mainstream adoption.

 

  • Additionally, the transition from monolithic, appliance-driven networks to software- and cloud-led architectures will become ever more pressing as service providers explore new ways to drive 5G-based revenue. However, many challenges remain, including network interoperability, complexity, and performance issues

Voice&Data: Is moving to 5G going to be a big ticket investment for the telcos?

Manish Vyas: Over time, 5G will require Telcos to transform every aspect of their business. From RAN to Core, from capacity planning, to telco cloud locations (edge CO vs. hyper-scale data centers), from traffic migration, to overall network governance, from transformed OSS/ BSS systems to support new digital products, IoT or the CSPs entry into adjacent markets, or even new monetization models, Robotic Process Automation and lastly customer experience driven customer care. Every aspect of CSP business will be transformed.

  • Network Slicing and new business models will require a holistic transformation of BSS/OSS systems to be effective. Network Slicing requires new automation and assurance solutions. New tools for automation and orchestration will be essential. DIY, on-demand, self-service models will be enabled by 5G networks. New charging and billing models will emerge to comprehensively monetize IoT and Enterprise Digital Transformation.

 

  • Growing demand related to emerging 5G use cases will necessitate investments across all network domains. The new spectrum will be required. In the bands less than 800 MHz for IoT use cases and in bands greater than 3 GHz for small cell deployments in urban areas. Also required will be new RAN architectures for densification of the macro network or to support use cases such as network slicing. It would also require investments for hyper-dense deployments in the form of small cell and indoor densification or centralized RAN requiring fiber to the antenna (FTT-A) or mmWave backhaul. The Core network will also require additional transformation including for network function virtualization or SON analytics, network slicing, or the separation of the control plane and the user plane.

 

  • To improve transmission, mobile operators must undertake large-scale fiberization efforts. In addition to helping networks meet capacity and latency requirements for 5G, fiberization is essential to support small-cell deployment in urban areas.

 

  • Announcements from operators indicate that most European telecommunications groups are planning to shut down their 3G networks around 2020. In the United States, operators will decommission 2G before 3G. Over the long term, the new spectrum may facilitate the large-scale adoption of unlicensed access. Once that occurs, operators will face additional challenges related to controlling spectrum access.

 

  • Delivering the promised performance improvements of 5G through high-band spectrum, on the other hand, would require a fundamentally different architecture with much denser networks—something like 15 to 20 sites per square kilometer in highly populated urban environments, as opposed to two to five sites today. The total cost of ownership of deploying small cells at this density would be four to six times higher than for LTE macro-cell deployment.

 

  • But then many elements of current 5G technology build on 4G networks, rather than representing a complete departure—and that means mobile operators can take an evolutionary approach to infrastructure investment. For instance, operators could begin by upgrading the capacity of their existing 4G macro network by refarming a portion of their 2G and 3G spectrum, or by acquiring additional spectrum when available. This way, they can delay investments in 5G by evolving to LTE-and LTE-Pro features, such as 4×4 or massive MIMO (a multiple input, multiple output technology). This revolutionary approach will be the natural path for most operators, allowing them to minimize investments while the incremental revenue potential of 5G remains uncertain.

Voice&Data: What new revenue streams and additional ARPUs do you think 5G will create for telcos?

Manish Vyas: Enhanced mobile broadband. Faster speed, lower latency, and greater capacity could enable on-the-go, ultra-high-definition video, virtual reality, and other advanced applications.

  • Internet of Things. With the explosive growth in the number of connected devices, existing networks are struggling to keep pace. The advent of 5G will unlock the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) by enabling more connections at once (up to one million per square kilometer) at very low power.

 

  • Mission-critical control. As connected devices become increasingly central in applications that demand absolute reliability—medical devices and vehicle safety systems, for instance—latency will serve as a limiting factor. Because 5G has the potential to deliver significantly lower latency (to about one millisecond), it opens the door to use cases in healthcare, utilities, and other time-critical contexts.

 

  • Fixed wireless access. Fixed wireless access (FWA) has existed for years, primarily in areas with no viable wired broadband. 5G, particularly in the millimeter wave spectrum, is capable of delivering speeds of more than 100 Mbps to the home, making it a viable alternative to wired broadband in many markets, especially in markets without fiber.

Voice&Data: Which according to you will be sectors/verticals that will be the early adopters of 5G based solutions from telcos?

Manish Vyas: Automotive for assisted driving, autonomous driving, in-vehicle media, and Telematics use cases.

  • Manufacturing for Industrial Process Automation, Automated Production Lines, Inventory and Supply Chain Optimization, Inter- and Intra-Enterprise Communication and Remote-Human IoT use cases.

 

  • Media for broadcast services, on-demand and live TV, mobile TV, augmented reality and virtual reality use cases.

 

  • Energy for smart grids, grid backhaul, and backbone, grid access communication.

 

  • Health for remote health monitoring, remote healthcare, remote surgery.

 

  • Public Safety including for enhancing first responders’ situational awareness, real-time surveillance and monitoring including drones, emergency broadcasts.

 

  • Smart Cities for smart parking, smart traffic management, smart street lighting and smart waste management, smart environment context (air quality monitoring to fight pollution).

Voice&Data: By when do you hope to see the commercial roll-out of 5G in India?

Manish Vyas: Given the current level of disruption in the Indian Telecom market, it’s difficult to prescribe a time frame for the adoption of 5G. While Telecom regulator TRAI kick-started the process of a mega spectrum auction to push 5G technology, including a discounted re-bidding for airwaves in the 700 MHz band after witnessing zero sales in the previous sale process. Mergers and consolidations within the sector and the financial health of operators are negative factors for the fast rollout of 5G technologies in India.

However, the Jio effect has also resulted in massive uptake in data consumption patterns among a vast number of consumers whom previously did not even have access to mobile internet. Forcing other service providers to increase by a massive amount the amount of data quotas that they provide, while reducing the amount that they charge for the data. We believe that with the increased consumption across user segments, operators in India would be forced to look at 5G networks sooner than later, to bend the cost curve for carrying data on their networks.

 

 

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