In this interview, Yogen Patel, vice president, head of marketing for Amdocs, talks about his company’s mission to help service providers build their networks quickly, operate smartly, and monetize every opportunity. To do so, Amdocs embraces a spirit of open standards, modularity, edge technologies, cloud technologies, AI technologies, and software-centric technologies in its solution set.
FierceWireless: How different is 5G from the previous network transformations we’ve had?
Yogen Patel: The transformations that have happened in mobile networks over the past few decades have generally focused first on delivering unlimited voice, then on SMS, and ultimately on data, but there’s been one common element: connectivity and volume. The big change in 5G is that a significant focus is on quality of service. As a result, service providers now have the ability to deliver new and differentiated services—and to really explore new monetization opportunities.
The other big change is that 5G is not just a radio retrofit or a reboot of broadband services or business operations as usual. It’s a fundamental transformation across the board. New applications and services are going to drive new operating models that will have new business models associated with them. And the implications of this change are going to be far more broad-reaching as far as what operators sell, what businesses they get into, and how they monetize their networks.
FierceWireless: What is the role of virtualization in the 5G network?
Yogen Patel: In the 5G era, three key things will have to happen with the types of capabilities that service providers deliver. First, the network is going to have to be programmable, and what I mean by that is the ability to launch new services in an a la carte or modular, byte-sized way, targeted at specific communities or segments—either their own or through an ecosystem or partners.
Second is the notion of elasticity and scalability. If you’re working with many more devices, much higher bandwidth consumption, and lower-latency applications, network resources will have to be able to scale up or down or be deployed for specific purposes in a much more agile and flexible manner.
The third piece is efficiency. From an economics point of view, service providers will no longer be able to build out new infrastructure with all the pieces right on top of it in a traditional, box-based, dedicated-appliance model!
So, programmability, elasticity, and efficiency—there’s your virtualization. If your network can’t evolve into an architecture based on virtual components, and it isn’t based on cloud technology, you’re not going to achieve your goals.
FierceWireless: Which are the first use cases you see emerging in 5G?
Yogen Patel: Great question. There are a lot of discussions going on about the range of use cases that service providers will monetize, but the hottest investments right now are primarily in the traditional area of fixed wireless access. I say traditional because fixed wireless access has been around as a concept for a while. However, 5G technology will enable it much more efficiently. So, mobile service providers extending the capabilities into the fixed world, perhaps targeting businesses with higher-value-add services, or service providers building out residential broadband footprint in areas where there’s no infrastructure in the ground—those are the fast, initial use cases that we expect from service providers. Obviously enhanced mobile broadband follows from that.
There are other use cases—the ones I call low-hanging fruit—where I think service providers will make early moves. For example, in sports arenas you’ll be able to build out a localized network based on 5G to deliver virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) experiences. This is the kind of use case where you don’t have to blanket the entire network with 5G technology to deliver capabilities, and it will probably be the kind of use case that gets started sooner.
There are also some Industry 4.0 applications and use cases that could be built out alongside a careful approach to expanding the network, but the first use cases are really going to be the ones that are more limited in scope. Fixed wireless access is specific to a region or area; you’ll see enhanced mobile broadband in highly dense areas, starting out as a relief for the capacity constraints of today’s mobile networks; sports arenas will offer enhanced experiences in a highly localized setting, and Industry 4.0 will also have localized network capabilities. These are use cases that can be accomplished and delivered with region-specific or phased buildouts within specific parts of the service provider’s network.
FierceWireless: How can Amdocs help service providers in their journey toward 5G?
Yogen Patel: Given the scope of the network transformation that 5G will require, a broad part of the service provider’s network, operations, and business will be affected. Amdocs has great expertise in network services, network technologies, operations support systems (OSSs), business support systems (BSSs), and we have a breadth and depth of capabilities that can help service providers with their transformation. We can be a guide and a partner in helping to accomplish this evolution across all the components that will be affected, because this isn’t going to be localized to just one part of the service provider world.
In terms of our solutions specifically, one key aspect of Amdocs is that we’re based on open standards and modular technologies. We don’t lock our customers into closed, monolithic systems. Amdocs has a strong software heritage, perfectly in line with the architecture changes that are coming. We’re uniquely positioned to marry the world of traditional network know-how (whether that’s RAN technology or mobile core technology) with the new world of virtualization and the cloud and IT-oriented systems that support DevOps.
Amdocs offers a suite of networks services to support service providers in both enhancing their current networks and deploying high-performance 5G networks quickly and efficiently. We help service providers run a dynamic, automated, intelligence-driven, smart operation—with technologies such as network orchestration, slicing management, edge management—all based on software-centric tools and capabilities.
The final aspect is probably where Amdocs boasts the strongest heritage: We will help service providers capture every monetization opportunity, thanks to our rich BSS and digital engagement portfolio, our convergent charging, our digital experience capabilities, and everything that goes with that.
FierceWireless: What is unique about Amdocs’ 5G offering?
Yogen Patel: Amdocs differentiates itself in two primary ways: First, we offer modular, standards-based solutions. We’re active in Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), which is the open-source movement for network orchestration. We’re also active in Acumos, which is the open-source movement for artificial intelligence (AI). We’re a participant in the ORAN Alliance, which is an initiative to open up the radio access network (RAN) and make it modular with APIs so that you can have multi-vendor components in them. We’re also deeply involved in the TM Forum’s Open API Initiative, which eases the integration of technologies. So the “open” way we approach the network is unique.
Second, Amdocs can address the rest of the network equation that service providers need to fully monetize 5G. It’s not just about building a network, hoping people will show up, and effortlessly making money. It’s about being able to plug into partner ecosystems and provide the ability to achieve revenue management with partners. It’s about being able to charge for events and bill for them. It’s about being able to engage with the digital experience. We offer all that as well—we bring our open, modular approach all the way to the business layer.
FierceWireless: How will 5G impact service providers’ operations?
Yogen Patel: Think of the challenges service providers face when they move from their current infrastructure to one that has infinitely more components. It’s an architecture evolution to a disaggregated, decomposed network based on many virtualized components, and service providers will still be charged with managing these networks, making sure that they’re performing according to SLAs that service providers want, and so on. The business-as-usual approach to network operations won’t work.
Service providers are already under significant OpEx pressure! As they move to 5G with all those different layers of technologies involved—all those moving parts—they won’t be able to simply throw more people at it. They’ll need to embrace AI and machine learning (ML) to drive autonomous operations and ultimately zero-touch operations for segments of the network. That’s going to be a significant change from current network operations because the level of the automation today is still pretty low. Right now, service providers monitor elements, generate alarms, and direct humans to fix the errors. That model will have to change. Things will need to become automated, with closed-loop policies and closed-loop assurances, and ultimately autonomous operations, methods, schemes, and procedures.