In the not-so-distant past, monetizing services in the radio access network (RAN) was limited by archaic and excessively complicated business support systems (BSS) connected to thousands of incompatible systems. Onboarding new services was a lengthy process that involved tedious systems integration initiatives and did not include horizontal expansion and automation into other service layers. Multiply hundreds of updates and the functionality tradeoffs of non-standard interfaces, and it’s easy to see how difficult it was to unlock network capabilities that offer additional revenue opportunities.
With the adoption of 5G technologies and Open RAN, a growing number of highly coordinated touch points, associated network data, and network intelligence create closer synergies and cohesion between BSS processes and stacked service capabilities in the RAN. That means developing new revenue streams or growing and evolving existing ones. These opportunities include:
- Onboarding new applications quickly in RAN edge networks
- Making applications and data “channel ready” for partner services
- Monitoring RAN services collectively with Network as a Service (NaaS) offerings
- Managing RAN network slicing services autonomously
In this blog, we’ll explore four ways Network Operators can monetize 5G networks. The first is to locate applications closer to the customer— at the edge of the RAN.
Monetize edge applications
Applications that sit at the RAN edge reduce data backhaul, deliver better performance, and are also more reliable and scalablecompared to distant cloud counterparts. Network Operators that provide last mile connectivity can position themselves to offer new edge services using mobile edge compute (MEC), enterprise resources, and open data connections. Imagine in-hospital patient monitoring, robotic warehouse applications, intelligent traffic control applications, driverless car applications, industrial remote asset monitoring, even smart grid energy consumption applications. Applications that support these use cases are under development across a cohort of RAN innovators racing to be first, and that’s impossible without open and automated service delivery at the edge. In addition to adding organic applications at the edge, Network Operators can expand RAN edge monetization by turning edge application developers into development partners.
Create partner ecosystems
A healthy RAN partner ecosystem can help Network Operators monetize network enhancements at the edge and beyond. Development partners can pay Network Operators a flat fee for hosting their applications, or an overall percentage of application sales that are connected to BSS systems via O-RAN’s open and standard interfaces. Imagine stadium events, concert venues, and conventions that offer enhanced event experiences with associated applications running at the edge. That might include augmented, customized scorekeeping and play calling or access to artists’ entire digital catalog with one-time discount codes. It might include immersive experiences for live events, with subscriber personalization based on data shared with development partners via standard data interfaces.
Services can include specific bandwidth quality assurances for partners’ application services. Network Operators might combine application bandwidth guarantees with high-resolution content for immersive gaming experiences, educational settings, and augmented reality. Network Operators can also bundle automated network services, content delivery, and data sanitization to deliver a Network as a Service (NaaS).
Expand Network as a Service offerings with 5G capabilities
Some enterprise customers are willing to pay for virtual private networks that extend to any endpoint in the network. Traditional Network Operators can expand their NaaS and network slicing offerings with 5G capabilities that improve content delivery for personal VPNs.
Businesses will conduct mobile video meetings for thousands of employees with real-time polling and surveys. Transportation hubs might bundle enhanced passenger access and service delivery with IoT devices and sensors that improve traffic control and baggage handling. Towns and smaller cities might choose NaaS for festival and county fair parking. Smaller enterprise subscribers that don’t have a financial incentive to provide their visitors with a NaaS might benefit from dynamic network slicing.
Generate new revenue with network slicing
5G makes deployments encapsulated by a network slice much more practical. A network slice is a sophisticated, smaller version of a NaaS, allowing operators to dynamically provision and configure access and connectivity for specific customer parameters. Dynamic network slices deliver services stacked on converged service layers in highly scalable chunks. These smaller, agile network deployments allow entities and non-profits like school districts, municipalities, and other public agencies to benefit from 5G capabilities without investing in the RAN and supporting infrastructure themselves.
In addition to providing commercial network services to new customers, network slicing allows Operators to deliver incremental services to existing customers. For example, medical centers might enable remote patient monitoring with bandwidth allotment for IoT sensors, increasing bandwidth early in the morning before shift changes, and reducing bandwidth when monitoring tasks are complete.
Fujitsu services to monetize 5G networks
Quickly onboarding new organic and partner services, stitching services together, and stacking services for autonomous management and optimization helps operators monetize 5G networks. These prospects create an open and vibrant 5G RAN ecosystem that allows multiple vendors to coexist profitably, automating and optimizing different aspects of the software stack for mutual benefit. Not only will this unlock revenue potential, but it also facilitates the evolution and improvement of the network over time with competitive resources that are highly incented to cooperate. As 5G radio deployment with open and standard interfaces increases and supporting network infrastructure and automation grows, it will become easier and easier to monetize 5G networks.