From powering driverless vehicles to tackling the global climate crisis, 5G networks will play a huge role in shaping the future of our society. How can CSPs remove barriers to innovation and drive positive change?
5G technology holds transformative potential for business, individuals and society. However, successfully realizing the true power of large-scale 5G network coverage still requires tremendous work across the telecommunications sector.
That’s why it was so exciting to hear two real experts – Aurelio Nocerino, Global 5G Delivery and Capability Lead at Accenture, and Björn Odenhammar, Head of Networks & Managed Services at Ericsson’s Customer Unit UK & Ireland – discussing the challenges and opportunities created by 5G at this year’s SAS Innovation Summit.
Understanding the scale of the challenge
Launching a £30 million competition to make the UK a world leader in 5G technology is just one of the ways the UK government is hoping to motivate communication service providers (CSPs) to accelerate the rollout of 5G networks across the country. And while these funds go a long way to drive innovation, providing 5G connectivity for the entire country will still require billions of pounds of investment from private industry.
Facing such a huge capital investment, it’s critical that CSPs plan their 5G network development projects effectively to ensure maximum return. And with many obstacles standing in the way, accurately forecasting the potential revenues can be a daunting task.
Overcoming barriers to network evolution
Like many industries today, CSPs are facing significant supply chain disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With demand for computer chips and the raw materials for specialist technologies outstripping supply, finding the components to build a cutting-edge network is more challenging than ever before. And with energy contributing up to 30% of most CSP costs, rising energy prices are also diverting valuable resources away from other aspects of network development projects.
While supply chains and energy prices are largely expected to return to prepandemic norms in the short term, other barriers to the rollout of 5G may prove to be more persistent. In the UK, strict regulations for acquiring land for new 5G towers are slowing down the initial stages of network building. In fact, so far, 100% of all attempted acquisitions have been appealed. This has prompted a lengthy and costly legal process in order to complete them.
Once planning permission is finally granted, deploying these new technologies requires specialist skills across multiple domains, from advanced electrical engineering to IT infrastructure management and cybersecurity. With experts in many of these fields in short supply, CSPs have to work even harder to attract, retain and nurture the talent they need to support their development goals.
Overcoming these barriers to deploying new networks increases costs and delays the potential benefits of bringing 5G online. Ultimately, this places additional pressure on CSPs to ensure that any new networks they build are ultra-resilient and can deliver a strong return on investment.
Harnessing the power of analytics
Reliable, accurate and real-time analytics will play a vital role in planning and running the 5G networks of the future and helping to break down some of the barriers to building new infrastructure.
Already, CSPs are investing extensively in monitoring, with a vast array of IoT sensors installed at each node in their networks. Equipped with up-to-the-second insight on key metrics, such as the performance of 5G masts and the weather conditions surrounding them, network engineers can often predict node failures before they occur.
Automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are also proving to be essential tools in developing and operating 5G infrastructure. For instance, to help plan network development projects, many CSPs are utilizing digital twins. These are virtual models that replicate the CSP’s physical network. Using these models, engineers can run various network scaling scenarios to establish the best way to roll out new services.
Digital twins also provide CSPs with the ability to stress-test their network across a range of scenarios, from testing automated failover procedures following unexpected outages to simulating a range of weather conditions.
Delivering compelling new services
As well as supporting the development and management of 5G infrastructure, data analysis will form the foundation of many of the services these new networks will deliver. For instance, many manufacturing companies are already working with CSPs to enhance efficiency and strengthen quality control by using smart IoT sensors to monitor every aspect of production.
5G connectivity enables these sensors to transmit vast volumes of manufacturing data very rapidly. But unless CSPs can help companies ingest, analyse and act on the information gathered, their IoT solutions will deliver little value.
That’s why CSPs and businesses are working hard to combine the power of ultra-fast data transfer via 5G networks with cloud-based analytics models to enable rapid data analysis on-site in production plants.
Cloud as a key enabler
To deliver the innovative IoT, AI and ML solutions that will harness the power of 5G technology, cloud technology will be a key enabler. So in addition to supporting CSPs with cutting-edge analytics technology, SAS is also helping organizations strengthen their cloud computing capabilities.
To ensure that CSPs can use the right mix of cloud services for their business, SAS is committed to keeping all SAS Cloud offerings vendor-neutral. This empowers CSPs to tap into the full potential of their existing cloud investments and avoid vendor lock-in. And with a range of options available via SAS – from fully managed cloud application infrastructures to industry-leading consulting on private cloud deployments – CSPs can enjoy the increased flexibility, cost-effective scalability and robust reliability of cloud computing without compromising on data security, regulatory compliance or IT costs.
Supporting a greener future
Because 5G consumes much less energy than older-generation networks, deploying this new technology will help to tackle the global climate crisis. And with the World Economic Forum suggesting that technologies such as 5G, AI and IoT have the power to cut global carbon emissions by 15%, pursuing 5G development projects is a clear prerequisite for protecting the planet.
As well as requiring much less energy, 5G networks will also enable new energy-efficient innovations in manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, travel and traffic management, each of which will help to drive sustainability and cut carbon emissions.
To help the telecommunications sector and society at large reap the rewards of ultra-fast 5G infrastructure, SAS is committed to helping key players in the industry drive innovation with cutting-edge analytics and cloud solutions. To find out more, visit SAS for CSPs.