5G network slices create greater assurance complexity

By: Bernardo Lucas

The promise of 5G is just around the corner as we see network deployments accelerating across the globe. GSMA Intelligence estimates that there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections by 2025, accounting for 40 percent of the global population, or approximately 2.7 billion people, giving them the network connectivity, speed and capacity to support applications in smart homes, smart factories, connected cars, or smart energy grids.

Network slicing is a key enabler of 5G, giving network operators the ability to allocate portions of their networks for specific customer uses cases and ensuring the network is optimized to specific SLAs required to support each application. Managing the wide range of specifications for each application per subscriber, however, creates revenue- and business-assurance complexities that need to be addressed to ensure customer expectations are met.

We’re already seeing the seeds being planted for how 5G services will come to fruition in the near future. Today, consumers are getting a taste of what’s to come as sports broadcasters, for example, increasingly offer virtual and augmented reality experiences to help fans feel like they are part of the action from the comfort of their home. Don’t like your view of the game? Virtual reality allows viewers to change seats, be courtside or enter the team huddle. Just imagine being on the podium as the next Super Bowl winning team lifts the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

By enabling networks to be segmented to meet the requirements of specific services, such as guaranteed resilience, bandwidth or low latency, network slicing gives operators greater flexibility to meet specific service needs. While this flexibility will be vital in order to support the catalogue of new enterprise and consumer applications enabled by 5G, it comes with accompanying complexity. Different service-level agreements (SLAs) will apply to different slices, with different pricing depending on specific slice requirements, all of which will need to be tracked in order to accurately bill and charge for these services. This requires the ability to collect performance data from 5G networks and network functions in order to ensure SLAs are being met. Here it is essential to spend some time discussing the opportunities that 5G network slicing brings to operators to examine where specific challenges to revenue and business assurance can arise.

Following the Customer Journey

For a closer look, let’s look at Grace’s customer journey. Grace wants to purchase a live streaming pass for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. She is especially interested because, as a Netflix subscriber, she gets a discount. Netflix is also offering premium passes that provide access to athletes’ lounges as well as Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR) special features that Grace can add to her experience. After considering her options, she chooses the standard pass.

While this sounds like a straightforward use case, there are a few opportunities where a breakdown in BSS integration across the value chain can create major revenue and business assurance headaches for CSPs. Let’s look at how.

1) Grace’s Netflix discount doesn’t apply. Because of a mismatch between the discount voucher and the configuration in the order management system, Grace doesn’t receive her discount. For Grace, she may abandon her plans to purchase the pass or demand a refund on the discount that she was due from the CSP, which they will need to reimburse. Either scenario creates a poor customer experience because of basic configuration errors—one that could have been avoided in the first place. 

2) Grace accesses premium content. Due to configuration errors, Grace can gain access to the athletes’ lounge and interact with the sports stars, which is premium content for passholders only—but is not included in Grace’s standard-price pass. For the CSP, this will increase the cost of the event because it will deliver the premium content to Grace and will be charged by the content partner provider, but the CSP will not be able to recoup the costs from Grace for the additional services.


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