Vodafone has changed its pricing model for 5G, in a new article by Mobile World Live. By moving to “pricing data by speed rather than volume” Vodafone has set a precedent for the industry. A genius move by our customer in looking beyond the hype of gaming in autonomous vehicles, and movie streaming while jaywalking! The benefit of 5G is speed and latency, not volume. Tariffs for speed of connection are well known for broadband users but have been remarkably absent for mobile phones. Pricing by volume failed in the broadband market many years ago.

However, pricing for the speed of the connection will inevitably lead to better alignment in several markets. Possibly, producing other opportunities based upon factors such as ‘latency’. For example, within industrial or medical markets where the response is critical and ‘access’ for IoT where bandwidth is not important but the number of connections is large.

What does pricing for speed of connection mean for CSP’s?

So what might this mean for the operational load? Well, pricing for speed, latency, the connection will lead to a more diverse demand on the service configuration, revenue management, and graduated service quality management. Balancing this with the industry making huge capital investments, like 5G, in fragmenting markets with reducing revenue. Therefore, meaning a solution must be found to the increasing complexity of operations and at a lower cost of delivery. The winners will be those that fully understand how to hand over operational responsibility to the machine, whilst maintaining proper supervisory controls.

How can automation help?

The war cry of “Automation” is not sufficient to enable this. As early car manufacturers found when they tried to automate production. Putting a robot on the production line doesn’t increase productivity, and moreover risks introducing chaos further down the line. The realisation that to hand operations over to machines, you must mimic the operational hierarchy of organisations. Car manufacturing generated the “Kraken” model and Telecom operations the “SADA” model.

Intrinsic automation embedded in the new generation of 5G technologies will help with local “Functional” automation like resetting ports. If configured correctly (which is a major automation issue itself) may also help assist with local “Task” automation such as re-routing a connection. However, beyond this is where the real complexity lies. The diversity of services operating across the same infrastructure is extensive. The provisioning and activation processes, linking in with BSS systems for ordering and billing is provided across the network. It must be right. We have seen many stiff fines for inappropriate billing behaviour with the current, arguably, simple infrastructure. Can we imagine the scale of issues that would trigger fines in a poorly configured 5G environment? Put this together with the reality that 5G will be operating for at least as many years in a hybrid environment with previous generations, the environment will be very complex.

The reality check

While network technology organisations have been focussing on the functional capabilities of 5G and the operational principals and architecture. Cortex has been working to understand how the operational load of these new concepts and technologies can be managed in reality using process automation and service orchestration. From configuring and activation multi-vendor 5G, SDN & NFV, through to deploying and assuring seamless services across 2G, 3G, 4G, Fixed, MPLS, WAN, MAN etc. This is where the battles will be drawn, and where the winners will emerge.

We look forward to continuing our long and diverse relationship with our strategic customer Vodafone, helping them to be the industry leader in automated operations. To achieve the velocity, capacity, complexity, scale, and lowest cost of delivery, to drive success in 5G and beyond.