Amid the hype about the Metaverse, flying taxis, and robotic dogs, it was the more practical questions about generating new revenues and managing application QoE that prevailed
1. Segue to ‘Normal,’ Maybe – During MWC Barcelona, everyone was genuinely happy to be in-person with colleagues and customers again. There was a palpable “let’s do this” attitude among executives, who were excited about the new ways in which consumers and enterprises were embracing digital services and apps, and about the roles they played as enablers to that change the past few years. That excitement was, however, punctuated by an urgency to build compelling use cases, and to monetize them with innovative plans tailored to usage and QoE guarantees (for data speed, latency, device connectivity, reliability, availability, and data-driven insights).
As one of 61,000 in attendance at MWC Barcelona, I was fortunate to have high-quality conversations with dozens of executives at the show, whose backgrounds were as diverse and varied as the technologies and networks we were discussing. After a couple of weeks of reflection, below are the “key takeaways” I’d like to share as I think they are indicators of where things are headed:
2. Race to Generate New Revenue – Service providers across the board wanted to move beyond flat, capped, and unlimited plans. But to do so in a meaningful way, they knew they’d have to first guarantee a good experience, even during peaks and surges. They wanted the ability to address latency, packet loss, and retransmission, so they could get into more personalized and customized offerings based on usage and QoE guarantees. It’s at that point they’d be able to add revenue streams and value-adds.
We demonstrated how a good foundation of network data analytics and traffic management would give them an understanding of what’s happening over their networks – the rate of adoption, user behaviors, and plan preferences. By optimizing networks and managing congestion, they could assure QoE and ultimately drive monetization of dedicated slices and SLA- and latency- sensitive services. In addition, they’d improve troubleshooting of service-quality issues, usage overages, and billing disputes – all of which would translate into the best possible QoE.
3. 5G is Just another ‘G’ - In our meetings, operators ran the gamut of 5G preparedness, from “not ready yet” to already up and running. The elephant in the room was that many operators worldwide were struggling to get 5G out the door. That indicates to me that in the 5G Maturity Curve, it's either done and deployed, or fully planned out. The thinking and questions have to now shift to the use cases that will get operators the ROI they need.
Our Revenue Generation use cases are designed to enable Zero-Rating and Application-Based Plans, Usage-Based Services, and Parental Control. We will continue to enhance them according to customer demands.
The answer most likely lies in the “Enterprise,” as I examine more closely in the point below. I think initially it will be B2B services built on top of connectivity, and at some point, the IOT as well.
We will continue evolving our Application and Network Intelligence portfolio according to what our customers need. With a growing number of customers looking for 5G use cases, we announced three new ones before Barcelona: 5G Adoption Analysis, 5G Slice Load Analysis, and 5G NF Load Analysis. Additionally, we made other 5G portfolio enhancements for cloud native support, public cloud integration, and deeper analytics.
4. Upsell to Enterprise and Industry – Nearly every executive I talked to in Barcelona considered the Enterprise and Industrial IoT the biggest levers for increasing average revenue per user (ARPU). Though there was talk about network slicing and private networks, I think those will be the cherry on top of the cake, with the cake being connectivity to enterprises. Fixed networks are here to stay, and normal connectivity (both mobile and fixed) will be the foundation on top of which private networks and slicing will exist.
Industries like manufacturing, logistics, energy, and M2M will eventually need connectivity among tens-of-thousands if not millions of devices. They’ll also need enhanced analytics for better decision-making.
Operators have a role to play in all of these needs, and through managed services they’ll offer networking, security, contact center, mobility, and more. Eventually, they’ll be able to hand over more “command and control” of parts of their network to the enterprise, which will also open up new revenues.
As this evolution takes place, we continue to enhance our intelligent traffic management solutions to ensure operators can enable what’s needed in the public sector, educational institutions, and the finance, retail, manufacturing, and transportation and hospitality industries, to name a few.5. Need for More User and App QoE Data- With recognition that apps and app ecosystems matter more than ever to businesses and consumers, executives I met were particularly interested in how user and application QoE data could help them assess how the biggest apps and OTT-driven traffic were impacting their downstream and upstream traffic, and ultimately user experiences.
We were able to demonstrate how our sophisticated analyzers, and behavioral correlations could classify 95% of internet traffic (including regional services and niche applications). We distinguished different services, even in multiplexed flows, using our Application and Network Intelligence platform for user and application awareness.
In addition, people liked the frequency of analysis and visualization we provide, at 250 millisecond intervals, which enables faster response to network issues – even before customers are affected. By assuring the quality of data and visualizing degradations, it’s more likely operators can deliver expected QoE levels, and monetize them.6. Cloud and Containerization are Crucial - Agility and flexibility of deployments were on the minds of many executives we spoke to. To lower costs and maximize agility in service assurance and 5G, they wanted containerized and cloud-based solutions.
In that vein, we’ve made our Application and Network Intelligence portfolio available as cloud native network functions and virtual network functions across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
And to drive network data analytics in the 5G Core, we have a cloud-native NWDAF for core, cloud, and edge deployments. It can be specialized and dedicated to specific serving areas, core/edge, and slices, as well as to one or more analytics services and use cases.
The NWDAF will support a broad spectrum of use cases, including NWDAF-assisted congestion management, NF/Slice life-cycle management, network operations, SLA assurance, cyber threat management, and others.7. One thing that hasn’t changed is that after four days on the floor, your feet really hurt! Mine have finally recovered!
In all seriousness, these “takeaways” reflect some of the trends that confirm for me that service providers are increasingly seeking rich real-time network and service data for SLA and service innovation in their networks. Regardless of where they are in their 5G transformations, they’ll continue to seek granular insight about app usage, subscriber behavior, and patterns of congestion and heavy usage. This insight will inform future use cases essential to app QoE, such as network optimization and capacity planning, and ultimately those for monetizing QoE and driving innovation.
To learn more about our Application and Network Intelligence, view our 2022 Global Internet Phenomena Report, and check out our Application and Network Intelligence Portfolio. If you have any questions, feel feel free to contact us.