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The need for robust and agile mobile networks to empower and drive a country’s digital transformation cannot be understated. Digitalization is helping companies address and solve their biggest and business-critical challenges, using applications that depend on reliable and ultra-low latency connectivity to deliver the goods. As such, the evolution of telecommunication networks is happening at a faster pace.

The 5G rollout has made considerable progress in the last two years. According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, 60% of global mobile network data traffic is expected to be over 5G networks by 2027. The report also highlights that in 2021, broadband IoT (4G/5G) overtook 2G and 3G as the technology that connects the largest share of all cellular IoT-connected devices, accounting for 44% of all connections. Moreover, the use of massive IoT technologies (NB-IoT, Cat-M) increased by almost 80% during 2021, reaching close to 330 million connections. The number of IoT devices connected by these technologies is expected to overtake 2G/3G by 2023 as 5G compatible and affordable mobile devices start to hit the market.

Furthermore, as the demand for cloud solutions grows, CSPs are already working with big cloud players such as Google Cloud to provide customers access to cloud solutions that address strategic customer initiatives around app and cloud modernization, as well as distributed workforces. Cloud enables enterprises to run the most demanding, file-based workloads, which require extreme performance and throughput.

Only robust, flexible, and innovative IT systems will sustain businesses into the future. CSPs have to shoulder the responsibility to offer customers the performance, scale, and enterprise-class features with the economics and flexibility of evolving technologies.

Innovation-Driven Businesses

Telecommunication is an innovation-driven business and the only way to be on top of the game is to keep up with the pace of the evolution. “The deployment of 5G standalone (SA) networks is increasing in many regions as communications service providers (CSPs) gear up for innovation to address the business opportunities beyond enhanced mobile broadband. A solid digital network infrastructure underpins enterprises’ digital transformation plans, and their new capabilities can be turned into new customer services,” says Peter Jonsson, Executive Editor, Ericsson Mobility Report.

Moreover, 5G New radio (NR) and 5G core (5GC) evolution is continuing in 3GPP toward 5G Advanced, to ensure the success of 5G systems globally and to expand the usage of the 3GPP technology by supporting different use cases and verticals. AI/ML will play an important role in 5G Advanced systems in addition to other technology components providing support for extended reality (XR), reduced capability (RedCap) devices, and network energy efficiency.

Although some legacy networks are still serving their purpose of connectivity, the inevitable adoption of 5G powered-applications will compel the phasing out of such networks sooner than anticipated. For instance, the UK is expected to phase out all of its public 3G mobile networks by 2033 to facilitate the mass rollout of 5G, and even 6G, as encouraged by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS).

Going by the principles of technological shifts, even the current transformation taking place will start to face challenges beyond the capacities of 5G and 5G Advanced (5G&B). Industry players are already talking about 6G technology to provide an efficient, human-friendly, sustainable society through ever-present intelligent communication. In no time, 6G wireless communications will become the mainstay for running huge bitrates (terabits per second) and less than 1 ms latency connecting people to things. Along with AI and AR/VR, many future data-intensive applications and services such as pervasive edge intelligence, high-precision manufacturing, holographic rendering, ultra-massive machine-type communications, and MR-based gaming are expected to demand a higher data rate (+1Tbps) and extremely low delay (0.1ms).

And on top of that, deployment of internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) is already underway in different parts of the world as the IP address space in the current version IPv4 begins to narrow rapidly.

What Role Should Network Operators Adopt then?

Network operators must be the enablers for people and businesses to reap the benefits of the latest technology whatever that may be. Operators have to maintain their revenues and cash flow through proper strategies in put in place. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Focus on innovation: Investment in the latest software and hardware, along with digital-age management practices can help mobile operators achieve breakthrough cost savings and capital intensity while maintaining or even increasing their scale. Managing networks with next-generation technologies can cut the capital spending and operating expenses of wireless operators. Digitalization can support streamlining of business functions and customer service operations. Upgrading the platforms and network elements that do not support the full capabilities of the existing technologies should remain a constant feature.

  2.  Leverage data: Advanced analytics can help mobile operators determine which capital investments will benefit their network operations the most. Operators can look through ample data about where, when, and how much subscribers' behaviours and device use patterns in less time. This practice will ultimately result in better subscriber retention management.

  3. Enhance Industry collaboration: Collaboratively developing know-how and best practices for upcoming technologies through multi-vendor interoperability of service providers transport network solutions, etc. Testing and validation of various integration points between IT and network systems for new technology-based changes are key.

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