Minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has issued the policy direction to ICASA to commence with the allocation of high-demand spectrum. The government approved policy guarantees that SMMEs will also benefit from the licencing through the new Wireless Open Access Network (Woan) which will address competition in the sector and address the challenge of high data costs in the country.
For now, large telecoms operators will use spectrum to continue rolling out their 4G/LTE networks and begin their deployment of next-generation 5G technology. Even though the first commercial services are only expected to launch in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2021, the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications is already impacting on the development of business support systems (BSS), with complex usage-cases that require integration with a wide range of other systems or complex interactions.
These include IOT vertical solutions, the formation and sale of joint services and products with partners, technical interaction and settlement payments with partners, eSIM subscriptions management. These are all in one system.
Unlike the fundamental shift currently taking place with the transition from 3G to 4G, the move to 5G will be more evolutionary, and easy to understand from a practical perspective. Certainly, 5G networks will offer faster speeds, more reliable connections, and enhance how business and consumers experience mobile communications - all essential ingredients to be successful in the digital age.
A study from Juniper Research found that annual operator billed revenues from 5G connections will approach US$300-billion by 2025, rising from US$894-million in 2019, its anticipated first year of commercial service. The report forecast that 5G service revenues would be 38% of total operator billed revenues by 2025.
But until it becomes mainstream, 5G will be focused on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, supporting the drive around IOT.
IOT launch pad
In comparison to the above figures, the GSMA forecasts that the number of global IOT connections will triple to 25 billion by 2025, while global IOT revenue will quadruple to US$1.1-trillion.
As a continent, Africa provides the perfect foundation to use connected devices to help solve some of its most pressing challenges. The IOT ecosystem consisting of sensors, data analytics, workflow automation, and applications, has the potential to create more efficient operations across industry sectors.
5G is set to be the true enabler of widespread Internet of Things applications, by providing massive machine-type communications (mMTC), which allows for the connection of a large number of devices that transmit low volumes of data traffic at periodic intervals.
Tackling technical issues
Overhauling any network requires significant capital costs; a report by TM Forum highlights that 67% of total revenue from 5G use cases beyond enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) is dependent on OSS/BSS transformation. This is where the importance of having a flexible and strategic relationship with a BSS vendor is critical.
Telecom operators will need to do a lot of work to successfully launch 5G services, including changing the radio access network (RAN) and core network, and building virtualised infrastructure - all while maintaining support for previous standards such as 2G, 3G, and 4G.
The BSS modules of the system will have to work in a virtualised environment within the framework of network functions virtualisation (NFV) technology, and the individual VNF (virtualised network function) units will have to support management through a single orchestration centre. This will increase the speed of deployment and increase the automation of the management process. The BSS system should further support new business scenarios based on the use of network slicing.
In addition, full convergence and support for other communication standards are required, such as using Wi-Fi replacement technology and the associated business model of working with partners.
Developing for the future
Partner relationships must evolve around these new business models that suit the 5G environment in general, and the opportunities for IOT in particular. With the initial focus on connected devices, telecom operators must ensure that robust systems are in place to support the convergence between data capture, analysis, and actionable insights.
CSPs can enhance their service offerings with these evolved BSS systems to deliver business and consumer solutions capable of meeting the growing demands of a digital environment and modern subscribers - digital natives. However, it remains important for operators and BSS providers to support the associated new business models that are expected to arrive with 5G. With changes to service monetisation approaches being just one of the areas likely to be impacted, more organic partnerships are essential.
With the arrival of transformational technologies such as 5G, it's more important than ever for CSPs to have a detailed approach in choosing a BSS vendor capable of becoming a long-term and reliable partner. BSS providers must work closely with CSPs to support them in taking full advantage of what 5G can deliver.
5G allows operators to provide a much better customer experience. Working closely with them, means BSS providers will play an even more integral role in helping drive communication innovations in the future.
* Hassen Hamza, Pre-Sales & Business Development Director, MEA, at Nexign.