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Oracle Communications 2024 Predictions: Communications Industry Trends and Challenges in 2024 and Beyond

vmblog-predictions-2024 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2024.  Read them in this 16th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Communications Industry Trends and Challenges in 2024 and Beyond

By Shirin Esfandiari, Product Marketing Director, Oracle Communications

As the telecoms value chain is transforming under pressure from cloud-native technologies service providers are increasingly looking for new revenue streams through B2B go-to market models and will need a programmable network and an open platform that will be key to supporting the digital services enabled by these models. This will require planning for and launching 5G standalone networks with cloud native foundations, as well as the ability to access and interpret 5G data, and monetize new revenue streams. Voice communications continues to transform, and require additional protection, especially as we identify how real-time communications and IoT management can be inserted into new industries. On the horizon for service providers are new challenges such as competition with Satellite, enabling an open ecosystem and a frictionless ecosystem with an API economy and unlocking the power of AI for both revenue generation and cost saving.   

As 5G standalone deployments pick up speed, cloud, analytics, signaling and monetization will be prioritized.

Service providers will acknowledge the critical nature of cloud native in 5G planning.

Defining a cloud native blueprint early on in a 5G journey is imperative for communications service providers today. Container based network functions (NF) compel CSPs to think more about software and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) when creating new services. CI/CD must accommodate this technological diversity for lifecycle management of network resources, and automated maintenance of virtual and cloudified resources. According to ABI Research, for CSPs to implement CI/CD, they may have to adopt a microservices design, for a true cloud-native design of some NFs, microservices may well have to use fractions of one CPU core.

5G analytics will play a more important role in 2024.  

5G analytics should be considered an integral part of a communication service providers (CSPs) journey to fulfil a company-wide vision for the success of 5G. By bringing analytics at the core network layer, CSPs can start to think not only in terms of network optimization with insights, but also into leveraging analytics for new revenue streams in their monetization strategy - this would involve thinking outside of the 3GPP box as the current 3GPP release 17 5G core analytics are still fairly limited when it comes to new revenue generation.

Analyst firm, Analysys Mason, predicts new use cases that leverage intelligence built on data sets as well as the monetization of data will continue driving the need to capture, manipulate, and manage data. Revenue in this segment is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2%.

With the 4G network incapable of addressing exponentially increasing user demands network analytics (specifically the Network Data Analytics Function) comes into play. It allows for CSPs to exercise multiple options to manage and realize the benefits that arrive from the influx of data. Based on the journal published by IEEE,  network analytics provides operators not just with the basics of analytics for 5G but also the functionality to close the  automation loop so that CSPs can better reap their efficiency goals.

Policy, charging, and billing will be critical for 5G monetization.

As communications service providers (CSPs) experiment with new ways to monetize 5G, the concept of value-based offers that combine content, services, and applications with 5G speed tiers has been popular in parts of the world like JAPAC. In 2024, this trend is expected to pick up steam in other regions like Western Europe and North America. As 5G Standalone (SA) rollouts continue, such offers will expand to incorporate new experience pricing variables such as latency, and there will be more B2B-targeted offerings. In preparation for monetizing future B2B2X business models that expose a programmable 5G network and analytics, CSPs will focus on being able to rapidly launch value-based offers spanning policy and charging while providing financial visibility at any stage of the revenue lifecycle in predominantly B2C and B2B models.

Operators will prioritize signaling network functions as 5G standalone networks launch.

According to GSMA's Q2 5G in Context report, 40 operators have launched or deployed 5G standalone networks, with 14 more expected to launch by the end of 2023. By 2025, 5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world's population. The impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound. 5G SA will be meaningless unless done [properly. The RAN-related risks of a move to SA have been well discussed in the media: once the 5G network is decoupled from an LTE foundation, 5G bandwidth and capacity (and user experience) could take a hit if spectrum isn't allocated appropriately ; there's an even greater potential impact to service quality and user experience, mooting the basic SA value proposition for demanding 5G use cases and requiring operators to be thoughtful in their planning. As CSPs look to accelerate SA deployments to deliver on the full value of 5G, it's important to consider the interplay of cloud-native and SBA core networks with the security, interoperability and service-enablement implications they bring. As the "brain" of a 5G core network, signaling directly impacts an operator's network business. It is essential for managing traffic, maintaining network integrity, security, and optimizing use of network resources. It enables the design of differentiated services and the use cases 5G SA is designed to support, such as high-bandwidth video streaming, massive IoT and industrial automation, vehicle-to-everything communications, mission-critical services and network slicing, among others.

More than a third of operators surveyed by Heavy Reading claim they plan to deploy at launch or close to launch, with nearly half stating signaling functions will be launched within the first two years of deployment.

The voice communications overhaul will continue:

The voice services evolution is urgent.

With the arrival of 5G, the commercial pressure to retire 2G and 3G networks and re-farm frequencies is increasing. According to GSMA's Mobile Economy 2023, 5G adoption continues to rise due to new network deployments and cheaper devices. The number of connections on legacy networks (2G and 3G) will continue to decline in the coming years as users migrate to 4G and 5G, resulting in more network shutdowns.  

In this context, the need to evolve from circuit-switched services to next-generation services such as VoLTE and VoNR is more urgent than ever. The time of previous wireless technologies is coming to an end.  

According to Omdia's Tech Trend: Voice for 5G Networks report, most operators will turn on 5G VoNR one to two years after 5G standalone (SA) deployments. After launch, the most common 5G SA priority is getting network slicing operational. The immediate urgency is mitigated with quality VoLTE as Evolved Packet System Fallback (EPS FB). The 5G network may need further fine tuning as "best effort" QoS for data traffic may not prove satisfactory for all use cases. Eventually, all voice traffic will be 4G VoLTE and 5G VoNR (including 5G New Calling) as the 2G and 3G mobile networks sunset.

Communications-enabled applications will drive out disparate communications.

Communications such as conferencing, collaboration, video and voice calls will become a natural extension to industry applications relegating separate communications systems to be viewed as legacy or old.  Like horse drawn carriages to automobiles, or rotary phones to smartphones, they serve the same purpose, but become far less costly to operate and offer far more features-rich services than the previous generation. Conferences, collaboration, connections, become one click or one word away within an industry service, instead of bringing up a separate communications tool, device, or utility to make communications happen. The business logic of a service will flow seamlessly with a communication improving productivity and providing a superior experience.  

The role of the cloud in the future of communications:

Cloud communication solutions will be the foundation of the future of work.  

The way people work will remain hybrid and flexible. Today employees want the choice of working remotely or in an office. Creating human-centric models for a hybrid environment based on secure, seamless communications tools with the flexibility to collaborate and communicate from anywhere is critical to where the workplace is headed. This requires an agile approach where each employee communicates according to their own needs. Cloud communication and collaboration solutions are the basis for implementing the future of work. Enterprises need to pay attention to connectivity and flexibility when adopting cloud platforms to ensure that the employee is not limited, while their security perimeter is maximally protected.

CISOs will evaluate cloud-based solutions to protect voice networks.

The noteworthy and sophisticated voice-based hacks that recently targeted major corporations in North America grabbed headlines worldwide and made CISOs in every industry stop and pay attention.

Voice is the most widely used channel, making it a major threat vector - 73.1% of all interactions use voice either initially or as an escalation from another channel (according to Metrigy's Customer Insights and Analytics 2023-24).

Nearly two-thirds (CX MetriCast 2023) said addressing voice fraud is somewhat or extremely important. But it really should be a top priority for every single CISO with a contact center.

  • The annual cost of fraud varies greatly based on company size. Small companies lose nearly $20K a year, and large companies lose $1.2 million on average (Metrigy Future of Contact Center Q323)
  • Companies using prevention tools report a 12% reduction in operational costs and a 12% improvement in agent efficiency (Metrigy Future of Contact Center Q323)

These advanced voice and vishing attacks can have a crippling effect- from impaired productivity and reputational damage to millions of dollars in damages. Voice networks will be an even more popular path of least resistance for bad actors in the future. Minus an early, clear view into the unified communications network, businesses can fall prey to social engineering tactics such as vishing, theft of service, DoS, harassment calls, and account takeovers. To ensure a consistent security posture across multiple platforms including voice, CISOs are looking at cloud-based solutions to protect enterprise-wide communications by providing visibility into communications traffic, cyber events, and voice security.  Businesses will be able to detect attacks earlier with real-time analytics, and more security breaches will be detected from the cloud. 

What's next for the telecommunications industry?

SATCOM and telcos will enter a new era of co-opetition.

For decades, Satellite Communications (SATCOM) providers have played a critical role in connecting the unconnected whether they are remote populations, government agencies or enterprises in the aviation, maritime, and media industry. In recent times, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) market has witnessed tremendous momentum with many new players entering the market, promising high bandwidth and low latency access to both enterprises and consumers. Players like OneWeb (now Eutelsat OneWeb) primarily play in the B2B space and partner with traditional mobile telcos for backhaul services but also offer services directly offered to enterprises. On the other hand, Starlink is launching ‘direct to cell' services in partnership with their global partners including T-Mobile, Rogers, Optus, KDDI, Salt, and One NZ, starting with the text service in 2024, followed by voice, data and IoT in 2025. As it stands, all dominant signs suggest that the SATCOM providers and traditional telcos will nicely complement each other's coverage, integrating into each other's networks to enable diversification of use cases to ultimately provide universal communications access to consumers and enterprises. However, the market may see a shift or even reshape if the SATCOM economics, pricing, service performance, and reliability reach on-par status with telcos.

Service providers will embrace an autonomous networks future.

As communications service providers (CSPs) globally seek to more efficiently manage their networks through increased automation and AI/ML, many are looking to chart the path towards an autonomous networks future as espoused by the TMF's Autonomous Network (AN) project. It encourages CSPs to baseline their current level of operational maturity in certain areas and to outline a roadmap towards true operational autonomy. We foresee more CSPs setting public targets with timeframes for AN maturity withing their organizations with many seeking Level 3 compliance (policy based autonomy and conditional closed-loop control) and some Level 4 compliance (intent driven closed-loop control) as well as seeking collaborative partners with whom to engage in the journey. Important to note however that new 5G and 6G use cases and operational automation will depend on CSPs being able to create cloud-native network platforms with end-to-end programmability.

Programmable network platforms will underpin the success of carrier exposure to support the monetization of 5G networks and beyond.

Carrier exposure initiatives took a big step forward in 2023, from the launch of the Open Gateway Initiative and CAMARA APIs to partnerships and showcases of API-based use cases. While the concept of standardizing APIs for the developer community is encouraging, the industry is still far from the wide-scale adoption of these APIs fueling new and innovative products and services. 

In the coming year, we can expect carrier exposure strategies to take small steps forward, primarily through service providers foraging strategic partnerships to identify new use cases and define new APIs. Additionally, the industry will continue to grapple with key questions, including what the API monetization models should be and whether or not a neutral third-party host is essential to scaling API adoption across the industry. However, this can only be achieved with the widespread adoption of cloud native networks and cloud based technologies, and operating cloud native programmable network platforms will require significant investments in data management and network analytics tools.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shirin Esfandiari, Product Marketing Director, Oracle Communications

Shirin Esfandiari 

Shirin is Director of product marketing at the Oracle Communications Global Business Unit, with special interest in 5G technology.

She has over 15 years of industry experience in marketing and sales enablement, customer program management and sales consulting with experience drawn from numerous strategic engagements with service providers and partners around the world.

Prior to Oracle, Shirin held positions with Acme Packet as customer program manager helping Tier 1 operators in the EMEA region. Preceding that she was working for the Ericsson's global service delivery center in a systems integrator and sales consulting role.

Shirin holds an International MBA from the IE Business School, a Master of Applied Sciences in telecommunications engineering and a Bachelor of electrical engineering from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She is currently based in Madrid, Spain.

Published Monday, December 18, 2023 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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