In my earlier blog, I wrote about the promise of 5G network slicing, which opens the door to a variety of service offerings, to support differentiated requirements across industry sectors. In the interim, the current challenging economic time of the coronavirus pandemic has given mobile network operators (MNOs) a chance to re-assess their 5G strategies and double-down on pursuing new service opportunities.

The shift in consumer lifestyle patterns may have impacted the timing of some 5G use cases – industrial automation demand may slow, but interest for multi-media remote sporting experiences is anticipated. 5G brings unprecedented opportunities to provide customers with new services and an exceptional user experience, given performance of up to 100 Gbps and latency in the order of 1 millisecond. But 5G also brings additional operational complexity with network slicing technology, new radios, rearchitected transport, and a virtualized 5G core. 5G needs automation in the backend to manage this increased complexity and to contain associated operational costs.  For MNOs, automation is a must, not an option.

In my discussions with MNOs, it is apparent that planning for 5G deployments is heavily influenced by an operator’s legacy infrastructure – infrastructure that exists in the field and systems that exist in the network operations center (NOC). However, no matter the starting point, it is essential to have dynamic planning capabilities that simplify and accelerate each phase of the process.   

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Figure 1: Blue Planet 5G Automation solution supports each phase of an MNO’s evolution to 5G

At one incumbent mobile operator, they are planning to roll-out small cell 5G radios alongside their 4G radios, in non-standalone (NSA) mode. However, they first need to get visibility of their current network assets. Their legacy inventory and operational support systems (OSS) are disjointed, so it is difficult to obtain an accurate and comprehensive view.

Furthermore, those OSS are not up to the task of modelling new 5G constructs. It would be an extremely heavy lift to shoehorn 5G data in, with very limited scope for extensibility. On the other hand, introduction of a new system could further fragment or duplicate operational data.

This is when Blue Planet’s federation capabilities prove to be a crucial step for 5G planning. With Blue Planet’s 5G Automation solution, data from existing systems is federated, reconciled, and synchronized into a new unified data model built on state-of-the-art graph database technology which can accommodate complex 5G relationships. There are also existing business processes – mostly manual – that rely on OSS, which need to be modernized to support automated 5G workflows.

Another MNO customer is a new entrant who is not encumbered by pre-existing infrastructure and OSS, has more flexibility in designing new systems and processes to support their 5G strategy, and can implement them more quickly. This MNO is planning to deploy tens of thousands of 5G cell sites in standalone mode (SA) within a few years. To scale expediently, they need to design-in automation of their business processes from the outset. Blue Planet’s 5G Automation solution is a natural fit, as it provides multi-vendor service orchestration and assurance founded on a unified inventory of hybrid physical and virtual infrastructure.

Beyond the radio infrastructure, both MNOs are looking ahead to architecting customizable network slices end-to-end across the radio access network (RAN), transport and cloud domains, to satisfy their customers’ requirements. To this end, Blue Planet provides the holistic operational system to help determine the placement of 5G Core (5GC) virtualized network functions (VNFs) at the edge or in the core, with necessary compute capacity, to best support a variety of latency and bandwidth needs. Alongside VNF planning comes the planning of sufficient capacity in the fronthaul, midhaul and backhaul to support high-bandwidth 5G data volumes. Implementation may differ depending on whether wireline transport network is wholly-owned or whether wholesale agreements are in place. In any case, Blue Planet provides the end-to-end multi-vendor, multi-domain visualization from RAN to core, of network slices and individual customer services.

Figure 2: See how Blue Planet 5G Automation simplifies and accelerates the path to 5G

For both MNOs, Blue Planet can enable the comprehensive planning and lifecycle management of 5G network slices end-to-end, to help accelerate the rollout of differentiated customer services. Moreover, the state of the 5G network and VNFs is constantly changing, and it is of utmost importance to have dynamic visibility and predictive analytics to preemptively assure a high level of service quality. In fact, closed-loop automation is a necessity to be able to keep up with the dynamic nature and scale of 5G. Blue Planet’s AI-driven analytics is an integral part of the Blue Planet 5G Automation solution providing the intelligence to drive automated assurance workflows and to continuously optimize 5G network operations.

Having the customer experience at the forefront, and the best 5G automation tools in place, is surely the best plan for 5G success.