5G SA - How to Turn Greenfield Thinking into Business Opportunities

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This article was first published in The Fast Mode.

CSPs can go beyond providing the high-speed networks on which the metaverse runs. Many are developing new 5G led business processes today that can be further developed and fine-tuned to support the business opportunities that the metaverse will open up to CSPs. The key to this will be partners.

CSPs employ lots of clever people who think up lots of clever use cases for 5G. Every vendor involved in telecoms has their own ideas about new use cases. Highly paid consultants advise CSPs on new vertical markets to enter and new use cases to develop. Just do a search on 5G use cases and you’ll get an ever-expanding list.

And it’s not just 5G use cases that are top of mind for CSPs who are looking to come up with new ways to make money from 5G. There are also new business models. B2B2X, working with partners to become a tech company and the partnership / competition dance that’s going on between CSPs and hyperscalers - these topics keep CSPs thinking about where to place their bets.

It's fair to say that there are a lot of new ideas being generated just now in the telecoms industry. Greenfield thinking is good. Innovative ideas are good. Will all these innovative ideas on 5G use cases and business models work? Of course not. Some will never make it past the initial review process, some will be turned into offers and some will crash.

Others, however, may do very well and become sustainable, profitable revenue streams. The truth is with 5G SA, because it is so new, we just don’t know what use cases will be most successful or what new business models will be most profitable. This uncertainty doesn’t help when trying to turn greenfield thinking and new concepts into reality.

What also significantly slows down the process is dealing with legacy systems. Using systems that were designed to launch, manage and monetise texts, voice minutes and GB of data, to develop new 5G offers and implement new business models could be costly.

How does a CSP update a legacy system to price a service based on a service level agreement or quality of service, with a system that was designed 10 years ago? It takes time and money, and this just adds another layer of risk and another reason why so many good ideas and concepts don’t make it past the planning process.

Remove the Legacy Bottleneck

Here’s a radical idea. CSPs spend millions on maintaining their legacy BSS and monetization systems and several are currently throwing money at them to upgrade for 5G. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at an alternative approach.

One that involves putting in a new stack, totally separate from legacy to cater for 5G. At this point CIOs will be asking ‘what about my system consolidation strategy. We’ve got too many stacks as it is and you’re proposing adding another?’ After all, we have seen some of the new entrants reaping benefits of this green field approach as they never had a legacy problem to deal with, like DISH, Jio or Rakuten.

Adding a new BSS and monetisation stack to cater for 5G SA doesn’t fly in the face of system consolidation. It can accelerate system consolidation and reduce costs. The cost of upgrading a legacy stack to cater for 5G SA will be expensive. And what exactly do we mean when we talk about upgrading a legacy stack?

Are we talking about a services-led re-design of the system to a new stack that is built using the latest tech advances? If so, that’s not an upgrade - it’s a new system implementation. Then you’ll need to migrate all the existing customers and services over to this new ‘upgraded’ system. This means that legacy processes that were developed to support 2G and 3G customers will have to be re-developed on the ‘upgraded’ system.

A new stack for 5G is exactly that. It’s for 5G customers. Because the 5G stack is new it will use all the latest tech and be open, cloud-native, use microservices and deliver a configuration over customisation approach by using no-code. The CSP would implement this new greenfield stack as a stand-alone system and use this to launch new offers.

Any new 5G customers are added to the new stack and existing customers who upgrade to 5G are added as customers on the new stack. After a period of time if some customers still haven’t upgraded to 5G then the CSP can do a forced migration and move these customers to 5G. Then legacy systems can be switched off as all customers have now migrated to the new stack. From an operational / process perspective, with new technologies, comes a new and improved set of processes.

CSPs can train and retain their employees on new technologies. This gives them a sense of upskilling and moving to better-served processes and services making use of 5G. Greenfield thinking ultimately is not just for technology systems, but also for processes and operations to be done in a new and improved way.

This commercial approach to customer migration will enable the CSP to retire legacy systems and have, over time, the new 5G stack as the single BSS and monetisation platform that supports all customers, across all lines of business for all services.

Also, the new stack will have standards-based APIs, which facilitates integrating the new stack into sales or self-care channels which provides minimal change to the operational teams (such as sales) who are working through these channels.

The question of how best to develop, manage and monetise new 5G SA services gives a choice to CSPs. They can upgrade complex legacy stacks which could create new bottlenecks in the systems and processes. The alternative is to go for a new greenfield stack and use that as a stepping-stone to transform their business and, over time, migrate existing customers off legacy in a commercial manner.

A 2022 CSP survey by Nokia (5G, The Path to Monetisation) showed that a massive 98% of CSPs planned to alter their BSS to cater for 5G, while 42% were planning to implement a new BSS and monetisation stack to cater for 5G. That’s a significant number and it supports the idea of implementing new stacks to enable the development, sales, management, and monetisation of new services.

This approach gives CSPs more freedom to experiment with new 5G ideas, new use cases, new business models and new processes. It provides the platform to turn greenfield thinking into new business opportunities.


Kai Keinänen
Director, Product Success, Qvantel

Atul Purohit
Head of Technology, Cloud & Network Services, Nokia


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