I recently heard an ad on the radio from Sky TV. They’re on an advertising blitz just now to get customers to buy their new TV, Sky Glass. It’s a smart TV that comes with Sky services along with integration to Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime built in. At the end of the ad when the voice-over speeds up with the usual terms and conditions stuff I heard the words ‘recommends a minimum broadband speed of 25 megabits per second’. Sure enough on checking this out further Sky recommends that anyone buying their Sky Glass TV has a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps for HD content and 25Mbps for UHD content. I live in Ireland and according to Speedtest.net the average fixed broadband speed in July 2022 was 69Mbps, up from 57Mbps in July 2021, so I should be fine to buy a Sky Glass TV and get my football fix in UHD. But as anyone knows the more traffic you put on a broadband connection the slower things get. A few screens in a household being used at the same time could soon result in screens freezing and unhappy customers. And then wait till someone in the household starts online gaming at the same time and the result is complaints all around about broadband speed.
The Sky Glass ad is interesting as it contains advice on the need for certain broadband speeds (25Mbps). Is this the shape of things to come? Will we see more disclaimers / advice about the need for minimum broadband speeds from digital services and equipment providers? Also, with the number of connected devices in a household going up and the resultant drain on broadband how accurate can a minimum broadband speed recommendation be? Imagine the ad said, “Sky Glass TV with guaranteed UHD (Ultra High Definition) TV regardless of who your current broadband provider is or how many other connected devices there are in your household”.
Network slicing enables mobile operators to manage the characteristics of 5G networks. So they can control speed, latency, and quality of service for the 5G network that is associated with specific services, devices (e.g. the Sky Glass TV in the scenario above) and/or customers. This is crucial because up until now the network speed, latency, and quality of service has been ‘best effort’. With 5G SA (stand-alone) operators are upgrading to a new 5G core and this enables network slicing. There will be a spectrum of 5G use cases that have different speed and latency requirements. Let’s take the example of a smart city where 5G enabled sensors measure air quality and send the information back to a planning team in city hall. In this case normal 5G speeds are fine. The air quality data is important, but it’s not mission critical and there’s probably not a commercial SLA (service level agreement) in place for speed of data delivery. So, there’s no need for a dedicated 5G network slice there. For the football fan who’s just signed up to pay for Sky Sports to deliver football matches in UHD to their new Sky Glass TV it could be a different matter. It’s not exactly mission critical but there may be a commercial agreement to guarantee the network speed to watch football games in UHD. They may be paying a premium to Sky to provide the guaranteed speed, who will in turn be paying the 5G CSP for wholesale data which will have a delivery SLA built-in as part of the agreement. This needs a network slice to deliver the required speeds for UHD video to the Sky Glass TV. Taking the need for slicing a stage further, let’s take an example of a connected ambulance that sends vital patient information to the hospital so they’re ready for the patient with the right equipment. The data from the connected ambulance could be considered mission critical, so the mobile operator can provide a dedicated 5G network slice for connected ambulances that comes with guaranteed speed, latency, and quality of service.
While the first 5G SA use cases that use slicing will probably be in the enterprise market, the opportunities in the consumer market will also be there as consumers use more and more data-hungry services and have an increasing number of devices connected in a household all fighting for a limited amount of broadband. UK operator, EE is running an ad campaign just now saying that their fibre broadband can support up to 100 connected devices in a household (and land a plane at the same time – impressive stuff). This just points to the trend for more devices, using more data in a household – which may be why Sky is putting out the 25MB data speed information as part of their Sky Glass TV advertising campaign.
This increase in the number of connected devices per household and the increase in data-hungry services spells out an opportunity for 5G. As more and more services are delivered over mobile networks, 5G network slicing enables the mobile operator to manage the delivery of these services. Bandwidth-hungry services like online gaming or UHD streaming video can be delivered with a guaranteed network quality of service, high speed, and low latency. This places the mobile operator in a strong position in the 5G value chain and a very attractive partner for companies looking to deliver their services over mobile networks. This will mean operators evolving beyond selling telecom services to offering many more services, with a lot more partners and developing new business models. An operator may go from selling 10 different offers to selling several hundred and these can have different variables in them – e.g. a gaming service with standard 5G speeds, or a pro version with SLA backed quality of service for serious gamers.
This has a significant impact on how operators can charge for services. There are more pricing variables for more services. This also has an impact on BSS and functions like product catalogs and service creation. When an operator is working with a slicing-enabled network, new service creation can be much faster. Traditionally, changes to core functionalities such as the introduction of new Quality of Service classes have required long discussions, deep scrutiny, extensive testing, and careful change management, since they potentially impact every user on the network—consumers, businesses, and even wholesale customers. With slicing enabled, new network slices with new quality of service attributes can be created instantly. This gives more power to the commercial product management and the marketing teams as they can create offers much quicker and develop offers for specialist segments.
Furthermore, parameters are not limited to traditional quality of service attributes such as throughput and latency. Operators can build local services. They can change packet sizes and disable or enable IoT. Network performance also becomes much more granular as usage monitoring can be done on a slice level. This enables new ways of measuring the effectiveness of network resources and spectrum usage, which in turn allows operator product management teams to be more innovative in creating new ideas, trialing them, and implementing new ways of generating profitable revenues.
With a flexible commercial/fulfillment product catalog, new offers can be introduced and tested within days. Combined with no-code building blocks in fulfillment, commercial services can be quickly built using a combination of network services and various over-the-top IT services. This fast time to market increases the speed of the concept-to-cash process and gives the agility operators will need to take advantage of the new business opportunities that 5G slicing will offer.
Head of Digital Marketing
To find out more about the impact that 5G will have on BSS, please download the joint Nokia and Qvantel white paper, or if you’re going to DTW visit Qvantel on stand 229.