When it comes to network slicing, the slice itself is only the pipe — it’s the applications, and bundling it all neatly into an as-a-service model for enterprise that offers the real opportunity for communications service providers to serve business and industrial sectors in new ways, according to John Lenns, VP of product for Oracle.
Getting enterprise customers to buy a slice of 5G doesn’t only require mobile network operators to build out the networks themselves, but to put together a service offering with bundled, relevant applications and marketing to pursue specific verticals in ways that are fundamentally different than how they have pursued the enterprise space thus far.
In an interview with Lenns, he said that Oracle sees large operators who can afford early capital investments in 5G “pursuing 5G technology in much the same way they pursued 4G technology.” In other words, building their own networks on their own premises and transforming their central offices or data centers to support more virtualization and edge computing,, and pursuing the 5G market based on that infrastructure.
While that is in some ways an advance, Lenns said, the network slicing aspect of 5G opens up far more flexibility and opportunity, via working with cloud providers — such as Oracle, which already supports both enterprise applications and telecom operator networks. But network slicing itself, he noted, is “just the communications pipe.” It’s what the slice enables in terms of applications — and bundling those apps and bringing them to market as industry-specific solutions — that Oracle sees as the true opportunity for 5G innovation within verticals.
Lenns said that by working with third-party cloud providers and leveraging network slicing, communications service providers have the opportunity to dabble in new service offerings that hasn’t been an option before. He envisioned scenarios where operators would lean on Oracle’s cloud to turn up new services “inexpensively and pretty rapidly. If there’s a high take rate, then they can scale up, or they can eventually move it to their own data centers if they choose,” he said. “If that initiative doesn’t have a high take-rate, it’s not a big capex and opex outlay up-front and gamble by the CPS. … They can try multiple things and see if they take.
“5g is going to enable that slice, that will enable that new, more efficient way for CSPs to introduce B2B offerings,” Lenns said. Network slicing, he said, is “going to enable the CSPs to be more aggressive in trying new services to offer,” he said. “Historically, the upfront cost was a very risky thing. They had to spend all the capex and opex up-front, not knowing the success rate of the offering. But with the slice-as-a-service and the applications being offered in the cloud as well, the CSPs are going to be able to go after these offerings more aggressively.”
But again, the slice has to be part of an overall service bundle, including relevant applications.
CSPs, he said, “can offer the whole use case as-a-service. We see that as the really exciting aspect of slicing for 5G to enable rapid deployment for B2B: a combination of the slice, plus the application.”
He gave an example of a construction company that has been awarded a 50-story skyscraper to be built in Chicago. That company could be offered construction monitoring-as-a-service for a monthly fee, that includes applications such as monitoring of ingress/egress at the site, equipment monitoring, inventory tracking, monitoring of workers on-site via vests equipped with sensors, and even an application for drone inspection of welds high on the building.
In order to put together an attractive and relevant service, though, CSPs will have to develop their own in-house understanding of the needs of specific verticals, in order to market to them. As far as progress on that front, Lenns says, it’s a mixed bag.
“Some CSPs are understanding … what they need to do to enable this on their end” for working with Oracle to provide the slice and the applications in its cloud, he said. The technology and the operations are there to do that, he added.
“I think what [CSPs] recognize is, they need to have some people on their team and they’ll be hiring industry-savvy people, to partner with companies like Oracle and other third parties, and say, ‘What is the state of the art for the applications that are offered to industry verticals? How can I take that and wrap that up into a bundled offering for that industry?’ ” he said. “That’s the skill set that they need and it’s being recognized that they need this. I think you’re going to see an evolution of their teams to accomplish this. They’re going to need the industry depth of the market value of the solution for the B2B, rather than all the tech to make it happen.
“I think you’re going to see the growth on the CSPs side in their CMO organization, rather than the operations, the COO. It’s going to be the CMO side where these people are going to enhance their skill set to attack the verticals with ideas and value, considering what applications are going to be developed and wrapping them up into offerings that are attractive to the B2B consumers,” Lenns added.
Some CSPs, he went on, “are getting there faster. When operators come to events like 5G World or Mobile World Congress, we’re seeing a new type of attendee there, to supplement who traditionally attended in the past. We’re seeing the CSPs sending people who are charged with coming up with these ideas, we’re seeing them and they’re … wanting to see demonstrations of use cases, not technology. We see that starting to happen, but there’s a lot more that needs to happen to make that pervasive.”
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