The launch of commercial 5G services is accelerating around the world, and the expectations for new use cases and opportunities they will drive are high. Much of the promise of these new use cases will come with the implementation of new 5G core technologies that enhance the ability to deliver dynamic end-to-end network slicing and automated operations. However, in order for communication service providers (CSPs) to deliver these new capabilities, they must maximize their return on investment by enabling dynamic new business capabilities in order to capture every revenue opportunity afforded to them. This has brought into greater focus the limitations of static legacy business support systems (BSSs) which are unfit to achieve these goals due to their older architectures, limited flexibility and lack of real-time monetization capabilities.
Effective monetization solutions for the 5G economy must be highly flexible to support diverse business models, as well as corresponding charging and billing models to drive new revenue. Monetization solutions must also be open to enable CSPs to digitally interact with customers and partners. In addition, business agility is required so that highly dynamic digital services can seamlessly be brought to market rapidly. All of these must be delivered with greater operational efficiency than ever in order to support the massive growth in data and devices at lower costs.
Converged charging is the key to improved 5G monetization
Critical to any 5G monetization system and to connecting network capabilities to business results is the converged charging system, whose function and architecture have been redefined for 5G. 5G converged charging is based on a services-based architecture, and integrates with the network in new and diverse ways to enable new monetization dimensions and relies on containerized, cloud technology to deliver agility, automation, flexibility and reliability. Together these capabilities enable CSPs to react quickly to continuously shifting market conditions with minimal effort – providing advanced rating and charging capabilities to efficiently monetize high-quality digital, 5G services.
One area that converged charging systems for 5G will be expected to adapt will be the greater opportunities for 5G monetization in the enterprise space, bringing services to market which utilize all the advanced capabilities of a 5G charging system. According to Analysys Mason, enterprise-focused business use cases, such as mobile edge computing and network slicing, will require modern, scalable, real-time charging systems. Further, the report states that, “In the long term, it will be beneficial for service providers to deploy all new stacks to support these use cases rather than investing in enhancing legacy billing and charging systems.”
Another important capability for 5G charging systems is their ability to adapt quickly to market forces. The outbreak of Covid-19 and its massive impact on the way we work, learn and consume entertainment is evidence that CSPs must constantly be prepared to adapt to changing market conditions. 5G Converged charging systems can help CSPs achieve improvements in business agility that enable them to respond faster as it enables:
- Effortless plan and promotion creation utilizing a business-led graphical user interface (GUI) and natural language
- Optimal and automated processing efficiency for complex use cases through adaptive quota algorithms
- Flexible data models that enable the formation of complex account hierarchies
With such capabilities that will ultimately enable CSPs to enhance customer experience and maximize return on investment for their use cases, it will be unsurprising to see CSPs increasingly deploying new converged charging systems to monetize their digital and 5G-driven services.
CSPs are already using converged charging to unlock 5G’s potential
A leading North American service provider selected a converged charging solution to provide the 5G Charging Function (CHF) in their 5G standalone environment to enable the monetization of new use cases. They required a solution that was cloud-native, scalable to support tens of millions of customers, and could be deployed quickly with full integration into a multi-vendor environment. Leveraging a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline and cloud-native technologies ensured rapid implementation and response to evolving customer requirements. The software was deployed in a Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) web-scale environment. And a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) layer was introduced to achieve operational efficiencies by using common supporting functions for multiple network elements. The solution’s flexibility and agility have laid the foundation for long term monetization as new 5G services are created.
Earlier this year, Sunrise Communications in Switzerland also selected a cloud-native converged charging software. With this deployment they can now more rapidly package, price and promote a wide range of consumer and business services across both 4G and 5G. They are also able to create differentiated offers for even the most complex use cases and emerging services enabled by 5G.
Now is the time to make the change
This year, communications service providers have become more resilient than ever. According to Euronews, approximately 3.9 billion people have been affected by lockdowns since the beginning of April, dramatically shifting network traffic patterns and impacting the lives of many subscribers. CSPs quickly launched initiatives around improved connectivity, provisions for vulnerable customers and a wide range of innovative offers, with the ultimate goal of improving overall customer experience. We are unable to predict exactly what the future holds, but one thing that is certain is that the way we work, study and live will be changed as we know it.
Many believe that virtual closeness will become our new normal; driving the increased need for digital transformation of industries and services. At this juncture, CSPs should not simply upgrade their static legacy business support systems, but instead take charge and change course with monetization solutions that are ready and built for the new normal. That is, one that works in tandem with converged charging solutions so that CSPs can reap the benefits today in the 5G era.
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