The landscape of the Telecom industry is changing faster than ever before. Not only because the way that we communicate constantly evolves, requiring more agility, more ﬂexibility and innovative services, but also due to the depletion of the legacy revenue streams that is currently driven by over-the-top (OTT) competitors.
Customer experience continues to be a very important diﬀerentiating factor and organizations can place themselves in a better position with modern AI technology. However, the telco market itself perceives 5G as the technology that has the potential to really change the role of telco companies in the emerging global economy.
5G is to succeed the 4G standard with speeds up to 100 times faster and ca-pacity 1,000 times wider. Qualities as such enable mobile networks with far higher reliability and cost eﬀectiveness, as well as reduced energy usage. 5G networks will eventually not only enable a signiﬁcant increase in connected devices, but they will also oﬀer highly improved data rates, ultra-low latency and network slicing capabilities. The latter is a technological improvement of great importance in terms of generat-ing direct and indirect revenue for CSPs.
In general, 5G is capable of creating a path with ample opportunities for new services and revenue streams, more effective network operation and new customer experiences. In EU, the plan is to have uninterrupted coverage for urban areas, by 2025.
Mobile operators may capitalize on 5G disruption and realize new revenue op-portunities with the development of nu-merous applications, based on the new enabled communication services. Apart from the capability of Network Slicing for greater eﬃciency and cost optimization to users, 5G also provides enriched and innovative services through technological capabilities that enable the following categories of use cases:
Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
eMBB promises fast, high-bandwidth connectivity, paving the way for an incredible consumer experience and providing the ﬁrst marketable 5G ap-plication, oﬀering great improvement over 4G LTE. It will aid the development of today’s mobile broadband services, such as emerging AR/VR media and applications like augmented learning, and entertainment including 360-degree streaming or 3D virtual meetings with real-time translation in several languages. However, eMBB is not just content for entertainment purposes and for consumers. It will in fact evolve to augment the capability of all connected devices including IoT.
Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC)
uRLLC has been introduced by 3GPP for 5G, with a speciﬁed target laten-cy of < 1 millisecond and reliability at 99.9999%. In other words, uRLLC com-prises a set of features that provide low latency and ultra-high reliability. Such qualities will eventually enable consistent responses in real time to allow implementation of high-precision production lines, automated mining and mission-critical /time-sensitive applications, like remote surgery or autonomous cars. Development of this type of services is already underway, for example T-Mobile US is leading the industry with more than 100 points of presence for networking on autonomous driving.
Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC)
Considering the proliferation of the Internet and the capabilities of the 5G eMBB, transmitting IoT data will require wireless capacity orders of magnitude greater than the existing one in order to avoid overloading the network. 5G mMTC is to leverage 5G high scalability, cost eﬃciency, increased availability and low power consumption qualities to interconnect machines through the IoT. mMTC use cases include Industry 4.0 applications such as predictive remote maintenance, management of smart grids, traﬃc manage-ment and connected homes.
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)
Along with providing highly enhanced mobile broadband and massive low-latency, the 5G infrastructure can pro-vide the perfect platform for delivering FWA coverage. FWA paves the way for mobile operators, to provide fast broadband services comparable to many current wired broadband oﬀerings and enables delivery of ultra-high-speed broadband to suburban and rural areas, mainly supporting households and businesses where ﬁber is not possible or too costly. FWA also guarantees indirect revenue to mobile operators through costs cutting by enabling them to deploy the 5G FWA instead of the more expensive FTTP and FTTH.
Emerging Business Models
In the very ﬁrst phase of 5G, the monetization/charging challenges may look similar to that of 4G. However, as advanced capabilities ﬂow in, business cases will become more complicated and challenging.
Emerging business models, although they cannot be accurately predicted today, will lay the ﬁrst stone for new synergies and crossproduct oﬀerings bringing enhanced com-mercial transactions. 5G will eventually enable numerous direct or indirect business relationships (e.g. B2B2X) among CSPs, 3rd parties and the end customers. The most common of such models, also applicable today, refers to 3rd party digital content oﬀered to consumers by the CSPs.
Similarly, diﬀerent verticals may set up and utilize Private Wireless Networks (PWN) optimized for the speciﬁc needs of their domain. A PWN provides connectivity similar to a public wireless network, but it is owned and managed by the organization that has built/acquired it.
Large enterprises are increasingly turning to PWN for its advantages over cable or Wi-Fi; advantages that are now further strengthened by 5G. For example, Utilities can enjoy the beneﬁts of an mMTC slice, with SLA-dedicated care and Network Management API for Smart Energy, while an Automaker can take advantage of a URLLC slice for Smart Manufacturing.
In other words, the opportunity for CSPs to deliver and mon-etize signiﬁcantly enhanced digital services through new B2B partnerships is already multiplied.
GSM Association has published the Generic Network Slice Template (Version 4.023, November 2020) to standardize a list of attributes and attribute groups that can characterize a type of network slice. Those attributes will be the main source from the pool of parameters required for a 5G pricing and charging system. Figure 1 on the right is to depict a structured extract of that pool:
Towards a Convergent Charging System (CCS)
The concept of converged charging is not new. It has in fact been the target architecture of many operators for several years. However, the model of a single engine for both online and oﬄine charging has been proved much slower than the industry expected.
5G technology is here to support dynamic and highly conﬁgurable network services that expedite innovative business models and enable new services and enhanced experiences across industries. However, the eﬀective monetization of 5G services and capabilities can be challenging and costly without the right tools and processes, which may be the case if, for example, it is based on a legacy charging system. Charging is critical to any monetization system. So, in order to leverage the features of 5G towards generating more revenues,charging must change; and it appears to be changing as 5G networks roll out and related standards emerge.
The charging system, its function and architecture, has been redeﬁned for 5G. According to the ETSI/3GPP standards, the 5G Charging System must be convergent with no separation between online and oﬄine rating and charging. 5G CCS is based on a services-based architecture (SBA) integrating with the network in new and diverse ways to capacitate novel monetization dimensions, while it relies on cloud technology to deliver agility, automation, ﬂexibility and innovation.
Together these capabilities enable a fast reaction to the many conditions of an ever shifting market with minimal effort, providing at the same time those rating and charging capabilities to efficiently monetize 5G services.
Private Wireless Network Figure 2 below depicts a set of possible flows for monetizing/charging a PWN in the context of 5G.
This example, although concise, is sufficient to show most of the qualities required from a 5G-oriented charging solution. Apart from its competence to support the 5G capabilities as they roll out, such a system must be able to support complex B2B2X relationships and be open to cooperate with legacy and emerging/innovative 3rd party BSS.
Intracom Telecom is a widely recognized developer and supplier of telco solutions, delivering complex turn-key projects in Southern/Eastern Europe.
The evolution of its long-established and widely-recognized NGINius-Charging™ solution, is a fully convergent moneti-zation engine, architected to quickly respond to the dynamic 5G environment, ready to charge new generation services, while being agile enough to continue supporting current technologies and existing business models.
The evolved NGINius-Charging™ fully supports the 5G ETSI/3GPP charging architecture that has adopted the converged charging paradigm, embracing RESTful protocol for its new interface (Nchf) between the Session Management Function (SMF) and Charging Function (CHF).
The main objective of NGINius-Charging™ for 5G is to support all types of Service Providers employing B2C, B2B and B2B2X models and help them increase their responsiveness, adaptability and performance in the 5G and IoT era. Its ability to handle the anticipated high volumes of charging events from 5G network slices and provide high throughput and low latency charging across multiple devices and services, addresses some of the key challenges of modern service monetization. Also, its 5G Mediation component enables CSPs to seize the 5G opportunities with minimum disruption, by allowing the legacy Online Charging System (OCS) to be reused for 5G, so as to facilitate a fast time to market for the new services.
Figure 3 depicts the NGINius-Charging™ for 5G functional architecture at high level.
Intracom Telecom has been recently selected by a Tier-1 Greek CSP to deploy its NGINius-Charging™ solution, thanks to its top quality development, customization and integration capabilities. The solution incorporates all the requested functions for Account Management, Balance Management, Account Top-up, Voucher Management and Customer Care Support, offering a complete OCS for the online rating and charging of mobile users’ Voice & Messaging traffic. Its modular design simplifies and speeds-up the delivery of new personalized subscriber centric services, thus enhancing user experience and loyalty.
The continuously evolving NGINius-Charging™ constitutes a fundamental building block for the Greek CSP in order to accomplish its envisions for innovative digital services, and expand in new market segments, capitalizing on the opportunities generated by 5G and growing IoT use cases.