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Wednesday, 16 December 2020 11:05

5G, between challenges and opportunities

George Tsoukas, ANZ Manager, Gigamon George Tsoukas, ANZ Manager, Gigamon

GUEST OPINION by George Tsoukas, ANZ Manager, Gigamon: The advent of 5G is one of the most hotly discussed topics in the tech world today, for good reason. The technology is expected to provide a $5 billion boost to Australia’s economy by 2030, according to Deloitte and Telstra, leading to the creation of countless new jobs and opportunities.

The surge in speed and data volumes is set to enable more superior, seamless consumer digital experiences – think of the benefits this brings to activities such as gaming, streaming services and other forms of entertainment.

Unlike its predecessor, 5G also has the potential to revolutionise the business landscape. This year’s events have made flexible working and remote collaboration commonplace across the globe, so enabling employees to connect with colleagues and clients, no matter where they are, is going to be a key application for 5G in the future.

Naturally, with new opportunities for success come new challenges to overcome. In a network where such high volumes of traffic travel so rapidly, and where numerous devices are interconnected, performance issues can often be compromised and disrupt activities.

Meanwhile, growing network complexity means that security threats could go unnoticed. To top it all off, unlocking 5G success comes at a cost: 80 percent of service providers forecast the price of managing IT infrastructure and apps will rise with the arrival of 5G, and expect the initial cost of implementing the technology to be excessively high.

So, how can service providers leverage 5G to thrive in this new commercial landscape, while optimising their investment?

Monitoring networks...

While 5G will be a positive change on the tech landscape, unlocking the full suite of possibilities it holds is set to be a costly and complex affair. A crucial element to ensure any 5G investment is a success is network monitoring: to ensure the highest quality and performance, networks must be visualised comprehensively across their entirety, and all traffic rigorously analysed.

This requires fully virtualised solutions in fully virtualised locations (like control plane sites) and physical solutions in locations that are largely physical (like user plane sites) to cohesively manage environments dispersed across many geographies.

So network monitoring is something service providers must factor in at the beginning of any project. Considering it after the implementation will be far too late. After all, traffic volumes are only likely to increase: 5G will account for 45 percent of the 164 Exabytes (EB) of the mobile data traffic per month predicted to exist by 2025.

It’s clear that monitoring 5G traffic is fundamental in order to deploy it effectively. The question is: can it be done cost-effectively or is this going to be a service provider project that will break the bank?

...without forfeiting profits

When planning for 5G adoption, service providers need to bear the cost element in mind. First off, 5G will represent a significant upfront cost for those who seek to implement it. On top of this, the expense involved in monitoring 5G networks threatens to be prohibitive.

Upgrading and maintaining the tools and probes needed to monitor 5G network traffic can be incredibly costly, so service providers will find themselves tasked with figuring out how to derive profits from their 5G initiatives. Unsurprisingly, the panacea for this problem is working with optimisation in mind.

In order to drive optimisation, operators need clear visibility across the network. Making the most of their resources is possible only if they know what these are and how they’re being used.

Network visibility, for instance, can help to utilise monitoring tools more efficiently by directing all relevant traffic to the right place and redeploying existing 4G probes, which are less costly. Analysing networks can also help to identify performance issues rapidly, meaning problems can be resolved far more quickly and support costs can be contained.

Additionally, visibility into network traffic can also help make the 5G journey more profitable by unlocking greater revenue. For instance, a clear view of the network can help service providers identify customer accounts where they can derive more revenue, guiding their focus accordingly and helping to increase profits.

Insight into traffic and data use can also allow service providers to enhance the service they offer to their customers: improving their experience doesn’t just help garner more value from each account, it also helps to retain customers and minimise costly turnover.

5G offers challenges and opportunities all within one single innovation. When it comes to adopting the technology and making the most of its value, knowledge truly is power.

Now, budget uncertainty and global difficulties triggered by the pandemic risk dampening the excitement around 5G. However, its potential to streamline remote working and boost economies worldwide is too valuable to overlook.

That’s why service providers must focus on gathering insights into network traffic, its usage and potential pain points – this is key to realising this technology’s exciting possibilities.

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