5G, between challenges and opportunities

The advent of 5G is one of the most hotly discussed topics in the tech world today – and for good reason

The technology is expected to provide the UK economy with a £150bn boost over the next decade, lead to the creation of countless new jobs and opportunities, and improve the provision of public services. Moreover, 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. But, 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 security threats could go unnoticed. To top it all off, unlocking 5G success comes at a cost: 80% 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 undoubtedly 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 comprehensively visualised 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.

Network monitoring is therefore something service providers must factor in at the beginning of any project. Considering it after the implementation is far too late. Afterall, traffic volumes are only likely to increase: 5G will account for 45% 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 effectively deploy it. 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 have 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 only possible if they know what they are and how they’re being used. Network visibility, for instance, can help 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 rapidly identify performance issues, 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 therefore 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 retain customers and minimise costly turnover.

5G offers challenges and opportunities all within one single innovation. When it comes to adopting it 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.

About the Author

Matt Percival is EMEA Senior Director Service Provider at Gigamon. We enable your organization to run fast, stay secure and innovate. We are the first company to deliver unified network visibility and analytics on all data-in-transit. Across your physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure, we aggregate, transform and analyze your network traffic to meet your critical performance, rapid threat detection and response needs, freeing your organization to drive digital innovation.

Featured image: ©GreenButterfly