As both enterprises and service providers continue to improve cloud connectivity for 5G core services, the performance objectives driving digital transformation aren’t limited to improving speed—but leveraging that speed and low latency to deliver economies of scale and significantly improve productivity and customer service. This expanded speed and traffic volume naturally introduces a massive increase in corresponding network complexity throughout, which also needs to be included in planning security for all the new network surfaces introduced in the upgrade. Deployments in the cloud need to be considered for not just core network functions but also for related business systems.
Compared to more visible OSS components of 5G architecture such as network orchestration, service management, and provisioning, upgrading the BSS function of charging and billing (also referred to as monetization) is frequently an afterthought. However, we posit that modernizing this function is one of the easiest/most turnkey ways to improve efficiency and QoS while maximizing agility and time to revenue for new 5G services. Maximizing this monetization at scale can generate a return on their substantial investment in their 5G network upgrades, which analysts believe will likely approach 2x the spend on the previous generation of network technology.
The corresponding evolution in monetization capabilities is a frequently overlooked but critical element of the BSS function. That’s why F5’s Service Provider team is partnering with MATRIXX Software and their Digital Commerce Platform (DCP) as a proven solution in production that ignites revenue acceleration as well as improves performance. In the face of intensifying competition, telcos will aggressively pursue new business models and services, and will need to act with great agility to roll out new offers. Customers expect that telcos will provide increasingly personalized offers and bundles, on their terms, wherever they are and through whatever channel they choose to interact. And they expect their services, their accounts, and their data to be available instantaneously, at their fingertips.
These are not attributes associated with the typical telco’s legacy billing and monetization. So the risk of not upgrading is revenue left on the table, and the missed opportunity for upsell as well.
New charging and billing transaction volume in 5G will of course be more latency-sensitive along with the other new 5G functions: at the core of improved 5G monetization with MATRIXX is a Converged Charging System (CCS), a real-time network function. The 5G CCS interacts extensively with other network functions on the control plane—such as the AMF, PCF, and NEF, among others—to easily monetize network and application parameters that were not previously accessible for real-time charging purposes. Geolocation information, parallel session information, and utilization metrics from networked enterprise IT systems can now all be interconnected with (and input to) 5G charging and monetization. And as a real-time, network connected function, the production CCS must perform with very low latency.
In addition, as 5G networks flexibly scale to keep up with demand during peak periods and maintain the now-guaranteed service levels, CCS latency must keep pace, playing a role in authenticating and authorizing sessions.
With cloud computing data centers sometimes being quite physically distant from the actual 5G networks themselves, it creates a new challenge to consistently maintain the now-expected latency of critical- and customer-facing functions like the CCS. One solution is to deploy on local cloud resources. That is, by positioning an on-premises system, such as AWS Outpost, so that the physical distance is reduced, and latency agreements can be met. Benefits offered by cloud services are many, especially in the domain of bulk data and storage.
AWS Outposts provide a fully managed service that delivers AWS infrastructure and services to virtually any on-premises or edge location to provide a flexible, robust, and consistent hybrid experience. This model would work especially well for organizations in the finance and healthcare verticals, where IT managers can extend and run native AWS services on-prem if location is a deciding factor. And it is flexible to leverage public cloud scalability to offer speed, efficiency, and faster secure deployment to address data sovereignty and latency requirements that align with industry compliance regulations.
However, advanced load balancing with the resilience and scale to support 5G high-speed monetization would be required for a successful configuration. While public cloud platforms generally offer basic load balancer capabilities, they do not typically support the protocols required for Service Provider 5G applications (HTTPS, SIP, TCP). Support of these Service Provider protocols is a key feature for F5 Service Provider infrastructure solutions, and a uniquely powerful offering that starts with F5 BIG-IP Virtual Edition (VE) for virtual load balancing, available from the AWS Marketplace.
The advanced load balancing of F5 BIG-IP VE provides robust multi-instance, multi-site georedundancy and failover features to improve TCO. And when VE is combined with Container Ingress Services (CIS) in this stack, these are the building blocks to manage the high-volume, low-latency apps within the Amazon EKS Cluster. See the diagram below:
This same cloud-native reference architecture was the answer for an IT manager at an international telecom initially intending to simply update their charging and billing function, but who instead upgraded to this combination of:
The customer acquired F5 software licenses through a direct AWS offer, as this helped to consume their AWS EDP contract. In addition to enabling revenue acceleration, the IT manager’s objective was to build a repeatable model to improve customer experience at scale—including more visibility into each customer's service usage and charges. With this new deployment engaging tech partners, they migrated B2C and B2B customer functions from legacy platforms, and leveraged the improved cloud deployment to accelerate time to market and improve their cost base. This new monetization supports both 4G and 5G into one consolidated system and subscriber database. It will go into production by 2023.
Contact us to learn more about accelerating revenue through monetization. Or ask about this telco customer’s pain points driving the shift to MATRIXX, AWS Outposts, and F5 Service Provider cloud-native solutions by contacting SPAlliances@f5.com.