Matt Percival, EMEA senior director service provider at Gigamon, discusses why network visibility is key to making the most of 5G.
While some believed this year’s events would slow down the advent of 5G, projects involving its rollout have been progressing steadily. Nearly 9 out of 10 business leaders surveyed by Accenture plan to use 5G to enable mobile working in the next four years. In this new tomorrow, where employees work flexibly from their offices, homes or elsewhere, connectivity is key and 5G has the potential to be a crucial business tool.
This doesn’t mean, however, that it won’t bring about new hurdles to overcome – particularly for service providers. First off, think of the huge amounts of data travelling at unprecedented speed through and within networks – this is sure to present security challenges, not to mention risks of performance failure. Furthermore, if SPs want to offer the advantages of 5G to their customers, the costs involved from the get-go – as well as on an ongoing basis – will not be minor. Is the investment worthwhile? And, ultimately, will it be profitable?
Juggling threat protection, performance optimisation and significant initial costs will not be easy for those looking to enable 5G. That said, they can mitigate these difficulties by perfecting network monitoring with thorough visibility: this way, they can improve security, ensure network reliability and gather valuable insights to optimise investments.
Monitoring to maintain performance
Enabling high-quality network service for their customers is any service provider’s top priority – that’s why network performance has to be impeccable. This is only possible with rigorous monitoring. Due to the virtualized nature of 5G environments, network monitoring promises to be more complex. With the advent of 5G, networks are sure to become more intricate and will encompass fully virtualized locations – think of control plane sites – and physical solutions in locations that are mainly physical – for example, user plane sites. Because of these different components, monitoring must be something SPs think about from the beginning. The days when this could be implemented as an afterthought are long gone.
But why is monitoring such a crucial element? Firstly, we must consider that the increased speed and bandwidth enabled by 5G are set to complicate matters in terms of security, and breaches of this nature can be hugely detrimental to performance and customer experience. It will therefore be important to monitor data to make better use of security solutions – for instance, web app firewalls and intrusion prevention tools. Monitoring the network closely can also enable SPs to better delight customers: unlocking insights on network usage and customer preferences (through application metadata and filtering intelligence) is key to providing high-quality service with new 5G capabilities.
Balancing costs and profits
While they figure out how to leverage 5G to meet their customers’ demands, service providers will also have to manage the costs brought about by this new technology – research shows global mobile operators are expected to invest $1 trillion by 2025 to unlock 5G success. It’s not just the initial cost of implementing the necessary infrastructure – which, on its own, will be considerable – but the monitoring element specifically that could be pricey as probing tools require maintenance and need to be upgraded regularly in order to ensure quality of service and protection. All in all, companies will be forced to invest a sizable amount in their 5G initiatives, meaning ensuring these endeavours are actually profitable won’t be easy. The ideal ally is, once again, network visibility.
While some costs cannot be avoided, the way forward is optimisation: clear visibility into the network allows SPs to strategically direct traffic to the right monitoring tools in order to use them efficiently. In particular, businesses can redeploy 4G tools to monitor 5G traffic to drive cost savings. Visibility-powered intelligence can also help roll out new services faster and realise revenue quicker, which can balance out expenses. Profit can also be boosted by pinpointing and pursuing high-profitability accounts – this is the kind of useful intel that visibility can help gather. Finally, keeping a close eye on network traffic and usage gives SPs the power to rapidly resolve performance issues – reduce MTTR – meaning the network is more reliable and the cost of support is minimised.
The rollout of 5G is surrounded by anticipation and curiosity – both on the consumer and the business side. And, while industry experts are still working to establish what the most fruitful applications might be – over 30% IT leaders admit they have much to learn in order to make the most of the technology – it’s unquestionable that 5G will be a game changer. To make full use of it, companies must enhance visibility across their network to gain critical insight, ensure satisfactory performance, prevent security incidents and, most importantly, enhance ROI for this innovative technology.