Telecoms Inventory Management – evolving for 5G vertical services

13 July 2021

Telecoms Inventory Management – evolving for 5G vertical services

New services for vertical players are rapidly approaching, enabled by full 5G standalone networks. For operators to deliver to new industry partners, they need to be sure that, not only can a service work, but also that it can be commercialized. For that, OSS and BSS evolution is required – with telecoms service inventory management a crucial part of the future framework.

New 5G services are moving from PoC to trial and soon to commercial readiness

While much attention has, rightly, been focused on demonstrating and validating new 5G services, the time has come to explore how these can be commercialized – and, crucially, monetized. As a result, there’s new research and activities centered on updating OSS and BSS systems, to take account of new service requirements, driven by the expanded ecosystem that is expected to consume them.

One major 5G initiative is ‘VINNI’ – 5G Verticals Innovation Infrastructure. You can read about this, here, but, in essence, 5G-VINNI is a consortium of stakeholders that is collaborating in the development and realization of new services for vertical industries that can be created from the capabilities of a full 5G Standalone core and associated infrastructure. Recently, the team has published an interesting new paper[1], which seeks to create priorities for OSS / BSS evolution to enable such services to be realized commercially – and to enable them to be paid for.

OSS and BSS evolution is required to support new vertical customers

In 5G networks, while there are enhanced services for mobile consumers, there will also be a wider range of services for so-called ‘B2B’ players, from a wide range of verticals. They seek to take advantage of new capabilities, such as ultra-low latency, the ability to connect to a much greater number of devices in a given area, and so on. The wireless connectivity offered by 5G will allow them to use such capabilities to deliver new functionality and to enable more effective service activation, control and management – in a dynamic environment.

While many such needs will be met through 5G private networks, many will also be met through partnerships with mobile network operators. As such, business relationships need to be created – so it should be no surprise that traditional OSS / BSS tasks, such as “service order management” will be fundamental to the successful monetization of these service needs and relationships.

Telecom service inventory management is critical to this evolution path

In this context, telecom service inventory management will play a crucial role – as you can see from this high-level diagram, taken from the paper:

5G-VINNI-business-layer

A vertical customer may request a service from an operator, and, in turn, the operator must be able to orchestrate this, using telecom inventory management solutions to check and gather the resources required to do so. There are some crucial differences between this new environment and traditional service order management, which point towards future evolution of components such as the telecom service inventory management platforms that will be integral to their delivery.

One example is volatility. In contrast to an existing and classical B2B service, for which a contract period might run over several years, with appropriate periodic billing, a vertical player – a factory for example – might request a specific service for a short period of time. It is anticipated that the vertical should be able to do so directly, from portals – as you can see in the figure above. This dynamic nature needs to be supported by the components, including telecoms inventory management solutions.

5G-VINNI is bringing a roadmap for OSS and BSS evolution to the industry

5G-VINNI is trying to set a pathway for OSS and BSS evolution to support this and has identified a number of ‘maturity levels’ that are required to get there. It’s a sort of pathway, with clearly defined steps. If we explore the ultimate realization of this – Maturity Level 4 (ML4) – we can see the vision in full:

5G-VINNI-business-layer

From this, we can see that there are three new requirements for the telecoms service inventory management solution. These are:

  • Homogenous service E2E – concerned with service consistency for vertical players and the attributes (and hence resources) required to deliver this
  • Slice control – the coordination and orchestration of dedicated network slices for the vertical customer, which demands understanding the location of resources whose capabilities need to be configured and controlled
  • Assisted customer access – informing customers of event changes and allowing them to monitor service and faults

Of course, there are many similarly complex requirements for other components of these evolved OSS and BSS layers, but it’s clear that it builds on established principles while demanding evolution to embrace new features.

Don’t get left behind – update your telecoms service management solutions, now

So, telecoms service inventory management is going to get a lot more complex, soon. That’s why any operator that runs inventory through accessing data in scattered silos, is going to be left behind, soon – if, that is, they seek to engage in and succeed with new 5G opportunities.

Getting data into a single place is one key step – which can easily be achieved with CROSS. Further, integration with new components will be required, so the inventory management system must be able to extend to cover new operational systems and resources so that, for example, individual VNFs can be checked prior to ordering and activating a new service.

In fact, it’s clear from this work that operators need to start thinking about this now. Telecoms service inventory management is about to go center-stage. It will be fundamental to the delivery of new services – if you plan to embrace these opportunities, you need to build advanced inventory capabilities into your planning, now.

 

[1] “5G-VINNI Business Layer: Design, Maturity Levels and Rollout”, 5G VINNI, June 2021