The plot thickens and it happens. Sherlock Holmes aspirants hunt for the killer app that will initiate at every major technology inflection point. The latest quest, of course, being 5G. It’s as if the IT and telecoms industry developed a cult-like zeal that will only be satiated once this killer app is revealed.
Unfortunately, I have the unenviable task of breaking the news that there is no such thing as a killer app, that there never was and that there never will be. However, this doesn’t mean the news is all bad. There are most certainly going to be some really important use-cases, some new apps that we are not currently thinking about and some new business models. These will all bring in new players and new delivery ideas, all of which could deliver real, sustainable monetary and societal value.
This brings up the question, are we focusing so heavily on that killer app or use case that we have diverted from the need for a killer environment? This killer environment, a platform that will play a pivotal role in bringing new apps, players and business models to market, will fundamentally sustain the success of 5G over the coming years.
What Exactly Is a Killer 5G Environment?
I wrote an article recently where I expressed that complexity is the enemy of progress, implying that any and all attempts to simplify the delivery of something in the eyes of a consumer is always a good thing. And, it is. Put into the context of telco, the telco serving model for consumer mobile services has become unfathomably convoluted and costly. It needs major simplification of the customer app to compel people to join, stay and spend more money across the customer life cycle.
I then went on to quote Einstein’s comment, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.” For telco, the back-end monetization engine, the “digital brain” of a progressive and connected content business, will, by nature, be a complex animal. However, much of that intricacy can be reduced by consolidating and rationalizing the “digital paths.” These are like neural networks encompassing all the end-to-end application and business logic workflows, including computations, data, data stores and communication links executed or accessed to complete a specific process.
The 5G Converged Charging System
The 5G converged charging system (CCS) IS the natural location to bring the concept of the digital brain to life. It lies at the heart of real-time decision making and a commercial neural network. However, the underlying construct of that system and its readiness to handle the complexities of new business models and associated transaction loading will determine if it’s fit for this enhanced purpose.
With many telcos looking at 5G not only through the lens of overall revenue and margin growth but also a platform for reducing overall OPEX, doing much more with a lot less becomes the new norm. That necessitates that telcos do greater due diligence around the expanded, deeper and fundamentally central role that a CCS needs to perform if they are to deliver on both fronts.
The Main Characteristics of a Killer Environment — 5G Converged Charging System Platform
Transaction performance of >10^4 per instance to handle a fourfold digital transaction load increase over 4G
API request-to-response = 1 complete transaction
<10mS transaction real-time transactional latency defined across ALL system interfaces; control plane latency = user plane latency; in their “8 currencies” positioning, Verizon quote 10mS as the end to end response time required
Southbound to network, eastbound to partner interface and settlement systems, westbound to payment gateways and legacy billing systems, northbound to customer channels
The ability to act as a real-time monitoring, insight and analytics platform for monetizable network events
Embedded event streaming server interfacing to Apache Kafka framework
Support for B2C, B2B, B2B2C and B2B2B business models on one platform
All the end-to-end application and business logic workflows, including all computations, data, data stores and communication links executed or accessed to complete a specific process
A true out of the box, click-not-code product; not an integration project
Delivery of key use case, catalog and pricing logic out of the box, no hidden change request tax or perpetual pricing model, replaced by a simple, predictable per device per annum model
True cloud native architecture and design
De-coupled functionality that can be deployed in bare metal, private cloud or public cloud environments, and scale up and out on-demand in a highly agile manner
Why Is Simplifying the Digital Experience Important?
Digitally savvy users want it and they want it now. They exhibit what I call the “three zero” tendencies — they have zero patience, zero tolerance and zero loyalty. If they don’t get what they are after incredibly quickly, they will go elsewhere. They will churn and become negative detractors. So, it’s massively important that brands show up consistently, and not just at the joining or onboarding enthusiasm. Brands must be consistent throughout the customer lifecycle.
Would You Like Sugar and 5G With Your Coffee?
Imagine that you decide to order your daily cup of joe on your favorite coffee shop’s app before you step foot into the café. You may not realize it, but you gave the shop a golden period of monetization. Not only did they monetize the coffee purchase, but the time between you placing the order and leaving the restaurant allows them to offer contextual campaign offers, local store offerings, trend-based upsell or cross-sell offers, partner company offerings and loyalty additions.
Conversely, what if you purchase the coffee, leave the shop and then five minutes later get a series of offerings related to the coffee purchase? Opportunity is lost and a really poor customer experience is delivered because the golden period was completely missed. Of course, the app is important as a delivery mechanism in the coffee shop case, but a killer environment does the hard work of formulating and delivering the details of the offers in real-time.
What Does a Coffee Shop Customer Experience Have to Do With 5G?
The coffee shop example is to prove a point. 5G will both accelerate existing and enable a swathe of new digital-first use cases and business models across consumer, enterprise, industry and IoT segments. The societal drivers mentioned earlier and competitive pressure from internet tech players are driving the race to digital, but not all digital-first is born equal. It could be argued that even though a customer missed the golden period, they still engaged in a digital-first experience. Yet, the negative experience received, due to poorly designed systems not being capable of keeping up with real-time demand, raises the risk of user churn or moving people from advocates to detractors (in NPS terms).
5G accelerates the challenge for back end systems. The return required on huge 5G investments means telcos will have to squeeze every ounce of monetizable revenue and margin they can from an array of use cases, offers and plans. That means new use cases, new business models and new partnerships — all delivered at mass scale, consistently. Suddenly, workflow maps start to look so complex that legacy thinking would begin to distribute the load and data across multiple systems. This would complicate the digital paths, reduce response times, increase the variability of response in the user’s eyes and crucially, miss key opportunities.
That’s why a killer environment that is digital grade by design and can execute all business logic and transactions in one place is such a significant requisite for delivering on the promise of 5G ahead.