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5 Revenue-Driving Applications of Private LTE Services

by Tim Irwin Tim Irwin No Comments

In my last blog about monetizing Private LTE Networks, I made the case for private LTE services as a way for mobile network operators (MNOs) to monetize their networks. In this blog, I’d like to highlight some of the use cases and applications for private LTE services—that is, the nitty-gritty of how MNOs can actually make that money.

Today, the mobile network is more or less a pipeline between content consumers and content providers. As mobile communications increase—and they stand to increase significantly for the foreseeable future—that pipeline needs to expand. If MNOs intend to backhaul that traffic through their network, they need to expand the entire pipeline, from core to edge. From a network transformation perspective, that’s like starting your journey by climbing Mt. Everest.

Private LTE services offer a shortcut to expanding network capacity at the edge, which also gives MNOs more control over the user experience. They can deploy private LTE at the edge of their cell sites or at the edge an enterprise’s network. By moving network services to the edge, MNOs can then decide whether traffic should remain local (e.g., a retailer delivering an in-store wireless experience to shoppers) or be backhauled through the network. This ability to break out services at the edge allows MNOs to infuse more security in the private LTE service or connect it directly to the cloud for more flexibility.

Applications of Private LTE Services

Although the uses cases for private LTE will largely be driven by enterprises themselves, here are five applications that represent an opportunity for MNOs right now:

Secure in-building wireless access

Most enterprises use Wi-Fi for in-building wireless communications. But Wi-Fi has limitations in coverage, bandwidth, and security that LTE does not. Enterprises could use a private LTE network in their building to provide secure, wireless access to business applications. They can even add an extra layer of security to their communications by using a captive portal within the private LTE network to serve as an authentication proxy, thus blocking unauthorized users from accessing those applications.

In-store experiences

Retail customers are looking for enhanced experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, from digital shopping assistants to augmented reality. A private LTE can help deliver these experiences on mobile devices with security, quality, and low latency.

Healthcare applications

The healthcare industry is heavily regulated in terms of how it can collect and share data. While many of these regulations are around personally identifiable information, even devices like heart monitors are subject to strict requirements. Wireless heart monitors must demonstrate a chain of trust in communications that ensure data cannot be manipulated in transit. A private LTE service combined with technology such as Affirmed’s vProbe can provide a detailed record of every IP flow and satisfy the need for compliance reporting and auditing.

Theft mitigation for IoT devices

While the chances of someone running off with our home thermostat are probably slim, manufacturing companies are reasonably concerned about equipment theft, particularly when that equipment contains sensitive information. In the event that a wireless-enabled device is removed illegally from a factory floor, a private LTE service could allow the device owner to effectively shut off its operation once it leaves the private LTE network’s range, even limiting the device’s functionality to just sending out a location signal.

Stadiums

Sporting events are often cited as an ideal use case for 5G technology, but private LTE services can deliver the same cost-efficient connectivity for dynamic events that require short periods of large capacity. Much like in-store experiences, in-stadium experiences can include augmented reality, secure mobile payments, and strong wireless connectivity within the stadium structure.

Let Private LTE Services Open the Door to Profitability

As you can see, applications of private LTE provide an entry point into next-generation services that can drive revenue today. Enterprises will pay more for these experiences because their customers will pay more for them. You don’t need to wait for 5G; the revenue opportunities are knocking right now. Let private LTE open the door to a more profitable future today.

Red Hat and Affirmed Networks collaborate to help accelerate 5G deployments on Red Hat OpenShift

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Service providers are transforming and virtualizing their networks in response to an increasingly dynamic market and rapid technology changes. As new opportunities for services grow, 5G has also given service providers the opportunity to increase efficiency, flexibility and elastic scale with microservices-based cloud native architectures. 

As these shifts take place, Red Hat and Affirmed are working together to help service providers adopt cloud native network functions (CNFs) for 5G Cores. Building on the foundation of Red Hat OpenShift, we’re enabling the Affirmed UnityCloud “Any G” solution to be deployed more broadly on a supported, cloud-native backbone, making it easier for telecommunications companies to more efficiently deploy 5G, 4G and 3G services backed by a common telco cloud infrastructure.  

Red Hat and Affirmed are no strangers to collaboration, with Affirmed’s virtual evolved packet core solutions (vEPC) and virtual network functions (VNFs) already deployed and supported around the world on Red Hat OpenStack Platform. Now, our relationship has expanded to include 5G on Red Hat OpenShift, with the OpenShift certification expected to complete this summer.

UnityCloud Platform is a platform of innovation and is designed to deliver automatic, self-observable and non-stop networks. UnityCloud Platform combines the strength of open source technologies with Affirmed’s carrier-grade telco and virtualization expertise. The platform provides a variety of CNF dependencies and automation frameworks to enable cloud-native functions to run seamlessly. UnityCloud Platform was designed to work on bare metal, VM based IaaS, container-based IaaS in both public and private environments.

With the extension of our collaboration, Affirmed now supports UnityCloud from the core to the edge and across public, private and hybrid cloud environments. This enables telecommunications providers to use “Any G” solutions on a broad spectrum of platforms, including Red Hat OpenShift on bare metal, Red Hat OpenShift on Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat OpenShift in the public cloud, like Microsoft Azure.

Cloud-native collaboration: Address a broad spectrum of telco needs

Through this collaboration, customers will have additional flexibility to tackle an extended set of technology scenarios, including:

  • Network Functions on Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack Platform: A customer or operator seeking to administer a virtual machine (VM)-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) that supports multiple VNFs and containerized network functions (CNFs) from different suppliers. Ideally, this deployment is based on Red Hat OpenStack Platform, where Affirmed provides UnityCloud Platform on Red Hat OpenShift and CNFs provided by Affirmed Networks and other ecosystem partners.
  • CNFs on OpenShift on baremetal: An operator wants to deploy a containerized Kubernetes-based IaaS that supports multiple CNFs from different vendors. This baremetal deployment is best suited for Red Hat OpenShift, running Affirmed Network’s UnityCloud Platform LITE and CNFs provided by Affirmed Networks and other ecosystem partners.

Red Hat OpenShift is available for a variety of cloud environments, from major public clouds including Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Cloud to private cloud and virtualized infrastructure such as Red Hat OpenStack Platform and VMware. More than just availability, the industry’s most comprehensive enterprise Kubernetes platform provides the flexibility to combine public and private resources for hybrid cloud deployments.

Running Affirmed UnityCloud on Red Hat OpenShift provides the flexibility to deploy on a myriad of private, public cloud, or hybrid cloud environments to shift or scale workloads as business needs dictate. We hear from our customers that hybrid cloud combines the flexibility to innovate more quickly with the control of on-premises datacenters, while still enabling them to use and extend existing public cloud infrastructure investments. 

With a public or hybrid cloud environment based on Red Hat OpenShift, customers can have a much higher level of agility, making it easier to move between and across different types of private and public cloud footprints. With open source software, enterprises can benefit from the continuous community innovation, a generally lower operational cost and less vendor lock-in.

 

You don’t need to wait for 5G. Monetize your network now with Private LTE.

by Tim Irwin Tim Irwin No Comments

You’ve heard it all before. Telcos are trapped between rising traffic, shrinking margins, and flat revenue but—wait!—5G will come to the rescue with new revenue-generating services. And while 5G does have a world of potential, telcos can’t afford to wait for a future that may take years to arrive – but you don’t need to wait any longer, thanks to private LTE networks. 

 

We believe that 5G will be a game-changer. But it could initially play out like a waiting game, as mobile operators analyze various business cases. Autonomous vehicles, for example, are a great idea, but who makes the first move? Is it companies that put 5G chips in their cars in anticipation of a ubiquitous 5G network, or operators that need to unroll a reliable 5G fabric before car manufacturers commit to wireless control?

 

While the world waits for 5G to arrive—in networks, smartphones, IoT devices, etc.—LTE is already in place. So, here’s food for thought: What if operators and enterprises could monetize Private LTE networks right now in the same way they plan to monetize 5G networks? That is, by partnering to create value-added services for its customers through a private LTE network.

 

Private LTE Networks Presents an Opportunity for MNOs

Think about it: Private LTE networks present a great opportunity. Right now, network demands are on an upward curve and they’re only going to get higher. Mobile network operators find themselves in the middle, a pipeline between ravenous content consumers and profitable over-the-top content providers. As the air interface technology increases bandwidth at one end of the pipe (i.e., higher consumption or more product to consume), operators have to increase the size of their pipe between the radio and the content, which means more coverage, more capacity, more complexity, etc. But, importantly, not more money for the telco operators.

 

What if telco operators could create a better network experience by pushing network communications out to the edge of the network? Then operators would only need to expand capacity at the edge to deliver high-speed, low-latency services, rather than upgrading their entire network from end to end. Then, when 5G finally does arrive, the private LTE services can be seamlessly integrated into the 5G architecture to continue monetizing those services.

 

Private LTE Networks vs. Wi-Fi Networks

Private LTE networks are similar to Wi-Fi networks in some ways but with a few very important distinctions. Here are the differences between Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi:

  1. Unlicensed Spectrum: Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum, which opens the door to all sorts of RF pollution and compromised quality.
  2. Security: A mobile LTE network delivers a higher level of security than a Wi-Fi network.
  3. Time & Effort: Running a large-scale W-Fi network is hard work; most enterprises don’t want to get into the business of RF planning.

 

Enterprises understand the value of having a better mobile experience closer to their end users, whether that user is in a store or in their home. That experience should include enforceable SLAs—something that you can’t get with unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum but you can get with licensed LTE spectrum—as well as security and managed services.

 

Unlike consumer smartphone services, enterprise services are easier for operators to monetize, particularly when they’re aligned with a clear business case. For example, a private LTE network that delivers a better video experience would be valuable to a content provider’s audience and, thus, potentially profitable. An operator could deploy that extra edge capacity for HD video consumers as part of a revenue-sharing plan with the content provider. Best of all, when 5G finally does arrive, you’re already engaged with enterprises in delivering next-gen services—a relationship you can build on with the advances that 5G will bring.

 

There’s actually a lot that enterprises can do with a private LTE network right now—and that’s the topic of my next blog. Learn more about Affirmed Networks solutions.

 

How Mobile Networks Help the World Stay Connected in the Age of Social Distancing

by Sean O’Donoghue Sean O’Donoghue No Comments

As governments, healthcare professionals and businesses make hard choices on how to handle the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the important role that communications service providers play behind the scenes to keep everyone connected in an age of social distancing and shelter-in-place.

As a response to the COVID-19 concerns, Work From Home (WFH) is mandatory for most businesses right now. Schools and universities have had to implement remote learning procedures years earlier than expected. Friends and families are using phones and video apps to stay in touch more than ever before. And mobile networks are straining to keep up with the heightened demand. In Sweden, for example, mobile data usage is already at an all-time yearly high and voice calls have increased 30% in just the last two weeks.

Throughout it all, however, the mobile network perseveres.

Ensuring a continuous, connected experience is a challenge under “normal” conditions, and especially challenging in the “new normal” of a global pandemic like what we’re experiencing with COVID-19. There are three critical elements that will determine how well mobile networks can hold up in the days to come: technology, standards and people.

 

3 Critical Elements of Mobile Networks During The Pandemic

Technology

Thanks to the evolution of mobile technology, most people in the world enjoy fast, ubiquitous access to real-time information (and entertainment) on their mobile devices. In a time when people need to stay apart for safety, staying together through technology has become more important than ever. Mobile technology also supports critical services, from emergency responders and law enforcement to telemedicine.

Standards

It’s easy to forget the role that standards play in mobile communications, but without them, communication begins to fall apart. They’re the glue that holds mobile services together, whether it’s allowing different devices to get the same service experience or connecting business applications with mobile communications. Affirmed has always viewed adherence to standards as critical; it’s a big reason why our solutions currently support millions of customers in more than 100 telecommunications networks worldwide.

People

The most important element, particularly now, is people. From customer service to network maintenance, service delivery to operations, people are what make networks work. With the backdrop of social distancing and shelter-in-place leading to reduced on-site personnel, the individuals in the field and those working long hours remotely to make sure that mobile networks keep working deserve a special thanks. Of course, Affirmed is playing its own part in helping mobile networks meet the heightened demand, and we’re proud to do so.

 

The Importance of Mobile Networks Moving Forward

As we enter an uncertain future, our reliance on communications network will be more important than ever. I have no doubt that there will be some bumps in the road ahead, from outages to increased delays. But we feel especially fortunate to work in an industry that can do so much for so many right now. To everyone who works in the communications industry, thank you for everything you do—and know that Affirmed Networks has your back.

The Democratization of IT and the Network: Are You Ready?

by Sean O’Donoghue Sean O’Donoghue No Comments

Many years ago, I worked at a network equipment provider, where I shared an office with the mobile core team. And every morning, as I walked through the reception area, I would pass a pair of towering, refrigerator-sized CGSN and SGSN nodes. Each node could deliver wireless access protocol (WAP) service to about 50,000 subscribers. At the same time, companies like VMware and Sun Microsystems were just starting to take the concept of IT virtualization mainstream.

How times have changed. And it’s because of the Democratization of IT.

Today, IT applications are being rewritten to adopt cloud-native principles and deployed in hybrid cloud environments that are maintained with a DevOps model. Yet while IT applications for functional domains such as Online Channels, Customer Relationship Management, Sales Force Automation, and Human Capital Management have already made the transition to a cloud-native design, network applications have only recently begun to embark on virtualization and the first wave of digitalization.

The Democratization of Networks

We hear a lot of debate in the industry around the impact of 5G, but I believe another and equally important topic is being ignored: the democratization of the network. Never before has the network been more accessible. The democratization of technology and the network is taking place, led by open-based technologies and evolving commercial models such as open, web-based interfaces, cloud-native architectures, and public cloud deployments.

Few people would argue the necessity of cloud-native network functions to deliver service and operational agility, but what lessons can the network community learn from the evolution of on-premise software to virtualized software and, finally, to truly cloud-native software? Will the traditional barriers between networks and IT collapse until all applications are deployed on horizontal platforms? I believe the answer is a definitive Yes.

Today, most service providers have separate IT and network teams that reflect the historical separation of the two technologies. This is rapidly changing, however. As service providers come to realize that the network and IT functions can be developed, deployed and managed from a common open-source infrastructure, the heated discussions between IT and Networking over topics such as converged charging and prepaid platforms have become a distant memory.

There are still points for discussion, of course; for example, the need for an infrastructure that supports both CPU-intensive and I/O-intensive workloads. But there are many similarities and synergies that can be derived by jointly designing a network and IT applications in areas such as security, reliability, and resiliency. And, really, shouldn’t we be working together to create a common set of requirements, platforms, and processes to develop, manage and maintain both IT and network applications?

The Solution for Service Providers

The solution, I believe, lies in the creation of a common platform and a common team to architect, deploy and operate the core applications of the future. Labeling an application as an “IT application” or a “network application” is less important than creating an underlying platform that has the built-in flexibility and adaptability to serve the future needs of both IT and networking. Service providers cannot count on traditional vendors to deliver this future. These vendors have a legacy hardware business to protect and are saddled with legacy software that cannot fulfill the basic requirements of cloud-native.

What service providers need is choice. For example, they should be able to choose whether they deploy network applications on bare metal, in a private cloud, in a public cloud or in a hybrid cloud running on a common platform. Affirmed is committed to delivering more choices to service providers through the industry’s only truly cloud-native mobile core solution built on a common, open-source platform. It’s much more than a platform for virtualization; it’s a platform for innovation.

Think about it: How will service providers operate networks and deliver network assurance as the cloudification of the network goes mainstream? Wouldn’t it be more cost-efficient to have a single observability platform (e.g., Grafana) for both IT and network functions? From a service agility perspective, IT has been using microservices for years to rapidly deliver new software functionality and capabilities. Now, for the first time, IT and network functions can take advantage of the same technologies while using the same tools, processes, and people – thanks to democratization.

Service providers can now leverage a common platform for all their enterprise applications, whether they’re IT or network applications. This has the benefit of improving agility and operations while reducing costs. Of course, to do this, the platform has to be flexible enough to support the various workload configurations, evolve as the open-source tools evolve and support multiple use cases and deployment models.

It’s the promise of new 5G use cases, operational models and cost efficiencies that will drive service providers to review their current platform choices and look for a better solution. On the other side of that solution are a democracy of IT and network teams working together on a shared goal of a better future. Affirmed Networks is ready for that future right now. Are you?