The advent of 5G is not just a technology evolution that mobile operators will have to grapple with, but also an organisational and cultural change.
“Doing agile (DevOps, CI/CD) and being agile (Mindset/Culture) are two different things” said Lucky La Riccia, the Head of Digital Services for Middle East and Africa at Ericsson.
Rolling out 5G is also an opportunity for network operators to better manage the complexity from previous technology generations.
“You want to reduce the complexity of managing 2G, 3G, and 4G as you move into 5G. You don’t want to take the manual, repetitive actions and operations from previous generations into 5G,” La Riccia said.
Ericsson is helping operators adopt a more DevOps-like approach to managing their networks through automation and orchestration of testing and deployment of upgrades.
“We’re focussed on transitioning operators from upgrading their networks two or three times per year, to a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) model,” said La Riccia.
“That’s when you create software pipelines, and you automate deployment, testing and regression,” he explained.
This dramatically improves quality assurance and gives operators a much quicker time-to-market.
“Features get out to end users far quicker using CI/CD. The quality goes up because you’re automating testing at the same time. You’re able to reduce the manual interventions that contribute to errors,” La Riccia said.
DevOps also gives you the ability to create a feedback loop. People in the field can tell network engineers the fixes they require. Operators then have to decide how they can get those requests into their software development lifecycle really quickly.
“Transitioning companies to that [CI/CD culture]… it’s a big change,” La Riccia said.
Operators can already plan for this transition as they continue to build their existing networks.
La Riccia said that Ericsson offers distributed network function virtualisation that allows operators to cater for use cases today and the future.
They also offer systems that handle the complexity of managing multiple network technologies for operators.
“With 5G you need to manage physical network functions, virtual network functions, and even containerised cloud-native network functions,” said La Riccia.
Operators must aim to minimise that complexity, even more so if they want to open up their business to better monetise their network.
La Riccia said that the network provider of the future will want to engage and embrace application developers.
“You want to expose application programming interfaces for developers, at the same time also hide the complexity [of the network] from the developer,” he explained.
As networks start planning for 5G, La Riccia said that they have to ask themselves how quickly they are able to govern and monetize the API’s and information exposed.
“How quickly are you able to expose APIs to application developers? How quickly are you able to embrace open source, ETSI standards for network function virtualisation, 3GPP standards for edge computing, and control plane/user plane separation?” he asked.
While the roll-out of 5G is definitely a technology evolution, it is only one facet of a major transition that need to happen.
“Technology is one thing, but let’s ready a company to be able to work in this way with a complete Digital Evolution Strategy,” said La Riccia.
This article was published in partnership with Ericsson.