The past five years have been shaped by change. Industry 4.0 raised its hand thanks to digitisation, and the growing maturity of solutions leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
Cloud native technology advanced considerably with the move from virtual network functions (VNF) to cloud-native network functions (CNF) and the arrival of 3GPP Rel 15 – the precursor to 5G.
These disruptions and developments have been further influenced by the global pandemic which underscored the absolute value of a reliable and extensive communication network as the key pillar in sustaining economic activity, and have set wheels in motion that will likely have long-term influence into the future.
According to Toni Pellegrino, Customer Business Team Head Vodacom Group & Vodafone MEA at Nokia, the next few years will see a radical change in the diversification of how networks are built or segmented to deliver to the needs of this increasingly digitised economy.
“For South Africa to tackle this future with confidence, the country must overcome several key challenges,” says Pellegrino.
“The first is spectrum as it is essential for coverage and will add an additional capacity to 3GPP networks, but it is only one part of the picture. It is also important to focus on the right technology and equipment to fully realise the potential of network modernisation and spectrum.”
To leverage the available spectrum and to evolve network capabilities such as 5G, network operators need to invest into equipment and modernisation that reduces capacity challenges and helps the network to deliver fresh services and solutions.
Spectrum, in the long term, will be needed to cater for the growth in demand as driven by digitisation, but at this point in time the right technology and toolkits are essential to fully realise network potential.
Modernisation of the network will allow for it to take advantage of the benefits and efficiencies it brings, and ML and AI are now robust and scalable enough to support with complex operations that will minimise revenue loss and churn.
Plus, with these increased efficiencies and capabilities, the added extra will be an increase in customer satisfaction.
“The industry is driven by the need for productivity and the most effective means by which to deliver services and goods,” says Pellegrino. “A benefit analysis will provide clear insight into an organisation’s digital needs and will identify the value drivers to prioritise implementation.”
The three digital imperatives that should be driving the business connectivity strategy and mandate are those that are influencing innovation, compute and industry.
The first is to connect everything – this ties in with the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), edge compute and access to data.
Optimising assets by use case and access will improve business performance but this requires a network that connects everything.
The second is compute from anywhere at any time – the cloud offers immense agility, scale and efficiency and is now part of most organisations thanks to the pandemic and the drive to digitisation, but the compute of tomorrow is faster, better, more.
Data and insights on the edge define the enterprise of tomorrow and this requires a network with incredibly low latency and seamless connectivity, elasticity and availability.
Finally, the business has to apply the insights gleaned from the data on time, with precision.
“Data access, compute and connectivity deliver immense benefits across business, smart city and citizen,” concludes Pellegrino.
“Networks sit at the intersection of these three imperatives, they are of fundamental importance to delivering compute and insight on demand, and allowing for execution of strategy and business with precision. Networks are the crossroads were 4.0 is defined, and delivered.”