Your Guide to 5G Monetization & Charging
5G is a gamechanger. The groundbreaking technologies that will shape the future, like the Internet of Things, augmented reality and the robotic factory, will all require a fast, reliable network. 5G is the network with the power to unleash the potential of the use cases of tomorrow—today. Read on to learn how you can monetize 5G.
What Makes 5G Different from 4G?
The 5G global rollout is already happening. The GSMA believes that by 2025, 5G will account for up to 1.8 billion connections and likely cover around a third of the world’s population.
It’s not just that 5G can handle more devices and simultaneous connections that 4G. Several key technologies make 5G networks and charging systems fundamentally different from previous network generations like 4G:
- Virtualization—5G networks and charging systems will run in virtualized cloud environments, following network function virtualization (NFV) principles and standards to deliver auto-scaling and fault tolerance.
- Network Slicing—5G will enable network operators to provide portions of their networks for specific customer use cases such as mobile broadband, smart energy grids, connected vehicles or smart cities. Each use case category receives a unique set of optimized resources and network topology with SLA-specified properties such as connectivity, speed and capacity that suit the needs of that use case. Network slicing allows the creation of multiple virtual networks on top of a shared physical infrastructure, unlike 4G, in which all services and use cases share the same infrastructure.
- Microservices—In order to deliver the ultra-low latency required to support 5G, network and charging components that were previously centralized will be moved closer to the network edge in a distributed fashion. There will be a move away from a small number of large central monolithic application instances to multiple smaller, streamlined components optimized for carrying out specific tasks where they are required.
To learn more, download our whitepaper on how to seize the 5G opportunity.
What Are 5G Use Cases?
There are four main categories of 5G use cases:
- Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is the next evolution of current fixed broadband. Using FWA, a consumer or a business can use a 5G router to replace their physical wired broadband. This use case can support services such as HD definition video streaming using a 5G router in the home.
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) is the evolution of the current mobile broadband, with increased download speeds to mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets and user experience continuity on the move.
- Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (uRLLC) includes use cases such as industrial automation, remote healthcare and intelligent transportation like autonomous vehicles.CSPs can offer different slices of their network to groups like first responders or connected car manufacturers, so their connections can be prioritized with virtually no delay.
- Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) includes use cases such as environmental monitoring and asset tracking. These use cases provide connectivity for a large number of devices that only need a sporadic connection (e.g., sensors on connected machines in a warehouse).
5G is already driving significant change in CSPs’ business models and offerings. By early 2021, 144 operators in 61 countries had launched at least one 3GPP-compliant 5G service. Now, communication service providers (CSPs) are eager to reap the benefits of the billions invested in 5G infrastructure and. To get a return on their 5G investments, CSPs will need to think creatively, as there is no one surefire use case.
Examples of 5G Use Cases
Today, CSPs worldwide are trialing different use cases, and the future looks full of even more opportunity. Below, we cover a variety of 5G use cases, both current and future, and what CSPs need to effectively monetize the opportunity.
Healthcare Tracking and Remote Surgery
With 5G, surgery has gone virtual. Thanks to the low latency of 5G, healthcare professionals in one location can operate on patients in different countries. Using Telefonica’s 5G connectivity, a Spanish doctor performed surgery in collaboration with a fellow surgeon in Japan, who had access to augmented reality vital signs and a real-time video feed.
5G Mobile Phones
To take advantage of the speed of the 5G network on a mobile, a 5G phone is required. While initial adoption was slow, 5G phones are rapidly becoming commonplace. Major providers like Apple and Samsung already offer 5G phones.
The applications of 5G in connected cars are boundless, from safety to entertainment to pollution reduction. The cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) market will enable the exchange of information between infrastructure, traffic signs, pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.
The modern factory is much more connected and complicated than you may imagine. Massive, advanced machines are equipped with different sensors that are connected to cloud-run analytics operations. Currently, many of these machines require wired connectivity. 5G-enabled sensors will shed this requirement and unleash the potential of a connected, intelligent factory.
Like smart factories, connected machines can be used to great effect in farming. As many farms are in rural areas, connectivity can be difficult and expensive, so 5G technology can make rural connectivity feasible. Wireless sensors can help farmers monitor field conditions, which should result in better crop yields. With the global population rising, connected agriculture can also help fill the gap in food disparities.
Operators have made enormous investments into 5G use cases like the above, and are ready to see a return on their investment. 5G network usage needs to be rated and charged in near-real time, at massive scale without substantially increasing costs. Operators will need to modernize their technology stacks to meet the needs of 5G and the expanding ecosystem needed to deliver innovative use cases to the market.
To download our 10 5G Use Cases eBook, click here.
What are the Challenges in Monetizing 5G?
There are three main challenges to monetizing 5G:
- New Charging Architecture—5G requires a new service-based architecture to support network slicing and more flexibility in other processes. This new architecture will take real-time and offline charging and monetization data out of the 5G Core.
- Vastly Increased Scale—With 5G, there will be a huge increase in scale (up to 10-100 times more devices than today’s networks), driven by significantly more sensors and devices and a wide variety of use cases. Monetization solutions need the ability to figure out what needs to monetized in real time, and scale on demand to meet volume peaks – such as at a major sporting event or the launch of a new game.
- Complex Revenue Sharing Models—Multi-party revenue and settlement models will be required for different slice tenants and other B2B scenarios. CSPs could also have components of their charging architecture operating across multiple network slices or localized as needed to suit the use cases being supported.
How Is Charging Different for 5G?
Because the 5G Core is architecturally different from the 4G Core, and the demands on charging systems will change. The 3GPP standards for 5G charging and mediation differ from previous iterations in several ways:
- The 4G Offline Charging System (OFCS) and Online Charging System (OCS) are consolidated into a single logical entity called the Convergent Charging System (CCS).
- The offline CDR generation capabilities provided by the Charging Data Function (CDF) and online charging event management provided by the Online Charging Function (OCF) are consolidated into a single logical entity called the Charging Function (CHF).
- The 4G Diameter interfaces between the Charging Trigger Function (CTF) and the CHF are implemented using a new Service Based Interface for 5G, based on JSON/HTTP2.
How Do I Monetize 5G?
To successfully monetize 5G, CSPs need future-proof solutions for 5G charging, specifically a 5G charging function (CHF) and a convergent charging system (CCS). The ideal solution for monetizing 5G will be cloud-first, based on proven and market-leading technology, showcase proven scalability, and be deployed and certified in virtualized environments.
Current solutions aren’t equipped to handle the scale and low latencies required for 5G connections. In addition, in current solutions, online and offline charging are often separate functions (the online charging function (OCF) and the charging data function (CDF)). The OCF determines if customer is allowed to access network resources, and the CDF receives event detail records (EDRs) in batch files.
With 5G, the two separate network functions will need to converge and be part of a unified 5G charging function (CHF). The 5G CHF will be necessary to process event EDRs at scale, in real time.
A dynamic 5G CHF can provide a cost-effective and efficient way for service providers to seize the 5G opportunity with minimal risk and disruption to existing systems. By fulfilling the roles of both the CHF and CGF, it can provide offline and online mediation functionality in a single platform and handle the complexity of the interfaces between the network and the BSS functions.
To learn more about 5G Dynamic Charging Function, click here.
What Is 5G Charging (CCS)?
Combining the online and offline charging systems with the 5G CHF results in a holistic solution called the 5G converged charging system (CCS). Think of the 5G CHF as the entry point of the 5G CCS.
Other parts of the CCS are the account and balance management function (ABMF), responsible for managing subscriber account balances; the rating function (RF), responsible for calculating the value of a subscriber’s usage; and the charging gateway function (CGF) which serves as the gateway between the 5G CHF and billings solutions.
What Should I Look for in 5G Monetization Solutions?
- Vendor-Independent—5G monetization solutions should support network equipment from any vendor. They should also support current 2G/3G and 4G services to avoid silos being created. Standards-based interfaces with the added ability to configure proprietary protocols and message formats mean that the solution can communicate with virtually any type of equipment and system.
- Scalability—There will be a rapid increase in the number of transactions to be collected and processed in 5G due to use cases such as IoT. The 5G charging functions must be able to support that demand at scale. 5G monetization solutions should be able to handle billions of transactions per day.
- Shield Charging Systems from 5G Volumes—5G monetization solutions should be able to effectively offload a large proportion of the charging transactions and process them locally, thereby only sending transactions that require rating/balance updates to the online charging system. By reducing the volumes of transactions being sent to the online charging system, it makes it possible to control and even reduce hardware/cloud processing costs as well as delaying or eliminating the need to pay volume license uplifts for the online charging system.
- Flexibility to Evolve At 5G Speed—5G standards and use cases are still being defined. 5G monetization solutions should provide the flexibility for CSPs to define and evolve their mediation business logic and processing as requirements become clear.
- NFV and Cloud-Ready—5G charging functions should be proven to run in virtual environments on customer premises, as well as in private cloud and public cloud environments such as Amazon Web Services.
- Deployment Flexibility to Facilitate Network Slicing and Microservices—Not every deployment of 5G will be the same, so CSPs will need different deployment options. 5G monetization solutions should be able to be deployed as a central mediation function sitting across all 5G network slices, or distributed as needed.
To learn more about 5G charging, download the datasheet.