Written By Hesham Elsherif, Principal System Engineer at A10
Operators consider network complexity to be the greatest threat for the next three years, according to a research survey by 451 Research. At 61 percent of respondents, this ranks higher than competition from cloud providers or concerns about the pressure on service margins and lower operating costs.
Greatest Threat for the Next Three Years
- Network complexity 61%
- Competition from cloud service providers 49%
- Inability to adopt agile service delivery models 35%
- Regulatory constraints on spectrum 29%
- Inability to lower operating expenses 25%
- Increased pressure on service margins 25%
This concern was echoed by analyst, Patrick Donegan of HardenStance, from an interview with an A10 customer who pointed to complex and unwieldy manual operations as the primary security challenge for operators scaling out their networks with more 5G devices and elements. For example, “fat finger” errors by operations personnel can cause configuration issues and potential disruption when new devices are brought online. Manual application for security patches is also prone to error or inconsistent updating, leaving network devices vulnerable.
With a variety of individuals implementing different configurations at different times along with the growing number of devices, it becomes difficult to compare configurations and patch updates to see if the correct one is in place. The automation of simple tasks and discrete but complex processes are the first steps to better consistency. Automation, even in small steps, can provide big rewards to operators in reducing costs and enabling faster, more secure rollouts of 5G use cases such as fixed wireless access (FWA).
Operators are caught between needing to automate and reduce costs while still managing older, multi-generational and hybrid technologies of 3G, 4G, 5G and fixed broadband. The automation of deployment, configuration, update and upgrade processes can substantially ease the pain of this transition and support operator goals of lower cost, stronger security and better customer experience.
Service providers operating both mobile and fixed networks, such as the one interviewed in the HardenStance brief, are focused on FWA with 5G to improve the volume and quality of their video services, to further enable the convergence of the mobile and fixed infrastructure and to reduce costs. This operator wants to provide consistent services for fixed broadband users, even when connecting via 5G FWA, and to extend broadband coverage to underserved areas such as rural populations.
Globally, the FWA market is surging worldwide with over 100 million households now using fixed wireless access. Overall, the mobile industry sees fixed wireless access with 5G and 4G as providing a cost-efficient way to connect underserved populations. Broadband deployment has been particularly slow in developing and underdeveloped countries where as many as 1 billion families are estimated to be without any fixed broadband access at all. The operators’ opportunity for fixed wireless access services (both 4G and 5G) is huge. 5G for fixed wireless access provides up to 100x more capacity than 4G and eliminates the need to deploy costly fixed wireline or fibre infrastructure, which requires digging trenches, laying cable and securing the right of way.
At A10 Networks we believe a comprehensive set of API scripts that allow operators to automate multiple tasks and simplify complex processes and meet network transition business goals. A10 approach is we only require no more than a handful of API calls to execute many changes, which may require a thousand API calls from other vendors. This greatly simplifies the management of ever-expanding network nodes. Furthermore, clustering functions and licensing options allow for the flexibility to increase capacity across different nodes, regardless of location and without service interruption in just 20 minutes.
The automation of seemingly simple tasks and processes and elastic scalability help optimise investment per site and enable operators to more easily build out mobile edge computing and to converge mobile and fixed technologies while ensuring a uniform subscriber experience.