5G technology is pervading the world market at a rapid pace. 5G handsets are already a high grosser on e-commerce websites. While a few countries are lagging in deploying the next-gen 5G technology, several other nations already have 5G in the mainstream. Almost all big telecom operators have ramped up their investments in 5G deployment to stay relevant to the highly tech-savvy, digital-first users of current times, says Arun Rishi Kapoor, practice lead at Infosys BPM & Anand Chadrashaker, senior domain principal at Infosys BPM.
Telecom operators are committed to this overhaul. But the race to be an early adopter of a 5G-ready network is causing troubles for the vendors of backhaul systems. Without the readiness of radio networks and the core telecom networks, it is increasingly becoming a challenge to design and deploy crucial systems, such as revenue assurance and fraud management applications. The possibilities of these applications rise manifold when fed with the big data expected to be generated from 5G connected devices. Revenue assurance (RA) and fraud management solutions are even crucial to be set up in this era of information burst, to assure revenues without leakages.
Choosing to deploy a 5G network, however, comes at a huge expenditure. Migrating the current network to a 5G will not only require upgrading of existing networks but overhauling of the network to include new elements of advancement that 5G will bring. With each new element or 5G use case identified on the network side, it is adding more change requests (CRs) or projects in the pipeline to design robust and cost-efficient revenue assurance and fraud management solutions.
But vendors that deploy these essential backhaul systems are limited by the lack of 5G network readiness. While the network operators work tirelessly to prepare the infrastructure for the 5G network, the data pipeline required to feed the RA/FM solutions at the backend, is lagging in the process. Without the realisation of the actual source of data, type of data, and data relevance from a leakage and fraud perspective, it is cumbersome for telcos to design the right solution to safeguard revenues. To top it all off, due to the virtualisation and software-isation of telco networks, the RA/FM tool vendors are themselves unaware of potential fraud and leakage scenarios in the context of 5G.
Designing a proactive solution for unprecedented unknown leakages and fraud, especially in URLLC (ultra-reliable low latency communication such as AR/VR gaming, intelligent transportation, smart grids, etc.) and EMBB (enhanced mobile broadband such as remote surgery, social media live feed in UHD, remote connectivity, etc.) is something that can only be done once the actual data feed starts coming.
Currently, many RA and FM solution deployments are done with 3G/4G/LTE networks as a base reference; assuming that when actual 5G data feeds will come, those will be ingested by the same solution (as deployed for 3G/4G/LTE) with minor upgrades to the existing solution layers (e.g. Extraction, transformation and loading layers, processing layer, etc.). It will be a mistake to process only a few relevant 5G fields in 4G/LTE enabled fraud and revenue assurance systems. Although there will be some overlap; 5G has more vulnerability aspects introduced due to network slicing and QoS based use cases. For example, tackling IoT (Internet of things) based provisioning & usage data feeds will require whole new data mapping, processing and control configurations within RA & FM solutions and existing legacy controls may not be relevant.
Add to this the migration and integration challenges. Irrespective of the deployment model chosen by a telco (standalone 5G core networks or non-standalone 5G networks), there will always be a great extent of migration required to provision existing subscribers to 5G networks or enabling of 5G devices with new applications.
To support dual connectivity of devices on both 4G and 5G networks, the telcos have been working on gradual transition and migration of subscribers to cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) and DWH (data warehouse) systems. While the operators are gradually moving the existing reference databases to new systems, RA/FM solution teams are still trying to understand which systems are to be referred for subscribers, accounts, product catalogue, dealer info, cell sites, plans and tariffs, and order management data feeds, etc. Due to the near term decommissioning of the systems under cloud transformation, it is becoming an even bigger problem to finalise the scope of RA & FM solutions. Lack of visibility of tariff plans, product types, add-on plans, invoicing info, discounting details, promotion info for the different service types, etc. add further roadblocks in creating the right architecture for RA/FM solutions.
Such roadblocks primarily arise due to a lack of the right strategy, a poorly developed roadmap, and continuous changes in the 5G deployment plan. One of the crucial tasks for telcos before engaging RA/FM tool vendors or designing a solution is to perform proper due diligence internally or with the help of RA/FM consultants. They can not only help in reducing the development costs drastically but design an effective RA/FM solution by assessing various factors, such as:
- Building the right roadmap of RA/FM solution development based on the availability of data feeds, reference data and network readiness.
- Evaluating potential controls and audits that can be designed in the initial phases of the solution. Help prioritise the validation and controls to be first configured in the solution.
- Diving deep into the assumptions, risks, and dependencies on the upstream and downstream interfacing systems and prioritising the tasks.
- Communicating expectations from the interfacing teams while highlighting the importance of their inputs and how they can impact the overall RA/FM solution program.
- Assessing the current volumetric of data feeds and projected load to recommend a high-availability architecture of RA/FM solution.
- Engaging with RA/FM solution vendors and checking pre-requisites and related timescales of such requirements. Ensuring that pre-requisites are met when the time comes.
- Developing and helping document a robust but flexible agreement with the respective stakeholders to accommodate the changing requirements
Having outcome-focused due diligence and a goal-oriented roadmap removes many challenges in a typical deployment journey for RA/FM solutions. Focusing only on tools and their features may not help. Rather, telcos must also choose a reputed partner/consultant, who can help them take the right path for an efficient and cost-effective RA/FM solution deployment once the 5G network is up and running. Preparedness, after all, is key to a successful deployment.
The authors are Arun Rishi Kapoor, practice lead at Infosys BPM & Anand Chadrashaker, senior domain principal at Infosys BPM.