Many enterprises across different industries still often rely on robust on-premises systems or even small on-site servers to tackle core computing tasks. This will soon change with the arrival of new cloud computing capabilities delivered at the edge of 5G networks – enabling retailers, for example, to build enriched in-store visual experiences streaming directly from the network; or manufacturers to run advanced AI-based visual inspections directly from 5G-enabled devices.
This will produce many benefits for enterprises. For example, removing the need for local processing power can thereby help to reduce costs and the need for on-site space. With data processing and compute cycles at the edge, businesses can optimize latency, lower processing costs associated with data storage, and eliminate the need to transport data from the edge to a central location for real-time computation. This new edge ecosystem will be formed through partnerships of service providers, hyperscale cloud providers (HCPs) and applications developers, which will make it possible to leverage high-speed 5G connectivity with cloud applications available at the edge. In a recent white paper, we explore the various edge deployment strategies for service providers.
In this scenario, while service providers are defining their role in the 5G value chain, the monetization of edge services becomes extremely important for them in capturing as much as possible of this new revenue stream. It comes with two different, yet connected, challenges: Telecom BSS must support new charging and billing capabilities while catering for the technical needs of those new services, such as lower latencies and guaranteed service level agreements (SLA).
Charging at the edge does not mean charging edge services
Charging these edge services comes with new challenges as it involves an updated architecture, new 5G network parameters, partners and new business models, to name a few. However, this is different than building the charging architecture that supports it. Where to charge for edge services? Does charging need to also be moved to the edge? These are key questions that must be answered (and implemented) to support the best monetization model of this ecosystem. Edge services on top of 5G connectivity are mostly enterprise applications expected to cover complex and critical business needs. They can´t be impacted by the centralized nature of charging and billing systems, which could impact the latency or user experience if the signaling traversing from edge sites to central BSS locations becomes bottlenecked. For online credit-controlled services, this could make the difference between perfect service delivery and session failure. But do these edge services really need real-time charging?
For example, you do not stop the industry robot, the connected ambulance or the self-driving train when the pre-paid account is exhausted, or the company monthly data allowance has been consumed. Pre-paid business models are not suitable for this kind of monetization. Those are three examples of the types of 5G-enabled B2B (or B2B2B) use cases that will most probably rely on charging data records (CDRs) generated by the 5G charging function (5G CHF) for charging based on type and amount of traffic per network slice, usage aggregation, hierarchies distribution, invoicing, revenue sharing and big data input, among others. In summary, this can comprise any parameter coming from 5G core through the service-based interface.
Learn more about the 5G charging function in our eBrief “What is the 5G CHF?”.
5G-enabled critical operations for important and lucrative corporate and public sector customers are unlikely to have data-capped or pre-paid offers. Even if we look at the 5G consumer market use cases – mainly with fixed wireless access, gaming and augmented or virtual reality– it is hard to justify the move of charging to the edge site (or at least closer to that) as many use cases will not demand it.
A modular and service-based BSS architecture can solve this equation
But there may be cases where it will be beneficial to place parts of the charging system at the edge, or at least closer to a specific location with critical 5G services where usage data needs to be consumed really fast (for example, for business intelligence or AI) or privacy and security are big concerns. That´s why, for service providers, it is important to make sure that the BSS, specifically charging, is modular enough following 3GPP service-based architecture. In this way, it will be possible, for example, to detach the CHF from the converged charging system (CCS) and place it at the same edge site where critical services are processed or closer to it along with the session management function (SMF). Since the CHF is responsible for generating all 5G event data records (EDRs) in the updated network architecture, it will guarantee the lower latency needed. After this, with no real-time pressure, it will communicate with the central (or distributed) CCS to process the events records. This distributed architecture, in conjunction with high-resiliency and active-active subscriber base distribution, will form the base of the updated charging architecture that will support and monetize new 5G services at the edge.
Here at Ericsson, we have developed a wide suite of different capabilities in this area so that service providers can choose the best architecture that fits their business needs. For example, within Ericsson Charging, the CHF is a container that can be deployed in a separate location, in an automated fashion through the use of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). It is even possible to temporarily move a CHF instance to an edge site for special services or events. There are endless possibilities for enabling enterprise 5G cloud edge services monetization. When stepping into new edge markets, service providers should ensure that their BSS has the flexibility to support a range of different possibilities and a modular architecture that allows for additions and changes to accommodate changing requirements over time.
Israel Mor is driving Digital Business Support Systems (DBSS) readiness and delivery across the globe. With 18+ years of experience in the technology, IT, services and sales areas he is eager to build the ecosystem needed to support the new demands of the digital lifestyle and help businesses to deliver revolutionary revenue management solutions.