Editor’s Note: This was originally posted by VanillaPlus, regarding a webinar VanillaPlus hosted featuring Beccham Research and Volt Active Data.
With the ever-nearing move to 5G and the impending explosion of industrial IoT use cases, data is going to play a very important role in the quality of service assurance, know your customer (KYC) and security. With this in mind VanillaPlus recently hosted a webinar to explore strategies around how the policy and charging rules function (PCRF) is developing in order to support 5G, the expanded use cases involved and the new operational environment.
The webinar brought together speakers, Robin Duke-Woolley, an analyst at and the chief executive of Beecham Research, with Dheeraj Remella, the chief technology officer of Volt Active Data. The two discussed strategies for re-considering how the telecoms industry thinks about using its information to provide better customer experience. The session focused on how 5G and other telecoms digital transformation trends are impacting on traditional PCRF.
Importantly, the outcome wasn’t to paint 5G as an over-complex environment in which real advances are an impossible dream. Yes, the landscape is new and 5G is still some distance away from deployment at volume. In addition, there are significant challenges in the adoption of new, adjacent technologies such as network slicing, virtualisation and automation as well as in the provision of new services, often involving multi-party value chains. However, the opportunities are so large and varied that initial complexity will be a pain worth enduring and solving.
The requirements on PCRF and data platforms will be different, though and the purpose of this webinar was to examine the differences and the new solutions.
The webinar began by polling the audience to find out where they are in their PCRF migrations towards 5G. Unsurprisingly the vast majority of respondents said they had not yet started this migration. This is entirely as expected with 5G still some years away from mainstream deployments. However, of great encouragement was the response from 25% of attendees that they are in the planning stages of their PCRF migrations.
There were also some pioneers in the audience, with 15% of respondents saying their migrations are already in progress. This figure underscores the importance of PCRF to 5G – you can’t maximise 5G benefits without transforming PCRF for the 5G era.
The webinar further set the scene with an introduction from Duke-Woolley, which provided an overview of 5G. He said that 5G traffic will be characterised by massive machine type communications (MTC) and ultra-reliable, low latency connections that present very different PCRF demands to those that have gone before. In fact, Duke-Woolley said that PCRF is an essential part of the success of 5G before handing over to Remella.
Remella began by describing how the evolution of PCRF from 4G to 5G involves millions of devices, millions of network slices and big operational decisions. He said that CSPs’ 5G plans will get underway this year with the ultimate goal of getting to phase 2 of 5G in the future. The early steps are just that, the first moves, the goal – or phase 2 – is to get a 5G deployment where every layer of the communications stack is virtualised with far greater agility than ever before. Remella describes this as a lofty, but achievable, goal.
However, getting to phase 2 ill involve an expanded role for PCRF to support many more functions raging from network slicing to fixed mobile convergence, dynamic backhaul policies for industrial IoT use cases and assured quality of service across many different types of use cases. In addition, policies will need to be able to be adjusted dynamically by both operators and their subscribers in order to provide the flexibility needed by new services. Further to this policies for security and deep packet inspection will be required in addition to policies for OTT partnerships and for successful multi-party services.
The sheer scale of the data involved for effective PCRF in 5G is where Volt Active Data comes by providing a cloud-ready database for telecoms. It’s clear that making the data available on-demand to PCRF will be vital.
Following Remella’s presentation, the floor was opened to a busy question and answer session, addressing many audience concerns. To get the full picture of PCRF and 5G the full webinar can be viewed here at your leisure.