Industry Blog

5G networks and policy – it’s more than an afterthought!

Time to read: 3 minutes

The first couple of things people think about with 5G are speed of access, or connecting all sorts of devices in different environments. We have seen commercials where planes can be landed from someone’s home living room (current UK 5G ad) or utopian views of how every device will connect and we will have tomorrow’s world here today – in an instant! What is generally not considered is that beyond just connecting people and devices, data resources should be controlled, usage tracked, and a seamless and safe telecom environment created.  This safe telecom environment being one where you can roam from 4G to 5G (and back) maintaining call and data sessions without any interruption. And at the heart of this environment is policy – the rules which govern the equipment that delivers both the connection and access.

Easier said than done

What most of us don’t realize is that policy is frequently interconnected with charging. Charging and billing pay for network access, which then provides the dollars for investment. The charging relationship gives customers the right to complain if they don’t get what they are paying for. In this case, providing a policy governing different networks and types is not simple.

Why not so simple? Well, if the service is voice and data access for subscribers, only for 5G, then it can be replicated easily (voice minutes, roaming tracking, data Gigabyte consumption etc.). But if it is more, to take advantage of a new set of devices, the internet of things and to create a common approach with 4G, then policy must be in place to create new targeted rules. Especially common settings for 4G and 5G increase complexity because existing systems are proprietary and diverse having evolved over many years while get pushed to a standardized approach in 5G.

A system that can handle both old 4G and new 5G is not so simple and at the same time expands to new 5G use cases and standards (3GPP Rel 16 & 17) is critical to exploiting the business and technical capabilities of the network. We call ours ‘dual mode’ policy.

Why dual mode policy? In dual mode, policy control presents a simple GUI to write a single set of rules for multiple networks generations. It uses the many protocol variations to talk to each of the different evolution of network components to establish the enforcement rules.

What makes this further significant is that it can retrieve consumption information from 4G or 5G charging systems which it then uses to adjust the subscriber experience in real-time via the enforcement components (4G & 5G). In fact, dual mode policy moves to a policy layer that abstracts the complexity of the network, interconnects 4G and 5G seamlessly and enables the provider of the service not just to replicate existing voice and data services but to create something new.

The tail should not wag the dog

So dependent on what network you want to be, it is a risk and reward discussion. If it is vanilla voice and data to get off the ground because it is less risky – then this choice could be detrimental to long term revenue scenarios. How the 4G (and previous) rules are adopted and mapped combined with how new 5G rules are implemented is the dual mode thinking required. In the voice & data case, doing just enough to replicate 4G services replicated in 5G will provide the connectivity and devices, but no real means of extending use cases. The policy toolset is limiting the business, in effect, the tail is wagging the dog. That is not the Enea approach.

The Enea approach is to talk about the environment and use cases of where you want to be.  Enea provides the toolset in dual mode policy to give the control, abstract the complexity, and drive new dollars into the business while protecting investments taken. In effect, the advertised promise of 5G, from landing airplanes from your living room to intelligent devices, could depend on which smart dual and multimode software you choose to simplify management of the range of connectivity and use cases. Put simply, Enea’s approach is designed to give you control over policy.