Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, 5G network deployments continue to be a key focus for operators. Steady investments throughout H1 2020 have led to the launch of commercial 5G services around the world, improving the customer experience and supporting new use cases such as Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Massive IoT, and Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications. But what about 5G roaming?
Significant investments are being made here too. According to the latest findings from Kaleido Intelligence, as operators get ready for the return of normality and reopened borders, nearly 76% are planning to launch 5G roaming capabilities in 2020, while 57% will launch 5G standalone roaming.
However, the road ahead is littered with obstacles, and Kaleido’s research highlights several areas to address.
Ensuring adequate capacity for Enhanced Mobile Broadband
In Europe, following the launch of Roam Like At Home in 2017, roaming data traffic surged. As 5G paves the way for Enhanced Mobile Broadband, these figures will spike much higher. Promises of lightning-fast browsing, better video calls, and greatly improved download speeds will have a transformational effect. For data-hungry consumers and enterprises, this will create a vastly improved experience through low latency and reliable, uninterrupted connections.
Delivering on this expectation will be challenging. It’s no surprise, then, that Kaleido found nearly half of operators identify meeting capacity requirements for Enhanced Mobile Broadband as the most important factor for 5G IPX deployment.
Capacity will need to be scalable and flexible to meet demand. In this context, network virtualization will be critical to success. BICS’ Virtual Transport Network gives operators in need of increased capacity the flexibility of owning a network at a fraction of the cost, without losing operational control.
Operators need to meet in the middle between local breakout and home-routed traffic
At present, operators must route 5G data sessions back to the home network in order to manage charges. This adds latency, hampers connection speeds and goes against the benefits that Enhanced Mobile Broadband is expected to provide, as well as limiting the value of other use cases that 5G will unlock.
The way around this is for operators to implement local breakout. But, as the transition to a full 5G core is still someway off, this will take years to achieve.
With its extensive global infrastructure, BICS can bridge this gap with regional breakout. Through its large public gateways around the world, BICS can significantly lower the latency for roaming subscribers by taking advantage of the closest network node rather than re-routing traffic back to the home network, making the promises of 5G roaming a reality.
Security concerns must be addressed up front
Ushering in network architecture changes and supporting much higher volumes of connected devices, 5G will become a far greater attack surface than previous generations. As operators look to implement 5G roaming solutions, they must protect subscriber data, and their own systems, from bad actors. 41% of operators Kaleido surveyed cited having adequate security as a key priority as a result.
BICS’ IPX Security platform mitigates the additional risk created in the move to 5G. By proactively identifying network vulnerabilities and constantly monitoring to enhance overall security, BICS makes it possible for operators to fully lock down their roaming business with an end-to-end solution.
Getting these factors right will underpin the future success of any 5G roaming business. Taking advantage of carrier-grade solutions and global infrastructure, from a partner like BICS, will make all the difference between delivering the full potential of 5G roaming and failing to maximizing the revenue opportunities it will create.