Communication services, including making calls, sending short messages, having teleconferencing or video conferencing, sending CRBTs, and using the voice mailbox, are the main services and revenue sources of operators. The rise of OTT services in recent years poses great threats and challenges to operators' communication services.
What changes will take place in communication services in the 5G era? What opportunities will they bring? What are the new requirements for the current service platform?
There is no doubt that 5G will bring new opportunities to communication services. The ultra-high bandwidth capability of 5G network and people's extreme pursuit of service experience will promote the development of traditional communication services towards UHD voice and video services. The Internet of Everything (IoE) in 5G network becomes possible, and allows communications services to expand from people-to-people communication to people-to-things or things-to-things communication. 5G applications will be highly integrated with communication services, providing new application scenarios and development opportunities for communication services.
In new application scenarios, how should the communication service platform evolve? What capabilities can the platform have to better help operators seize development opportunities and serve users?
In the 5G era, existing networks will coexist in multiple systems, such as fixed networks, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. A convergent service platform can effectively reduce service deployment costs, improve service flexibility, and provide access-irrelevant unified service experience for end users. To achieve this goal, the service platform needs to integrate multiple services.
Service control convergence: The front-end access is integrated first. The service platform should support multiple protocols and can rapidly load/unload protocol packages in component mode. Protocols related to the service platform include SS7-based TUP/ISUP/MAP/IANP/CAP in the CS domain and SIP/SDP in the IMS domain. Secondly, service control logic should be integrated to make service development irrelevant to access protocols. One-time service development can be applicable to multiple networks. In addition, user data convergence should be considered to support sharing user data among multiple networks for facilitating user migration and cross-network service use. Of course, both VoLTE and VoNR are based on the IMS network. Therefore, on the premise of integration, the future service platform should first support the features of the IMS network.
Service media convergence: The media mentioned here refers to the media used by telecom services, such as voice and video. The current service media function is provided by multiple NEs, such as various independent media servers, or supported by MSC, MRFP and other NEs. The media plane is integrated to form a media resource pool to provide unified cloud media services for the service layer. This facilitates the effective use of resources, simplifies network structures, and reduces O&M costs. In addition, unified media planning and construction can be implemented for future HD audio and video services.
Cloud and network convergence: Network advantages facilitate digital service transformation based on cloud and network convergence. In the context of communication service applications, the integration of applications, cloud computing, and networks should also be considered. Through optimal scheduling of cloud and network resources, the ultimate user network-independent, location-independent, and time-independent service experience can be achieved. The cloud computing service platform needs to support and schedule resources for private clouds, public clouds, and even hybrid clouds. The network service platform needs to support the selection and handover of network slice-based NEs.
Currently, most service platforms are customized by vendors. Components and modules are highly coupled and cannot be separated. On the one hand, new platforms or service developers cannot be introduced. On the other hand, it is difficult to add new capabilities and services, and the deployment period is long. Open service platforms, open API capabilities, and an open capability architecture that supports interworking should be the evolution direction of service platforms.
Open platform architecture: The service platform uses an open architecture, and can follow the compatibility of multi-vendor platform components and services in the same architecture. For operators, they can effectively avoid the lock of vendors and promote the innovative development of platform capabilities and services by introducing competition. In addition, the operators can avoid repeated development under multiple architectures or platforms, thus reducing industry costs.
Open API: The capability abstraction of the service platform is exposed to the outside in the form of API, reducing the complexity of the communication service development layer. This not only attracts more service developers to participate in the innovation and development of communication services, but also is an essential approach for in-depth integration of industrial applications with communication services.
Supporting a standard capability exposure architecture: Based on the 3GPP CAPIF standard, the API capabilities of each service platform can be interconnected, the internal topology can be shielded, and flexible authentication, accounting and SLA service should be the preferred strategy of the capability exposure architecture. Furthermore, the API capabilities of a large number of chimney-type service platforms are converged to provide one-stop capability exposure services for application development, and the unified capability exposure of cross-network and cross-operator networks is established. In this way, network vitality of service users can be stimulated more effectively.
The user-centric service concept requires communication services to support rapid iterative development, online grayscale upgrade, rapid cloud-based service deployment, and intelligent service operation & maintenance.
Platform cloudification: The service platform evolves to the container on the basis of decoupling of components. It provides the DevOps environment for service developers, and supports fast development and deployment of services.
Supporting a service-based network architecture: The platform is integrated into the SBA/eSBA overall network architecture, and supports the self-registration of the service platform and the automatic discovery of the target NE functions, so as to implement the fast commissioning and elasticity of the service platform.
Intelligent service O&M: Smart O&M based on big data and AI technologies provides functions such as one-click log collection, multi-layer alarm association, and service development prediction, implementing fast responses and services to network O&M and user services.
Figure 1 ZTE Convergent Service Platform
There are a large number of communication service platforms in the existing network, and the evolution of service platforms is a long and difficult process. ZTE's service products have been striving to practice and actively plan and implement the service evolution path through their own technology accumulation and a large number of practices in the existing network, and take due responsibility for the development and prosperity of communications services.