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5G and Beyond
Our journey towards Smart Critical & Sustainable Networks

Stefano Merli
6 February 2024
capgemini-engineering

Technological innovation in telecommunications was traditionally driven by the increasing demand for higher bandwidth, generated by network agnostic internet-based applications, which have gradually (but increasingly) expanded into the market.

Besides being a technological breakthrough, 5G, like no other innovation, is fundamentally a business case question for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) grappling with the huge investments required to build such networks. Indeed, these 5G networks cannot be sustained with cost reduction roadmaps alone, they require effective monetization strategies to be financially viable.

5G Monetization: Use Cases

In 2017, Capgemini Engineering began contributing to early 5G trials, aimed at demonstrating the enormous potential of 5G to transform a wide range of industries with new use cases and services.

It is worth mentioning Capgemini’s involvement with a variety of 5G initiatives. These include 5G trials (as Altran) in Italy and Portugal, and in Spain. With 40+ use cases under our belt, spanning key industry sectors, we have demonstrated the value of 5G across Europe while gaining relevant experience and skills in new technologies (AR/VR, AI Video Analytics etc.) and E2E delivery/deployment in different environments.

Recently, 5G’s momentum can be observed in the following areas:

Private Networks: In one industry study, 76% of manufacturing companies in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States said they plan to adopt private 5G networks by 2024.

Since 2020, Capgemini has supported enterprises and CSPs in the engineering, E2E integration, & testing of Mobile Private Network (MPN) solutions. This includes designing and developing use cases in dedicated labs. It also involves establishing partnerships with HW vendors and hyperscalers to accelerate industrial digital transformation, and supporting advanced trials with leading industrial players, focusing on industrial automation and security.

5G in Public Safety: This is experiencing massive acceleration, with an increasing number of authorities planning and launching large scale transformation activities.

Capgemini was selected by the French Ministry of the Interior as an integrator on the RRF Radio Network of the Future – a national, secure, high-speed (4G and 5G) and high-priority mobile communications network. This included new use case development, to support new mission critical services (MCX) – which provide high priority communication in the case of an emergency – incubated and validated in the Capgemini Paris 5G Lab.

Moreover, Satellites and Non Terrestrial Networks (NTNs) are also gaining momentum. Commercial devices and smartphones already incorporate satellite capabilities and, alongside the wide variety of supported use cases (UCs). 5G NTN technologies will be used in cooperation with CSPs. For example, CSPs use terrestrial networks which might not entirely cover a geographic area, especially in places with no or very few inhabitants – here, NTNs can be a complementary way to deliver connectivity. Additionally, CSPs can use NTNs to deliver services in case of an outage in the regular network.

In this context, leveraging inhouse licensable software frameworks, Capgemini is the reference engineering partner of a tier 1 US satellite comms player, contributing to the implementation of 4G Core and RAN in new specific hardware, and establishing the roadmap towards 5G in the next few years.

Finally, Vehicle to Everything (V2X) technology has recently shown increasing uptake. Several car manufacturers are now trying to implement the technology that is part of the 3GPP Release 17. Capgemini leads, supports and contributes to specific programs, ecosystems and pilots. These include:

5G Open Road Program – a French initiative aimed at creating a 5G pilot zone to test the technical and commercial viability of innovative connected and automated mobility services. In this program, Capgemini is leading the integration of a complex ecosystem, supporting the 5G platform implementation, use case delivery and offboard perception.

The 5GAA – Smart Road-Side Infrastructure trial – this targets connected-car and Smart City services in Multi Mobile Network Operator (MNO) scenarios. The federation of Edge platforms, leveraging the Capgemini IEAP solution framework, enables operators to provide a seamless Edge experience to their users in a Multiaccess Edge Computing (MEC) roaming scenario. The solution has been trialed with 5 MNOs in the EU and USA.

5G Monetization: New Assets

Typically, in use case development, 70-80% of software components implement functions (eg. AR rendering, AI Object Recognition, Video Analytics etc.) that are self consistent and aspecific to the use case. Consequently, these general purpose functions can be generalized into API-based microservices and used for a wide variety of 5G UCs. This makes use case development more flexible and efficient; decreasing the need for additional software components, whilst saving on costs and overheads.

Additionally, the ability to expose application microservices APIs enables new revenue streams – from selling licenses of these APIs to 3rd party application providers and developers. To this end, Capgemini Engineering has developed a unique in-house portfolio of microservices assets and platforms for computer vision, enhanced/extended reality and native 5G video streaming applications.

Complementary to application APIs, according to STL Partners, the top 11 Network APIs market will exceed US$22 billion globally by 2028 and, according to GSMA, 21 major operators are committed to Open Gateway – a framework of common network APIs designed to provide universal access to operator networks for developers.

The Linux Foundation’s CAMARA Project is a major initiative in this space. A joint effort between telco operators, vendors, and hyperscalers, CAMARA aims to develop APIs that can expose network capabilities to application developers. As described by the Linux Foundation, CAMARA will ‘help customer and developer ecosystems by developing an open, global, and accessible API solution with access to operator capabilities, in whatever networks customers are in, allowing applications to run consistently between telco networks and different countries’.

Capgemini contributes to CAMARA in the implementation and testing of APIs in MNO networks, feasibility studies of new APIs and provides active support to specification/standardization.

Once standardized within CAMARA, the same Net APIs are then made available through Capgemini’s Intelligent Edge Application Platform (IEAP) – a Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) platform that manages edge applications on distributed edge sites or datacenters connected to the 4G/5G mobile network. Net APIs already available on IEAP include Device Location, Device Status, and Quality on Demand (QoD). Other APIs within the CAMARA roadmap will soon be available through IEAP – these include Traffic Influence, Edge Sites Selection & Routing and more.

5G Cost reduction: Disaggregation and Softwarization

In addition to working on 5G monetization, Capgemini Engineering is actively helping CSPs to reduce infrastructure and operational costs by leveraging the ‘disaggregated network’ paradigm shift – in which network hardware and software are separated, allowing organizations to use components from different vendors for greater flexibility and customization.

In this context, Capgemini Engineering supports the Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) to Cloud Native Network Functions (CNFs) transition, with the Capgemini Advanced Network Automation (ANA) framework, a fully open-source and microservices-based approach. This streamlines the deployment of virtualized and containerized multi-vendor network functions. It also supports a wide set of use cases, ranging from network service provision to infrastructure deployment.

ANA is a proven key accelerator for telco players in the field of cloudification and automation. It facilitates network deployment and operation, introducing automation and Agile Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment and Continuous Testing (CI/CD/CT) pipelines into the telco cloud ecosystem.

Capgemini Engineering has been involved also in other aspects of the 5G ecosystem.

For example, since the early days of Open RAN, we have contributed to:

  • the TIP 5G NR Program Group, to develop reference use cases for 5G NR (New Radio) and Next-Generation Node B (gNB) software framework development.
  • The first demonstration of 5G Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) offering significantly more capacity on a single cell site, and running on a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) located at a multi-vendor Open RAN test site.
  • The deployment of the first Open RAN network, supporting a tier 1 operator in Japan and, as a key partner of a T1 telco, providing testing and related lab managed services for their first deployment in Europe – to ensure the functionality of the Open RAN multi-vendor ecosystem.

AdditiMoreover, 5G Slicing opens the door to additional revenue opportunities and business models based on the Quality of Service (QoS) provided. At this early stage, some operators are running trials and proofs of concept, such as the one Capgemini successfully conducted with a T1 operator, to determine if all the necessary technologies are mature enough to support enterprise-grade slicing.

Finally, Sustainability is the mantra of all players with ambitious Net Zero roadmaps. According to GSMA, energy costs today represent 20-40% of network opex and the expected increase in data traffic via 5G implies an unsustainable amount of energy consumption. Capgemini Engineering is trialing solutions, based on NetAnticipate, the industry-leading network AI framework. NetAnticipate won two Awards in 2023: Most Innovative Telecom Softwareat IMC 2023, and Ideation to Engineering Leadership at Nasscom 2023. Moreover, Project Bose, leveraging the Intel observability framework, achieved an exceptional energy saving of 40%.

Conclusion

Deployments of 5G and Edge in industrial markets are expected to accelerate in the coming years, whilst following a sustainable approach. The following key segments are now gaining momentum: Public Safety and Mission Critical Services to support emergency services; and Satellite and Space/NTN Communications to complement existing terrestrial networks and critical national infrastructure.

Additionally, new assets like Application and Network APIs are the fundamental enablers for network aware/network enabled 5G native applications, as well as being monetizable assets in their own right.

Need support with your 5G project? Work with the best.

With over 10,000 digital manufacturing experts and 20,000 telecom specialists globally, and with more than 2,100 5G and Edge projects under our belt since 2019, Capgemini is uniquely positioned to meet the current and future needs of the 5G market and its customers.

We offer a multidisciplinary, end-to-end approach, decades of telecoms experience and some of the world’s leading communications experts, ready to ensure your project’s success.

Contact us at engineering@capgemini.com to learn more

Author

Stefano Merli

CTO – Advanced Networks
Stefano has over 30 years of telecoms experience. After graduating with Honors in Nuclear Engineering, he started his career in 1991 at Ericsson R&D, contributing to the development of the fixed broadband solution portfolio. Today, he is the CTO of Advanced Networks at Capgemini Engineering – a role he began in 2016.