HomeInsightsSustainability, the metaverse, ecosystems and Open RAN are the Big Four at...

    Sustainability, the metaverse, ecosystems and Open RAN are the Big Four at MWC


    This is according to Accenture, based on its own research, that of others and interaction with clients…

    Sustainability is a cornerstone of 5G – as 5G networks and 5G-enabled technologies become more prevalent, Accenture expects the sustainability opportunity of 5G to be high on the agenda for communication service providers (CSPs). According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), 5G technologies can help Canada achieve up to 23% of its emission reduction targets by 2025, and CTIA – The Wireless Association has found that 5G technologies can contribute up to 20% towards US emission reduction targets by 2025.
    Not only is 5G poised to be the greenest generation of network technology yet, the sustainability of the technology should also address challenges like governance and security, as well as consumer accessibility to close the digital divide.
    From a business standpoint, CSPs are starting to look at three key areas to drive sustainability with 5G. Firstly, they are looking into the heart of their business and how their network products can be more environmentally friendly, such as moving their internal and customer data centers to the cloud, implementing energy-efficient use cases at clients, and more.

    CSPs are also focused on making their networks more environmentally efficient – what Accenture calls the circular economy. This includes things like repurposing existing networks and refurbishing devices. The third piece to the success of a sustainable 5G network is the internal change management around the skills and processes CSPs will require for their people to be successful and innovative.
    The successful deployment of 5G networks also depends upon a complex ecosystem of multiple players, operating in a new environment called Open RAN (Radio Access Network). Open RAN disaggregates software applications from underlying hardware infrastructure, allowing CSPs to use software to push out network functions and intelligent automation in a virtualized environment. From a security standpoint, the Open RAN framework needs to address end-to-end security concerns relating to data protection, user security and the synchronization of complex, interrelated elements. 5G CSPs, system integrators and vendors will need to work together to resolve these security challenges, while also agreeing on security principles, identifying and conforming with industry best practices, and complying with regulatory obligations.
    From a social sustainability standpoint, the successful roll out of 5G will depend on a concentrated effort among CSPs, ecosystem partners and governments to build connectivity in underserved areas, which as a global community we still haven’t solved. This is particularly important to ensure we are not furthering a digital divide that sees some communities benefit from new immersive educational, social and entertainment experiences, while leaving those less well-off behind.  
    Beyond connectivity in the Metaverse – conversation around metaverse environments and the convergence of physical and digital worlds has exploded in recent months, spearheaded by the leading players in big tech. It is set to be the backdrop for a cultural and business model evolution.
    In fact, the metaverse market is predicted to reach $814 billion by 2028. Our own research found that in 2021, businesses were doubling down on virtual and augmented reality, with 88% of global organizations investing in technologies to create virtual environments and, among those, 91% are planning to invest further.
    Right now, the metaverse continues to be a largely unexplored area for CSPs and it can be more than just an opportunity to connect more devices—it can be a platform to re-invent business models. CSPs can unearth new avenues for monetization via subscription models, virtual stores and in-world services around identity and trust and safety while looking to build engaged communities. Metaverse may also help CSP’s better engage with their customers and employees, and provide platforms by which they can run their own businesses more productively.
    Accenture is deploying 60,000 VR headsets and have created an enterprise metaverse, called the Nth Floor, where employees from around the world can meet for presentations, socialize as teams and participate in immersive training. 
    Accenture’s created a virtual campus for onboarding tens of thousands of new employees and created digital twins of various offices to provide familiar environments for our people while working remotely. Accenture is also partnering at an industry level to make the metaverse real for our clients, an example of this is the recent launch of Touchcast’s MCity, where companies can deliver immersive communication, collaboration, commerce, and learning experiences.
    And with the power of 5G, with all its mobility, superior speed, and throughput benefits, the opportunity is there for the industry to accelerate growth of the metaverse while engaging customers and employees in new ways through immersive experiences.
    This will require a metaverse strategy that is not currently in place, and many CSPs are not yet prepared to realize the potential of the virtual-physical convergence. MWC may be the stage to lay the foundations for these strategies and encourage a bigger focus on cooperation and collaboration with the wider industry.
    Engineers, developers, creators, policymakers, and telco partners all need to join up to build these new universes. They cannot afford to waste this opportunity to innovate with the industry to solve real world problems for businesses and consumers.
    Indeed, the people and businesses who engage in the experimentation and building of the metaverse now, by playing an active role in exploring its possibilities, will be most likely to reap the rewards into the future.
    CSPs can bring their own value to the table by leveraging their capabilities of network slicing, edge computing and super-fast transmission of immense volumes of data not to mention help solve for the problems of identity in the metaverse and important issues such as trust and safety and diversity, equality and inclusion.
    Success of the mobile ecosystem for vertical industry adoption and partnerships – vertically integrated industry solutions, such as banking, manufacturing and automotive are critical to the success of the mobile ecosystem for both consumers and enterprises. Coupled with an ecosystem partnership approach with different industries, CSPs have even greater opportunities to create greater long-term value for their business and customers.
    Take the financial services industry as an example of this mobile ecosystem opportunity, alongside some of its challenges. To a large extent, the mobile ecosystem is the backbone of its digital payments landscape. Many operators have entered the financial service space over the past five to ten years, building fintech businesses with strong new assets and significant revenue growth. The success of digital payments will require the convergence of fintech organizations and mobile operators to power payments and digital identity. This collaboration is critical to address the recent explosion in mobile wallet-based payment solutions that offer convenience to consumers.
    However, there are areas that challenge the digital payments landscape, which will be in focus at MWC. One is the use of digital currencies that create a real threat of disintermediation, and new regulation such as Open Banking. There have been huge disruptions in e-commerce and point-of-sale payments with new value propositions delivering seamless experiences and displacing cash. IoT technologies—watches, fridges, cars, smart speakers—are creating multiple payment opportunities and transforming the payment experience, as the pace of electronic transactions accelerating quickly.
    Another key challenge to mobile operators and banks in the digital payments world is the rise of the super-app. Just as the smartphone consolidated our hardware needs within a single device, super-apps are consolidating many of our retail, social and other needs. Most digital banking consists of checking balances, paying bills, and making deposits—functionality that big technology players are increasingly incorporating into broader platforms that include other services like commerce and social networks. Super-apps cause financial services and other brands to disappear from sight as they become enabling functionality for doing more interesting things like travelling or shopping. Faced with the expansion of large e-commerce and social media players into financial services, how should traditional banks respond and what will be the role of the mobile operators beyond pure connectivity?
    The automotive industry is another example of how CSPs are partnering to enable successful mobility. At MWC, various auto manufacturers will showcase the future of mobility with autonomous driving as one of the core topics, alongside green mobility and other connected car services.
    Fully self-driving vehicles may appear closer than they actually are. In the light of the announcements from the past years, industry experts, including those who are known to be skeptical, were not supporting the outlook for self-driving vehicles. Many traditional carmakers, as well as new entrants, were taking bold positions and projected fully self-driving cars by 2025. The good news is: more cars than ever will have assisted driving or other semi-autonomous driving features in the near future (what’s known as Level 2). Accenture expects that, by 2030, 60% of all new cars will be equipped with Level 2 features.
    The flip side is, current systems are not robust enough to navigate cars autonomously in real-world traffic – arguably due to missing common sense that humans have. For example, an algorithm cannot distinguish between a real traffic sign and one that humans can tell is obviously manipulated. Driven by high costs, Accenture expects that even the share of (premium) cars with Level 3 or 4 will only account for about 5% of the total market by 2030.  
    Hence, truly autonomous driving is still far away. Even with increased computing power and more and more data available from real road driving or simulated driving to train the algorithms, autonomous driving remains extremely difficult to master. But where we are right now? Accenture has put together in its report, Rebooting Autonomous Driving, the latest on autonomous driving and offers a reality check by describing the status quo, challenges, and the biggest levers facing the industry.

    Open RAN’s opportunities and Challenges – one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry at the moment is Open RAN. This technology allows service providers to speed up 5G network development through its open architecture. By opening up the network and bringing in cloud capabilities, carriers can run their networks more efficiently and in ways they were not possible in the past. Longer term, this is expected to be a game changer for large and small providers – yet today, it’s the smaller providers such as Rakuten that are driving innovation in this area. However, it’s only a matter of time before it trickles its way up to the larger, more established players.
    According to a recent survey of telecom executives, there is both a high level of enthusiasm and palpable concerns about the technology. While over half of all telecom respondents have either already deployed Open RAN in their networks or are planning to do so in the next few years, almost equal number of executives have significant or highly significant concerns for Open RAN’s security credentials. Open RAN is essential to making 5G work – while Open RAN might raise security concerns, it can be successfully deployed provided that the required engineering, integration, deployment orchestration, intelligent network operation and a well-thought-out operating model transformation are set in place. The Open RAN framework must address end-to-end security concerns relating to core of the business, the network, the data protection, the users’ security and privacy and the governance.
    The interoperable, multi-vendor approach to Open RAN will also ensure that operators can rapidly innovate by co-creating and optimizing reference designs that can be deployed at scale—an imperative for growing wireless demand and evolving usage patterns across the globe. As wireless networks extend to a wide variety of devices and deployment models such as dense small cells and private networks, the flexibility and cost benefits of Open RAN will also ensure the requisite ROI for enterprises investing in 5G, by providing a flexible upgrade path.