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In today's dynamic technology landscape, where generative AI is reshaping our daily interactions and automation is transforming numerous business processes, the promise of 5G’s ‘great leap’ hinges on Communications Service Providers (CSPs) building a robust digital infrastructure and enhanced tools for proactively managing network performance and customer experience. As the horizon of connectivity expands, so do the threats. Amidst these challenges, the integration of AI-based analytics platforms into modern mobile networks emerges as a beacon of resilience.

We believe that five main trends will shape the telecom landscape and further push the boundaries of connectivity in 2024:

#1: 360º SERVICE ASSURANCE AND AUTONOMOUS NETWORKS

As 5G becomes increasingly available globally, its potential to enable new transformative applications like autonomous transportation and fully automated industry 4.0 factories relies on near-flawless performance and unwavering service reliability. Whether on the move or in the warehouse, seamless connectivity is vital to connect every subscriber and every ‘thing.’

However, without a comprehensive 360º view of network performance and customer quality of experience, many CSPs will struggle to create these seamless experiences, leading to a multitude of issues. For example, network upgrades are often slow and complex due to error-ridden manual processes that still occur in the transition from ‘lab-to-live’; those issues may be further amplified by inadequate mechanisms to detect, diagnose, and remediate problems that occur during or after the upgrade process. This inefficiency directly contributes to poor service delivery, resulting in quality and reliability issues that significantly undermine the development and deployment of groundbreaking connected applications. Therefore, customers often flag and raise network issues when they should have been identified beforehand by operators who have the data required to proactively identify and solve those issues.

A dynamic, end-to-end approach incorporates the latest advancements in network assurance, like proactive monitoring, real-time analytics, ‘continuous integration, delivery, and testing’ (CI/CD/CT), and automated incident response and fault resolution. This allows network operators to create seamless experiences that drive broader adoption of enhanced digital applications and innovative solutions that deliver on the promise of the 5G super experience. 

#2: FORTIFIED NETWORK CYBER-DEFENSE

A world where everyone and everything is increasingly becoming connected is also a world where new touchpoints, vulnerabilities, and pools of sensitive data are ready to be exploited by bad actors. The recent attack on a leading U.S. mobile operator is a prime example, with hackers obtaining personal information on millions of customers via open APIs. CSPs and their enterprise customers have seen an alarming rise in Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, with a 200% increase during the first part of 2023 compared to 2022. Mobile devices and other endpoints are another powerful entry point for hackers. Various studies estimate that as many as 90% of successful cyberattacks and 70% of successful data breaches originated at endpoint devices. The frequency of SMS-based phishing is on the rise, too, with 225 billion spam texts received by U.S. citizens in 2022 – a 157% increase year-over-year.

These examples and many other risks, scams, and security breaches impact CSPs’ short-term profitability and create ramifications that can cause long-term damage as customers lose confidence in the CSPs’ ability to provide secure communication services. In 2024, CSPs will need to step up their security defense, taking a fresh look at how to manage these emerging vulnerabilities. They must make it a priority to implement security protocols that use novel techniques such as quantum encryption, enhanced authentication protocols, advanced weblinks and content vulnerability scanners, voice audio printing, and robo-detection to avoid putting their business – and their subscribers – at risk.  

#3: AI-POWERED NETWORK INSIGHTS

Today’s networks are a complex maze of diverse non-integrated legacy systems, emerging technologies, and multi-access networks. Additionally, CSPs are at different stages in their virtualization and cloudification journeys, resulting in a multitude of platforms and technology stacks coexisting in today’s networks. This entanglement leads to data silos, data inconsistencies, and an inability to analyze and derive valuable insights – resulting in operational inefficiencies, security risks, and service degradation. With the projected surge in mobile network traffic expected to reach 563 exabytes by 2029, it will be essential for CSPs to extract intelligence across multiple domains of their operations to manage their business effectively.

AI-driven network management will be pivotal to optimizing network performance and enhancing the user experience. By leveraging AI-based analytics, CSPs will gain access to actionable, deep network, and operational intelligence to make informed, data-driven decisions. Additionally, CSPs will gain granular insights into market conditions to discern trends, establish accurate forecasts, and take corrective actions for improved network performance and reliability. AI-powered network insights will provide the transformative benefits CSPs need, including the ability to mitigate risk and protect the network, manage traffic more efficiently, improve customer retention, optimize infrastructure spend, and accelerate digital transformation and business growth – all vital to usher in the next phase of 5G.  

#4: IOT GROWTH AND CONNECTIVITY SHIFTS

The IoT market has experienced steady growth and holds significant potential across industries, with nearly 30 billion connected devices expected by 2030. With that, IoT devices linked via 2G and 3G are said to be phasing out, while 4G and 5G devices are on the rise. 4G is expected to maintain the largest share among cellular IoT devices through 2029. However, the introduction of 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) New Radio (NR) devices, expected to roll out starting in 2024, is set to offer significant advantages over 4G, including lower latency, energy efficiency, higher device density, and greater cost-efficiency for diverse use cases.

The automotive sector is poised for significant growth in IoT, leveraging eSIM technology. With consumer expectations of reliable connectivity at an optimized cost, the diverse capabilities of IoT, coupled with eSIM technology, enhance the flexibility, manageability, convenience, and security of cellular connectivity in vehicles, making it a popular choice for modern automotive solutions.

The growth of the IoT market will drive the need for scalable and reliable connectivity, positioning telcos to capitalize on IoT's vast potential across industries. To achieve this, CSPs will need to ensure their networks are ready to fulfill the unique requirements of IoT services, capitalizing on monetization opportunities. To assure quality and performance and succeed in the IoT market, CSPs must thoroughly test and monitor the health of their IoT business solutions, including connectivity, round-the-clock application availability and authentication, and power-saving features, while also monitoring to troubleshoot and tackle issues before they impact customers.  

#5: ROAMING IS BACK

After several years of declining roaming traffic, international travel is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Driving part of this growth will be France, where approximately 3 million spectators are expected to visit for the Paris Olympic Games. According to Juniper, 5G roaming connections are expected to surge by an astounding 900% in the next four years.

What will all of these connections have in common? They’ll expect a seamless mobile experience for a reasonable cost, regardless of location. While international mobile roaming has always presented complexities, the increase in 5G mobile roaming can amplify these challenges. For CSPs, this underscores the need for AI-based analytics-driven insights to clearly understand and anticipate device and network performance and how they deliver an optimal roaming experience to the traveler. This proactive approach will be crucial to prevent bill shock and ensure the best overall experience for customers across various conditions, such as different radio access networks (e.g., 3G, 4G, 5G), network conditions, and diverse services with unique requirements.  

#6: IN CONCLUSION

We see the year ahead filled with exciting promise as the evolution towards a seamless 5G experience comes into focus. While it remains to be seen how this technology matures and develops, what is clear is that CSPs will need to prioritize proactive service assurance, innovative cybersecurity measures, AI-driven network insights, scalable IoT connectivity, and seamless and cost-effective roaming experiences to meet rising customer expectations, fortify networks, and capitalize on the power of new transformative technologies. 

This article was previously published on The Fast Mode.

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