As service providers (SPs) continue preparations for 5G, building a common platform with an agile process for delivering new services to support customer needs remains a key goal. That’s according to Ian Hood, Red Hat’s chief technologist for global service providers, as he explained in an interview with TelecomTV at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

In the interview, Ian points to multi-access edge computing (MEC) as one solution worth considering. This moves task processing to the region of the operator network that is closest to the user, thus improving application delivery and performance as well as reducing network congestion. Ian cites five key use cases for mobile services that network edge computing can deliver, demonstrating its value: virtual radio access network (vRAN), business services, the internet of things (IoT) everywhere, virtualized video, and enhanced consumer services.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and blockchain were also discussed, and the interview delves into the impact of these technologies on SPs. According to Ian, AI/ML are tools for SPs to manage data and solve service delivery hurdles, not just user-focused tools. For example, AI/ML can help SPs automate their infrastructures, manage IoT data from the network, and deliver new applications with AI and video imaging.

During the interview, Ian also shared his thoughts on how blockchain can benefit SPs, although he admits it’s a more complex answer than a snapshot view can provide. Ian explains that with the evolution of the eSIMS, blockchain can enable SPs to bill back for international roaming in a distributed way, serve as a discovery protocol for network switching, and provide a way to bill for IoT services.

There’s a lot of possibility down the path to 5G, but challenges exist too. "The technologies available to us to virtualize the architecture haven’t quite lived up to the promise we expected yet ... and similarly some of the applications customers want to use … need to be modified and modernized to actually deliver this new cloud-native thing," he says.

But Ian encourages SPs to embrace these possibilities. As he puts it, "If you are not feeling some pain, you are not driving fast enough."

To hear more from Ian Hood on this topic, watch his full TelecomTV interview, "Not feeling pain? Drive faster!"

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