5Qs on 5G: With TMForum

TMForum's Carl Piva

With 5G billed as something that will software-controlled, dynamic and adaptable to multiple use cases, as well as enabling new vertical industries, the OSS/BSS experts at TMForum would seem to have their work cut out in piecing together how all that might be supported. On the flip side, there’s the chance to influence how the service architecture and control of the network can ensure 5G networks can really become the foundation for new business cases.

Carl Piva, VP of Strategic Programs, tells Inside5G how TMF views its role in supporting 5G.

What is the purpose of TMForum in terms of 5G?

What will eventually become 5G is not just an evolution of 4G. It is not only about higher speed, lower latency and improved radio interfaces but more importantly about creating digital ecosystems that allow for innovation and new revenue generation. It is about creating a foundation that will support a mesh of new use cases ranging from internet of things to a tactile internet.

“Our purpose is to drive the management and orchestration”

TM Forum is ideally positioned to help the industry through this discovery process as we have some very advanced initiatives in-flight that map directly to what is required: Making the NFV/SDN vision real, enabling business within and across ecosystems and finally having a collaborative setup where it is easy for buyers and providers to meet and co-develop together.

Our purpose is to drive the management and orchestration within this context to be a positive force in expanding the digital economy.

And what is your focus?

Our focus will remain at what is core to the TM Forum – collaboration. We are running collaboration projects with hundreds of people every year and a large number of catalysts/proof of concept activities. This year we are running 20 catalyst projects leading up to our flagship event TMForum Live in Nice in June; focused on NFV, open digital initiatives and customer centricity.

“We also remain focused on … forces outside of the traditional telco domain”

Every catalyst project typically has 5-7 product vendors and 1-5 operator champions. We have all the mechanics in place to support 5G projects in a similar way.

We remain focused on creating the best practice for service provider IT, to make the transition to virtualisation happen, with focus on service agility and operations transformation. We also remain focused on tying ecosystems together, and identifying the design patterns and APIs that will attract forces outside of the traditional telco domain.

Who are you collaborating with and why?

The power of the Forum is that we bring different parties together – ranging from operators to vendors to other industries. We are also constantly evaluating how we can work with other SDOs and organisations that play other important roles in advancing our industry.

“TM Forum has always provided its value higher up in the stack…where best practice is the more pragmatic approach”

A more recent example, perhaps, is our cooperation with MEF and its Third Network vision and network-as-a-service. In 5G we believe that NGMN will play an important role much like in the evolution of LTE. TM Forum has always provided its value higher up in the stack (with its members creating process frameworks, information frameworks, application maps and integration frameworks) where it sometimes is difficult to create standards and where best practice is the more pragmatic approach.

This will likely continue, but I am fairly certain that we will continue working more closely with other SDOs going forward – there is an escalating need to coordinate efforts and align initiatives. TM Forum is taking a global view on everything we do.

Is 5G an evolution or a revolution in terms of networking?

“an evolution in technology but a revolution in how it will be designed to support a wider business context

From my vantage point it seems to be an evolution in technology but a revolution in how it will be designed to support a wider business context. True, there is a lot of innovation that needs to happen to support 5G, but the challenge of making this a business enabler for other industries is probably even more challenging.

With 5G, we will be linked together like never before. Who knows what the main use cases will be in the end? One interesting view, in my opinion, is that 5G brings the ‘automation of what people do’ use cases closer to come true, which in turn will likely drive significant changes in society.

How do you see 5G becoming a reality?

The application of NFV/SDN is particularly interesting technology as this is one of the foundations. I would also point out security and privacy as another area where a lot of effort need to be invested.

“we are going to see a lot of 5G marketing early enough”

When will it become a reality? Well, I do think we are going to see a lot of 5G marketing early enough, but significant 5G rollout? I think we are too early to predict that at this point.

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