What is the 5G enterprise? How are communications processes evolving for B2B services in the 5G SA?
5G is already a huge success, but the next phase (5G SA) will unlock a host of new B2B processes and applications – which will drive new communications services and new ways of interaction. Where are we headed?
5G is flying – but the next wave of advanced B2B services is coming
Consumer 5G has really taken off (with 580 million active 5G subscriptions expected by the end of 2021, according to Ericsson) and is now widely available (180 operators, in 72 countries). So far, so good, but while that’s great for customers, MNOs are now hoping to build on this with the next phase – 5G standalone. That’s because 5G SA is expected to unlock a host of new market opportunities, particularly for vertical use cases and B2B services.
In this context, much of the attention is focused on wireless connectivity for complex processes (for example, for industrial automation) or for enabling greater density (more IoT devices), such services will also live alongside connectivity to traditional services – B2B communications, enterprise productivity applications and more.
What’s more, as digitalisation is extended to machine processes and operations, so too will wireless connectivity be demanded in the user application domain. That’s because communications processes will need to be integrated and connected to information processes and workflows, as well as the services that users access.
That’s not simply a case of connecting a CRM to a call management solution. It’s more – it’s about ensuring that automated triggers and actions from operational processes can also trigger events in the wireless communications domain.
5G SA brings new performance levels but also new modes of interaction
In other words, while 5G SA will enable new levels of performance for enterprise operations, it will also demand new levels of interaction between processes and people – and between teams as a result.
In particular, the need to enable real-time communications in response to events – for critical services, for example – will become increasingly important. Now, one of the most interesting aspects of 5G is the way in which it enables support for both differentiated service quality levels, as well as dynamic changes.
This means that services can be created for which required performance may be changed mid-session. Indeed, a session could span a series of different communications phases, depending on information and events that are received from related processes. In turn, one communications phase might need to transition to another – just as we move from audio to video, and to multi-party calls today, so we’ll need to do the same with 5G SA.
However, additional considerations include control of quality and performance characteristics to match those demanded by the enterprise in question – the needs of a hospital will be different from those of a factory, but there will still be many common requirements. But, there will be different processes that need to be integrated into such flows.
Dynamic session control and triggering from new vertical applications
And that makes this all a bit different from simply gluing together a vPBX with a CRM or with a cloud-based collaboration tool, such as Teams or Whereby. The truth is that we don’t yet know what these requirements might be, but the chances are that a host of new applications will be brought into the picture, as enterprises deploy more solution to aid their transformation efforts. The key difference with today’s integration landscape is that many of these applications will be rooted in specific verticals.
As such, wireless communications services will be multi-dimensional and will be seamlessly integrated with specific vertical processes and software to create much more powerful – and complex – session flows, with dynamic possibilities, depending on triggered events and actions.
All of this requires an evolution from the classical approach of back-end integration with different processes via APIs. It will demand connectivity through Application Function interfaces to the SBA, so that different AFs can request services from others – as well as external processes.
B2B services will be part of the SBA – where are you headed?
So, communications processes have to evolve from today’s platforms, integrated with IMS and embrace the new paradigm of AF connectivity to the 5G SA core – and to extend integration possibility, not just to associated AFs, but also to new vertical applications and processes that may be outside this core environment.
It’s an interesting shift – and we’re pushing ahead with the evolution. If you want to discuss new models for communications service interaction in the 5G core, in readiness of the next phase of B2B services, we should talk.
 Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2021
 GSA research, Evolution from LTE to 5G: Global Market Status – October 2021