Platform economics are becoming a business model that is and will continue to drive the future of technology. Today software APIs are such that they create a collaborative business model between different players. A good example is Uber where a transport business is run using only software, but leveraging others such as car owners and/or drivers. Restaurants have now adopted this model. On Platforms such as Reserve you can book a restaurant, go and eat at it and then leave without producing a credit card at the end of the meal. With such platforms one is able to see if you like meat or fish dishes and even what type of wine you enjoy. The restaurant will remember what you ordered the last time you were there. Imagine a communications platform that will suggest travel routes, online specials, and latest movies because the platform can remember where you were (e.g. shopping mall and watched which movie) or when the fuel in your car is about to run out. This is possible today and when 5G infrastructures are in place, this ability will increase exponentially. The old concept of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) or service providers will not exist in the era of 5G. We will have platform and eco-system players. We cannot define infrastructure by network type and treat services as a separate layer. 5G infrastructure is not layered but is a platform and an eco-system.
Mobile phones have the capability and has been used as tools that permanently collect individual’s data. Individuals through their devices create digital footprinting and mapping as they move or as they use their phone. Today it is possible to pull years of history of someone’s movement through the use of GPS data mapping tools. These tools are built into our mobile devices and cars as a standard feature. These tools can replace the traditional data collection undertaken for many years by social scientists through interviews and surveys. Today it is possible to analyze social behavior using machine learning and computational tool mining the wealth of data captured on these mobile devices.
The current economic and social environment we live in, requires us to be connected to the Internet at all times. When we are at airports, shopping malls, walking in the street, at home, at work, in our cars etc. Almost every space we are in today has some form of Internet access. During the 1st to the 4th generation mobile environment, MNOs were building a network to facilitate two or more people to communicate. The architecture of the network was based on a cell and node structure. The denser a space is populated the more base stations you will need to meet demand for services. At night when most people are asleep the network functionality drops to less than 20% of peak daytime traffic. This is the age of voice communications. Even today as data traffic exceeds voice communications; the network is still functioning assuming that the generators of data are humans and not machines.
5G will not be a network but a platform. You cannot build 5G using the architectural models used for 4G or 3G networks. A network-based eco-system is very different to a platform-based eco-system.
This part of the paper will attempt to demonstrate the platform-based eco-system. The 5G platforms will have to be designed taking into account two major shifts in technology namely; i) Big Data; and ii) the Internet of Things (IoT). 4G networks were designed to connect people and assumed that people would move between home and work from Monday to Friday. It also assumed that people would change their movement patterns on weekends to go shopping. These assumptions and traditional patterns meant that data traffic could be mapped on the main roads of a city, central business districts and residential areas. When most people are at home after work, it is possible to see the Internet traffic focusing on entertainment sites. In places like the USA, Netflix traffic increases by over 80% on the network after working hours.
5G platforms will have to be designed using an architecture that will take into account the requirements of big data and rise of IoT. Technologies such as Hadoop, Casandra and many more will form part of this platform. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning will become a central part of the platform. The success of the 5G platform will require an ecosystem of players at the radio layer, SDNs, CDNs, content aggregators, big data and cloud computing providers, analytics, IoT applications and sensors. The way the infrastructure should be designed and built needs take into account all these parts of the platform ecosystem including APIs that will glue the components together. In the 3rd and 4th generation mobile environment the network investment profile was driven by the transmission layer and switching. This was the era of Internet Protocol and MPLS. Today the infrastructure layer is driven by cloud based software.
The licensing process for the 5G era will have to take into consideration these platform driven technologies. The manner in which regulators and governments should look at this new environment is different to the way in which the previous licensing regimes were structured. Platform based spectrum licensing cannot allocate spectrum in blocks. Regulators must take SDN and NFV into account. It would be counter productive to give 5G licenses in the same manner as 4th and 3rd generation licences were awarded.
The way we should redesign legislation and policy must take these platform and ecosystem related aspects into account. We can no longer describe elements of the platform in the form of network, voice, data, layers etc.
The platform will have spheres, data planes and controllers. As we move to the nano sphere we need to comprehend that data cannot be seen as belonging to one jurisdiction and not the other. The Internet platforms and eco-system do not see borderlines. The Internet platform will be governed through a polycentric governance model. In order to grasp this environment, it is highly recommended that one should familiarize with all these.
Please visit: (a) platformeconomics.com; and (b) socialphysics.com