Policy and Charging Control has been an area of declining interest from top telecom vendors. Likes of Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco and Huawei have had policy portfolio either as convergent data charging solution, collocated packet core OR via a partnered solution. With 5G, we see a new trend of top telecom vendors re-introducing standalone policy offerings. Shrinking vendor list with acquisitions and buyouts is starting to attract fresh investments and new competition. Primary driver for this renewed interest seem to be the wider scope of policy management defined by 3GPP in 5G. Also, from long term perspective, policy management is strategic for #AutonomousNetwork.
From an Operators perspective, PCRF procurement was either as a freebie or part of bundled software deal as part of LTE upgrade cycle. In lTE, Operator's primary focus was migration of voice services to data, limiting PCRF role to fair use. As per our engagements, very few Operators have invested in independent policy management solutions and fewer have benefited from it. With Operators currently evaluating CAPEX budgeting for 5G, it might be worthwhile to discuss if an Operator should invest in an independent policy solution ?
Commonly stated benefits of collocated policy solution include reduced delivery effort, minimal customization for monetization of QoS and rapid deployment of new use cases. However, most of these benefits are not relevant for 5G as policy scope now encompasses session, access and even UE related policies. Neither packet core nor charging has all these considerations in their ambit. All said, the most critical reason for Operator to invest in an independent policy function is to have flexibility and technology support to execute the vision they set out to achieve with 5G.
Reminds me of a quote -
“You must think faster than the horse, or else you will go where the horse wants to go.”
Policy Control Function in 5G is the brain of the network. Designing an effective policy management solution would need dedication, focus, expertise, and investment from vendors. In order to achieve Operator defined goals of effective resource utilization and new revenue opportunities, Operators will have to look beyond interfaces and 3GPP defined use case scope to select a policy vendor and refuse the temptation of freebies.
We feel, in the long run, vendors that consider the policy function as just another product in long list of portfolio might fall short of this challenge!!