Amdocs eyes 5G monetization through 5G Open Innovation Lab

Amdocs recently joined the T-Mobile-led 5G Open Innovation Lab and the software and services provider is zeroing in on ways to monetize 5G with the help of partners.

Intel and T-Mobile launched the 5G lab in May with NASA. Dell Technologies, Microsoft, and VMware, alongside Amdocs, recently signed on as founding partners.

The 5G OI Lab connects early and later-stage companies with the members’ respective technical resources, platforms, and expertise as they work to develop the next money-making 5G innovation.

In terms what drove Amdocs to join the lab, Anthony Goonetilleke, group president of Media, Network and Technology, pointed to the need to generate returns on the huge capital investments that have already gone into 5G.

To that point, a recent CTIA survey showed that U.S. wireless providers invested $29.1 billion in 2019, marking a four-year high and accounting for 18% of the world’s spending on wireless. Granted, that’s not strictly on 5G, but continued 5G expansion is only expected to ramp and carriers aren’t the only ones putting money into 5G solutions.

“You can’t keep investing with no return so we’re very, very focused on all of the interesting monetization opportunities and how you make this happen,” Goonetilleke said in an interview with Fierce.

5G economy powered by partner ecosystem

A so-called killer app or use case for 5G hasn’t surfaced yet, and Goonetilleke believes a partner community is what ultimately will deliver value to 5G.

“In the last few years we realized the 5G economy is going to be powered by a partner ecosystem,” he noted. “The world has changed since 4G to 5G and it’s more of a collaborative environment, even between competitors, and really utilizing different partners to stitch together creative use-cases.”

Partnerships have certainly been popping up in different ways, such as carriers leveraging content providers to add value to wireless plans, including T-Mobile and Netflix, Verizon and Disney+, and AT&T cross-pollinating with its own HBO Max service. 

But partnering with developers and startups is also a trend to cultivate and spur new 5G uses. Verizon for example opened 5G labs in major cities in the U.S., working with startups, academia and enterprise teams. One of the Verizon 5G labs partnered with the NFL for a mobile gaming challenge. 

Vendors too are pooling their different but complementary technologies.

In a separate announcement this week, Amdocs said it integrated its SmartRAN optimization tool with Intel’s FlexRAN software reference architecture to help speed up the development of virtualized RAN solutions.

The 5G Open Innovation Lab brings all of the Lego blocks to the table, Goonetilleke said, with members contributing and looking to leverage their respective and different technologies. That includes edge and cloud infrastructure from Microsoft, Dell and Intel eyeing IoT applications, and T-Mobile’s 5G connectivity.

“We have a lot of the foundational components that make all of the 5G ecosystem work, so we’re really looking at how these creative edgy companies will come over the top and start to build and connect these ecosystems together,” he said.

In addition to its wide range of software and services, Amdocs is one of five authorized Spectrum Access Systems (SAS) for CBRS. And the company won’t hesitate to bring its CBRS assets and know-how to the table if an innovative idea presents itself, according to Goonetilleke.

Each year the 5G Open Innovation Lab picks 15-20 companies to participate, and it just announced 16 as part of the second cohort for a 12-week program. Partner members like Amdocs provide resources, mentorship, and an opening into the ecosystem for startups, but they also have the opportunity to examine the solutions being created and choose which companies they want to work with to develop real-world proof-of-concepts. 

The lab doesn’t take an equity stake in the startup companies, but can embed their technologies to bring to market, and leverage existing customer and industry relationships.

Goonetilleke didn’t disclose specifics on which of the startups Amdocs plans to work with but said it’s focused on ones that are scalable, cloud-native and coming up with very interesting use cases to bring to market. Rather than a single “killer 5G use-case,” he anticipates “a long-tail of thousands of 5G use-cases” with many companies doing things like embedding eSIMs and integrating connectivity for new experiences. 

Changing go-to-market economics

With new use-cases and applications there’s also a chance to explore new ways to deliver and charge for them.

One of Amdocs primary focuses is customer experience, ranging from service to commerce, digitalization, as well as methods for charging and monetizing. 

Goonetilleke said one thing they’re playing around with is ad-funded charging mechanisms or how to have a bifurcated charge. “For example, I can sponsor your service by another company’s services, and then how does this work in this economy.”

While not exactly the same, AT&T’s chief executive recently disclosed the carrier is considering offering wireless phone plans that would knock off money from consumers bills in exchange for ads.

Amdocs also believes there’s a strong services opportunity through the partnership ecosystem. Goonetilleke used the example of a VR headset, which these days could come with hefty price tag once all of the necessary elements add up, including the headset itself, a computer with enough processing power and a high-speed internet connection.

In the future, that could instead look like an affordable subscription-based purchase, leveraging the edge and powered on the cloud, with an embedded eSIM for 5G connectivity.

“Suddenly you really change the economics of how you can go to market,” he said, as well as change how to monetize services and devices that bring all of the extra needed components together, like full computing power and connectivity, end-to end.