The market of producers of telecommunications platforms for 5G mobile networks is a development opportunity for Polish software companies

Reproduction of articles with the permission of Mensis.pl 

Introduction

Polish programmers occupy a high position in international rankings thanks to the reputation gained in various areas of IT. Few people know today that the advent of 5G technology will create completely new opportunities for people who practice programming. The market of telecommunications solutions producers, which has been closed so far, will open its doors to IT companies thanks to new 5G standards and a change in the philosophy of platform and service development. Polish companies from this industry have a chance to play a great role in this game  

Article:

In the coming years, e-services will be increasingly associated with the development of the latest mobile network standard, pompously known as 5G. Thanks to the introduction of revolutionary assumptions by the creators of this standard, 5G will be a new market in which the leading software companies will definitely lead the way, taking the palm of priority from telecommunications companies. When we add the fact that Polish coders in the international ranking ” Hackerrank ” occupy the honourable third place, we will understand that we have a chance to witness the development of a new programming branch in Poland.

The phenomenon of the Polish software programmer

“Hackerrank ” is an organization associating over 1.5 million programmers from all over the world. Their main activity, apart from exchanging experiences in this field, is conducting rankings of coding skills, by publishing challenges, e.g. in categories: algorithms, Java (programming language), data structure, C++ (programming language). In total, tasks from fifteen different categories are announced in the ranking. The most popular category is the group “algorithms”, the solutions of which are undertaken by as many as 39.5% of the members of the organization. For comparison, in the second category, “Java”, only 9.3% of participants compete. Summarizing the results of the ranking, in the first category, Poles rank second after Russians, and in the second category – Java – they rank first. In the general summary, the Russians are leading, followed by the Chinese and the third – the Poles. One of the most interesting categories is mathematical tasks, which are in sixth place among the most willingly undertaken challenges. In this group, to my surprise, Polish programmers were not even in the top five. It would seem that the abilities of our computer scientists are a consequence of demanding mathematics classes in schools and universities, which is not covered in this list. We have to look elsewhere for the sources of native coders’ talents in the category of the algorithm, i.e. the way the application works. However, let’s leave this dilemma for another article because abilities are one thing, and possibilities are another. Looking at the ranking above, I compared it to the list of the world’s economies with the highest GDP, with the US, China, Japan, Germany and India leading. Programmers from these countries are respectively: USA – 28th place, China – 1st place, Japan – 6th place, Germany – 14th place and India – 31st place. The main factors influencing where vendors delegate software development (programming outsourcing ranking) are price and technical skills. In this regard, India, China, Malaysia, Brazil and Indonesia are unmatched in terms of price. Poland is currently ranked 10th in this ranking, but it climbs higher and higher every year.

For native programmers and software companies, expanding the programming outsourcing market to include the production of telecommunications products and 5G services is a great opportunity. Domestic companies are already seen as competitively priced. But what is most important – they have diligent and experienced programmers, also in the field of telecommunications platforms. 

Experiences of Polish software companies in the field of telecommunications

Until the advent of 5G standards, previous versions of mobile networks were based on signalling and communication protocols between platforms, which – historically speaking – were subordinated to the domain of maintaining the quality of voice calls. These regulations required suppliers of telecommunications equipment to adapt to all previous solutions through strictly defined messages at the lowest layers of protocols. Few companies were able to create platforms and software in dedicated hardware and programming environments created for the telecommunications market. Very expensive hardware and software solutions at the entrance were a barrier for small businesses. However, it was not a world that was completely inaccessible to software companies. Some Polish companies such as ISEC, jTendoNVT or Ailleron (Wind Mobile) have decided to compete in this world over the last 10 years, gaining their first experience in creating telecommunications protocols. The main recipients of the solutions were mobile and stationary operators.      

This whole, tightly closed world of telecommunications solutions will change its face due to the introduction of 5G technology and a change in the philosophy of operation. There will be a revolution in which the basis for creating telecommunications platforms will not only be dedicated hardware solutions but also very commonly and massively used programming techniques, based on virtual programming environments and Open- source. Low-level telecommunications protocols will be moved to higher communication layers. Functional applications will support telecommunications protocols, communicating via a very simple JSON information exchange protocol. The wall of access to the standards of the telecommunications world will be crushed. In the past, the same story happened to closed cell phone operating systems, when suddenly the open Android and IOS operating systems caused thousands of applications to flourish as icons on smartphones. 5G technology will allow a change in the approach to the division of tasks between operators, providers of telecommunications solutions, customers and service companies. The easiest way to explain it is to use the applications already used by billions of people around the world. 

Many of us use Whatsaap instant messaging. It is a purely programming solution, created by programming companies operating on the cellular network, but not cooperating with devices responsible for handling voice calls at mobile operators. When our phone is locked, in some situations we do not have information about an incoming call from friends, and they have the impression that we cannot answer the call, hearing the waiting signal all the time. This is because Whatsaap is not able to verify with the operator’s network resources what the phone user is actually doing. Such a situation will not occur if the smartphone application is able to check the subscriber’s status in the operator’s network. Changes in this area will be possible thanks to 5G standards because the smartphone application will be able to cooperate with the operator’s network in terms of location, connection status, network quality, and finally the balance of our PLN account. The standard that will allow operators to cooperate with service providers is a cooperation protocol based on the MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) platform. This is a huge field for new software companies that want to offer virtual reality services, applications that determine the connection method on public roads, deliver online games with minimal delay or transfer movies in 4K, 8K quality without loss of quality.

This example is a double field for software development companies. On the one hand, they will be able to create a MEC platform, which requires knowledge of telecommunications protocols and application communication protocols (REST API). On the other hand, they will be able to create programs for external service providers to connect to the MEC server. The first attempt to create such a solution was made by a group of Polish suppliers and scientific universities. The topic of EDGE servers and the MEC platform is definitely the future of 5G technology when very high bandwidth cellular networks with minimal latency will be required. Companies competing in this race have a chance to capture a huge share of the market in the 5G world because it is a completely new topic. This is not the only area of ​​activity. The 5G standard also introduces the separation of hardware and software at the level of radio networks, i.e. base stations and Core networks, i.e. the operator’s backbone network. The backbone network is responsible for managing the customer’s resources and making connections as well as Internet access services.  

So far, among the companies producing base stations, there have been only a few suppliers who have been supplying such equipment for decades. Imagine now that you hear about the Polish company IS-Wireless, which creates software for 4G and 5G base stations in Poland with the help of a 50-person team. Comparing such a company to colossi employing several thousand experts, it sounds almost unbelievable. This approach is possible thanks to the change in 5G assumptions that focus on open interfaces and software. The base station production market is open to small, ambitious companies with knowledge of telecommunications protocols and software development skills. It is worth mentioning that new suppliers of base stations will be needed soon because the next step in the expansion of the 5G network is the creation of private networks that will be installed in offices, shopping centres, stadiums and sports halls. Small base stations of the size of WiFi devices known to us, transmitting with low, safe power, thanks to the software dedicated to an individual recipient, will be cheap and efficient to provide services to customers.  

In addition to the change in the base station providers market, there is a great opportunity to create Core network elements. Standard 5G SA (Stand Alone ) assumes that all the existing functions of the operator’s telecommunications platforms will be created from scratch – as functional applications. The aforementioned companies, but also such as OvooComarch or T-Systems, can, thanks to their specialization gained in creating programs in virtual environments and knowledge of 4G and 5G protocols, start creating specialized 5G SA Core functional applications. For example, in the 5G standard, a subscriber’s data quality and usage control device called PCF (Policy Control Function ) is the successor to the PCRF platform from the 3G / 4G standard. The Polish company Atende has been providing a PCRF solution for several years and is currently preparing to create a PCF solution for 5G networks. Another example of a functional application in which Comarch specializes in the creation and development are systems for managing the operator’s network, and above all, automation in management. More examples will be available soon.     

Sponsor, a key element to success 

At the beginning of the article, I have already stated that the attractiveness of the programming market is primarily related to skills, but also low software production costs. It does not change the fact that the budget for creating any of the above-mentioned platforms is millions of zlotys. In such a situation, software development companies cannot afford their own funds for development and research. This is where investment partners and sponsors have to play a significant role. Today, the recipients of telecommunications platforms are mainly operators and they may be one of the potential investors. 

However, looking at the changes in the area of ​​recipients of telecommunications solutions – I mean private 5G networks or companies willing to invest in the automation of factories “Industry 4.0” – we can see that the list of sponsors may be wider. The National Center for Research and Development, responsible for supporting new technologies, can play a significant role in this respect.

Each platform in the area of ​​the Core network or this Radio has specific tasks that it is to perform (or conditions that it is to fulfil). The knowledge gained in the past on telecommunications projects for operators from around the world will allow the development of applications that can easily connect with products of other companies and build the market of Polish 5G telecommunications solutions. This strategy is supported by the experience and programming cunning of Polish companies. Let us remember that Polish software developers have almost no equal in creating algorithms.

Polish companies are still far from the top of the list of TOP telecommunications software suppliers, but thanks to the 5G market, the door has been wide open. As long as there are sponsors and leaders, our software companies have a chance to achieve a lot. 

Andrzej Miłkowski

Sources:

  1. Top programmers ranking – https://blog.hackerrank.com/which-country-would-win-in-the-programming-olympics/ 
  2. Telecommunication equipment companies by revenue – https://www.statista.com/statistics/314657/top-10-telecom-equipment-companies-revenue/ 
  3. TOP 20 Economies – https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/  
  4. TOP 10 Countries to Outsource Software Development – https://dykus.com/best-countries-to-outsource-software-development/ 

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