Automation is Key for Success of 5G at Scale

5G is more than a progressive step; It is a catalyst for individuals, society and industries to meet their digital aspirations. 5G goes beyond connectivity by providing a platform to collaborate across industries, and 5G networks will be at the center of an ecosystem that pushes society’s continued digital transformation forward. By design, 5G networks will be flexible and modular, with technologies such as network slicing, software-defined networks (SDN), cloud-native and cloud radio access networks (cloud RAN). A flexible architecture makes it feasible to overall network capacity as needed, increase the standardization of application programming interfaces (APIs) towards infrastructure, which will be key for automated connectivity to a heterogeneous network. APIs have sparked a revolution in banking, finance, health care and other fields, and now it is communications’ turn.

Communications service providers (CSPs) can’t lose sight of the imminent innovation coming from cloud and cloud-native software. 5G is where telco meets IT. Virtualization, cloud edges and containerized 5G deployment alongside a legacy network bring tremendous challenges with numerous interfaces, processes and complexities. The basic automation model that exists today will not be able to support the next-generation networks that come with a plethora of connected devices and the volume of traffic that must pass through. End-to-end, closed loop automation is going to be the catalyst that accelerates the space from network-centric operations toward customer-centric operations.

Why Automation is Crucial in 5G

5G drives incident-driven operations toward data-driven operations. It also drives human-triggered automation toward outcomes, triggers processes and initiates massive machine-to-machine communications. At the same time, the internet of things (IoT) has vastly increased the number of endpoints that need to be managed and, as network slicing comes to fruition, network slices will include SLA delivery models, which will be beyond humans’ ability to manage .

As a result, CSPs must rethink the way their networks operate now and enhance their existing value-adds by complementing their existing, strong cellular expertise with software capabilities. As organizations integrate their networks with cloud assets, databases and application assets, they must focus on incorporating automation at every step to efficiently manage their 5G networks and enable new 5G offerings.

AI/ML and Automation

5G is evolving alongside AI and ML. The high speed and low latency of 5G along with AI and IoT are going to significantly impact the way we live and work. 5G and intelligent connectivity enable automation to go through a complete transformation from digitization to artificialization. ML is pushing CSPs from playing the role of digital service provider to becoming cognitive service providers. AI will augment human decision-making in telecommunications to achieve newer use cases. The power of AI can be used to identify features and qualities in the current environment from a large set of big data, then analyze the use cases and predict future network failures which will help to mitigate the impact of any possible failure.

Enabling digital innovation is a high priority for CSPs as they transition from a prescriptive model to a declarative, API-driven and DevOps model. Success will ultimately depend on efforts to build the necessary organizational readiness. By leveraging cloud technology, managing risk, embracing openness and establishing a human-augmented AI model, CSPs can break silos in their network and enable this transition to happen.

Are CSPs Ready to Embrace the New Era of Automation?

In the 5G era, mobile will become even more central to our daily routines. According to a GSMA report, the economic value created by 5G connectivity will reach $1.4 billion by 2025 and 5G will contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over next 15 years.

5G networks will require automation that can support multi-domain and multi-vendor technologies, as services such as network slicing will traverse across multiple network segments like radio, access, core and edge, which may contain a mix of virtual and physical network functions.

On their journeys from communications service provider to cognitive service provider, many network operators today have orchestrated network and IT domains, but few have the capability to orchestrate end-to-end services, given the fact that physical legacy networks will coexist with cloud-native network functions. While network slicing and tailored connectivity are still in their early days, full automation will not happen without end-to-end service orchestration.

To enable automation on every aspect of the network, CSPs must embrace fully interoperable, data-centric solutions that offer the visibility and monitoring that is expected of cloud-based applications. By working closely with customers, each network function can be built in microservices with fully automated testing and regression testing and by leveraging DevOps for carriers.
5G is the catalyst that is converging telecom network engineering and operations with IT. The vast amount of data to be analyzed for insight-driven business models is forcing a cultural shift from pure network management to services management. Evolved, smarter networks, new agile and insight-driven business models all require that 5G automation be taken to the next level. Simply put, automation is not an option but a necessity.

Leave a Comment