Managing networks in the future
The world is racing towards a new digital era, powered by 5G, IoT and the 4th industrial revolution. By 2024, there will be 4.1 billion global cellular IoT connections and 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions – the latter of which is set to be the fastest generation ever to be rolled out on a global scale. 5G will bring unprecedented new opportunities and it is estimated that by 2026 investments in industry digitalization will generate USD 619 billion revenue opportunity for telecom service providers. But these networks will also face exceptional pressure in terms of usage, performance, versatility and efficiency.
We are quite familiar with the complexities of telecom networks already. We monitor network KPIs for smartphone centric 2G/3G/4G networks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While 5G as a technology will be easier to operate, its multiple layers pose significant challenges to communications service providers. That complexity will be nearly impossible to handle efficiently without rethinking the entire operational model.
From operating networks to delivering experiences
End user experience is emerging as the most valuable performance indicator in the telecom industry. Communications service providers that can build an organization and operational model to create experiences that customers love will be winners in the long run. This means reinventing themselves to be more like their modern-day peers, the digital native companies, and emerging as digital service providers with end user-centric KPIs.
The operational models used during previous technology shifts will not suffice in this new reality. Adding people and resources will not solve the complexity challenge and a siloed technology approach will not be adequate to cater for an end-to-end customer experience.
The new operational model that is required will be fundamentally different in two ways:
- User experiences, instead of technology measurements, will be front and center as the new gauge of success
- Operations will shift from being reactive to proactive, using data to predict and fix problems even before they occur
The shift from reactive and network-centric operations, to predictive and service-centric operations means that we needed to start with a blank sheet of paper.
Reinventing network operations through AI
To address increasing network complexity, including a growing volume of devices, multiple technologies (4G, 5G, IoT), and more diverse service requirements, Ericsson has introduced a new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based managed services model for communications service providers – the Ericsson Operations Engine.
The Ericsson Operations Engine is a vendor and technology agnostic, end-to-end delivery model built to continually evolve in step with technology and customer demands. It has built-in data, user, and network security that is fully compliant with global standards and regional regulations.
In addition to a comprehensive architecture of applications and infrastructure, global experience and enhanced skill sets, we also co-create with customers to jointly unlock undiscovered value in their networks. AI and automation are key components of the Ericsson Operations Engine, powering our capabilities across the network lifecycle and enabling us to deliver and contract against business outcomes.
Andrew Ng, a professor at Stanford and co-founder of Google Brain says that AI will be the new electricity. What he means is that the systematization of intelligence is set to touch every part of society. At Ericsson, we also embraced AI with this in mind, incorporating it into our end-to-end portfolio. With a global presence and an uncompromising approach to security and trust, data is the power source behind our AI capabilities.
We manage 1 billion network subscriptions across the globe and we complement that with a future-proof, always-evolving data management architecture that we use in the field with leading providers. On a group level, we are investing heavily in AI research and development and to date we have approximately 600 AI patents. We have also recently established a Global AI Accelerator and are recruiting hundreds of data scientists in Sweden, US and India while continuing to co-create and collaborate with academia, industries, standardization bodies and open-source forums.
So how do we apply this AI expertise?
The application of AI in the Ericsson Operations Engine not only drives efficiency but underpins the transformation that service providers must make - from reactive to proactive, network-centric operations. This is not new to Ericsson, and we have applied this expertise more recently by embracing AI into our network operations. In 2018, we implemented an innovative method for radio access network design based on machine intelligence for Softbank in Japan. We are also working with leading operators around the world on AI-based trials, the example of which below highlights how data and predictive operations can address network problems before they become user issues.
Our vision of the future is one in which networks and applications will be deployed and operated with minimum human intervention, using trustworthy AI technologies. The realization of this 'zero touch' vision is an iterative process in which machines and humans collaborate reciprocally; machines building intelligence through continuous learning and humans getting assistance from these machines in their decision-making processes.
The Ericsson Operations Engine is a catalyst on the road to a zero-touch world. It's an agile and holistic solution intelligent enough to meet the emerging demands and challenges that networks are facing. At Mobile World Congress 2019, you can take the Ericsson Operations Engine for a test drive and get a first-hand look at how AI, automation and the power of data, are rewriting the rules of network operations – today and for the future.
Discover more about how the Ericsson Operations Engine is meeting the demands of increased network complexity with advanced components and capabilities.