Why intelligent RAN automation is going to rock your world
If you are a chief technical officer (CTO) for a communications service provider (CSP), you think about automation - a lot! Even when you’re not consciously thinking about it, it’s always at the back of your mind. Automation is the fundamental driver for transformational change. It can increase spectral efficiency by up to 15 percent, improve energy efficiency by up to 17 percent and reduce network incidents by up to 95 percent. Automation is at the heart of some of the most innovative and disruptive technologies like Cloud RAN, the disaggregation of your radio network.
Automation, automation, automation
But why this focus on automation, automation, automation? Because there are three ways in which RAN automation impacts your business.
Automation to improve network performance – The ability to automatically improve the performance of your radio access network is critical. Using automation technologies, such as centralized self-optimizing network (C-SON) to leverage your spectrum assets fully; or network design and optimization (NDO) to automate planning and roll-out, results in a high performing network. Using automation technologies such as closed-loop service assurance to identify, analyze and rectify network faults automatically improves network resilience and availability.
Automation to enhance customer experience – Network performance and customer experience are strongly interlinked. An increasing number of customers expect their experience to be linked to the type of services they use. Services like voice, video-streaming and lone-worker monitoring have vastly different requirements in terms of latency, bandwidth and resilience. To automatically provide the service appropriate or intent-based end-to-end network slices enhances customer experience.
Automation to reduce operational expenditure – telecommunications networks are expensive to run. Many operational tasks today are manually intensive, boring and repetitive. Boring and repetitive tasks are often prone to human error and mistakes. Automation of operations has two major impacts. Firstly, automation reduces the cost of activities allowing operational teams to do more, faster and more accurately. Secondly, automation removes the ‘boring stuff,’ the manual repetitive operational tasks that people don’t like doing; allowing employees to focus on the more ‘important and interesting stuff’ linked to running a complex telecommunications network.
These things all have automation at heart.
Time to get ready
You may ask: “Why is automation so important now? We’ve run networks for years without automation, what’s driving this focus today?”
The reality is that communications networks today have reached a tipping point beyond which networks become unmanageable without automation or, to be more precise, are unable to be profitability managed without automation. While the advent of 5G marks the start of the tipping point, in reality 5G is just one more technology stack that has to co-exist alongside the existing 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE technology stacks – and this makes the operational workload unmanageable. Many CSPs are attempting to reduce complexity by typically removing 3G from the network, while retaining their 2G networks for coverage and compliance with emergency service commitments. The irony is that 5G is designed for wide-scale automation.
The other factor to consider is that 5G is just the most visible of the new, transformational technologies that contribute to increased complexity and the need for increased automation. These include, but are not limited to NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and cloud native functions , end-to-end network slicing, Cloud RAN, and new enterprise services.
Ericsson’s in-house research estimates that the ‘cost-of-doing nothing’ will lead to an increase of network operational costs by 100 to 130 percent. For most CSPs that level of increase is unsustainable.
Conversely, wide-spread adoption of automation technologies can lead to a massive reduction in operational expenditure driven by aspirations to achieve zero-touch network operations.
Why is intelligent automation key?
We’ve established automation is crucial for our current and future networks, but it should not be done simply for the sake of doing it. Far more important is intelligent automation.
Intelligent automation is the widespread and increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to solve complex network operations problems. However, the wider implication of intelligent automation is being able to use the appropriate automation technology for the problem at hand.
For boring, mundane tasks the implementation of software scripts can automate simple tasks, such as activating new subscribers and services faster and error-free. Intelligent automation may also include out-sourcing a task to a managed-service provider who specializes in network operations, benefits from economies of scale and has the tools and scripts needed to replicate non-core tasks more cost-effectively.
Within 5G networks some of the tasks will be too complex for humans to resolve without significant AI/ML support, such as orchestrating all the conflicting demands of different services within a finite spectrum allocation to always provide optimal outcomes.
Intelligent automation is about matching the appropriate technology or service to the task.
What’s special about the RAN?
Why is so much of Ericsson’s automation focus on the radio access network (RAN)? In fairness, Ericsson has automation solutions for every aspect of the service provider business – RAN, core, transport, OSS and billing, but, out of these, the RAN is ‘special.’
Quite simply, the RAN is the largest single area of investment, by any mobile communication service provider. The GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association) stated that 4G/LTE networks account for 45-50 percent of total-cost-of-ownership (TCO), rising to 65 percent in 5G networks. In the same report they also estimated at least a 25 percent reduction in TCO through widespread adoption of AI/ML automation.
In particular, 5G RAN is much more likely to benefit from widescale automation: due to its vast range of spectrum bands, huge increase in network assets and dense small-cell indoor and outdoor base-stations complementing the traditional outdoor macro-cells.
Our Intelligent RAN automation solutions have clearly established benefits and return-on-investment profiles.
In some ways, RAN automation is the most accessible automation-based transformation program. With impacts such as 15 percent increased spectral efficiency and 95 percent fewer incidents, RAN automation can provide huge reductions in total-cost-of-ownership. That’s why RAN is so special.
So, what exactly is Ericsson’s Intelligent RAN Automation?
Intelligent RAN Automation is a series of technologies, solutions and services that use intelligent, machine learning to automate repetitive tasks and reduce complexity in the radio access network.
Intelligent RAN Automation improves network performance, enhances customer experience, and reduces operational costs. Intelligent RAN automation isn’t just one thing. It’s a portfolio of products, solutions, tools, and services designed to drive automation across all aspects of the CSPs’ networks, but especially the radio access network (RAN).
Want to find out how we can rock your world?
Intelligent RAN automation is a key focus area for Ericsson because it is a key focus area for you, our customers. We believe that the need for automation is a key driver behind nearly every transformation within the industry. Even when you’re not thinking about automation, you’re still thinking about automation.
To find out more about our Intelligent RAN automation capabilities, visit our Intelligent RAN automation page or contact your account manager.
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