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5G Network Automation


A growing number of telecom operators now understand the need to modernize their networks. They have watched from the sidelines as cloud-based service providers like Google and Amazon have revolutionized value-added services—delivered over the operator’s networks—at record speeds.

The impact of automation is substantial. Analysis undertaken by researchers at Altran with an operator found that within the core network, automation improved network failure predictions, intelligent network orchestration and traffic congestion control by as much as 40 percent. On the radio network, automation improved network optimization, call drop-rate predictions and network slicing automation by as much as 30 percent. In network and service operations centers, improvements of up to 50 percent were recorded when automation was used for predictive maintenance, autocorrelation and root cause analysis.

The operator also saw improvements in subscriber churn, which was reduced by as much as 50 percent with automation. Likewise, automation can reduce power usage by about 30 percent in data center operations and drives cognitive workload management and capacity planning. It can also cut DDoS attacks by up to 40 percent.

Challenges to automation

While automation might sound like the panacea for network headaches, Futuriom’s research surfaced a number of major hurdles that operators can face when trying to automate a network. More than 30 percent of respondents said they lack the budget to invest in either staff or technology to support the migration to automation. Twenty-nine percent were daunted by the scale and implementation of the automation.

Another significant challenge is formulating a digital transformation strategy to guide an operator’s automation efforts. More often than not, operators do not have a well-thought-out strategy and try to piecemeal it. Such an approach is inefficient and almost always results in unnecessary costs.

As operators make structural changes to capitalize on automation, they often merge or redistribute responsibilities across network and IT teams. However, retraining existing staff and trying to instill DevOps principles present additional challenges. The truth is that introducing automation into the network requires a different skill set, one that’s difficult to find. 

Even when highly skilled talent can be found, when it is brought into the company, it sometimes creates resentment, which can further slow the process. 

To address these challenges, operators should create a detailed strategy for how network automation will be introduced and used to generate business value and ROI. They should develop a roadmap that identifies when and how organizational changes will occur and specifies which technologies and partners will be needed to achieve their goals. Security will have to be at the heart of the strategy.

Don’t be left behind

A growing number of telecom operators now understand the need to modernize their networks. They have watched from the sidelines as cloud-based service providers like Google and Amazon have revolutionized value-added services—delivered over the operator’s networks—at record speeds. Meanwhile, traffic loads from video streaming, gaming and other bandwidth-intensive applications, as well as data traffic from the burgeoning IoT, are growing exponentially. In fact, this growth is so fast that mobile data volumes are projected to double worldwide from 35 exabytes this year to 73 exabytes by 2022.

Network automation is a mixed blessing for operators. It presents enormous opportunities yet poses some formidable challenges. As the 5G era starts to unfold, automation should be part of a robust digital transformation strategy. Given the role it can play to secure and make a network more efficient, the question is not if but when will you automate your network. The old adage still rings true: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.



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