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As next-generation 5G and satellite networks increase in operations complexity, CSPs can leverage automation technology and best practices, including AIOps and E2E service orchestration, to monetize cutting-edge services and maintain the highest levels of customer experience.

By Ari Banerjee, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Netcracker Technology

The next generation of telecom technology is revolutionizing the way we live, work and think. With faster transmission speeds, higher bandwidth and reduced latency, advanced communications networks such as 5G and the rapidly growing satellite communications sector offer nearly limitless possibilities. However, this also exponentially increases the complexity of network operations, partner ecosystems and service delivery, resulting in the need for a new way of approaching traditional manual processes.

Communications service providers (CSPs) cannot just flip a switch to upgrade their networks and support rapid provisioning and scaling to dynamically adapt to fluctuating demands. The challenge of increasingly complex networks is further compounded by high-performance network needs, with both B2C and B2B customers requiring on-demand services anytime, anywhere. In addition, CSPs will want to identify ways to monetize their significant investments within the network to fully realize the business benefits.

Read More: Netcracker Celebrates 30 Years as a Trusted CSP Partner Globally

The Operations Environment of the Future

In order to fully realize the potential and practical benefits of modern networks, the operations environment of the future must meet three major criteria:

  • It Must Be Cloud Native: Container-based microservices create a loosely coupled architecture with modular components to break down and simplify the complexity of legacy frameworks. Along with open APIs and DevOps, cloud-native architecture provides near instantaneous scalability, deployment and redeployment to any cloud platform, resulting in optimized flexibility, upgrades and partner ecosystems.
  • It Must React in Real Time:5G networks and satellites will need to provide simultaneous responses and support for millions of devices running billions of applications and services. Each device, application and service will have different needs at different times, making low latency a necessity for progress. A network that cannot automatically and rapidly scale and adjust to accommodate these needs will defeat the entire purpose of automation by wasting a staggering number of resources.
  • It Must Support Intent-Based Orchestration: Intent-based orchestration uses preconfigured service models, policy and context with closed-loop control to automate the entire service and network slice life cycle. Closed-loop service management can establish effective intent-based orchestration; it uses AI/ML and analytics to monitor, manage and optimize everything from design to assurance for smooth operations within complex networks.

E2E Orchestration: Catalyst for Network Automation

By breaking away from the traditional monolithic approach, CSPs can ensure their operations environments are equipped to handle the rapidly changing demands of these dynamic networks. The ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy evident in domain orchestration offers one way forward. It separates networks into self-sufficient operational domains, such as core, RAN, transport and multi-access edge computing (MEC), creating smaller and more manageable network sections, as well as the ability to address specific and sudden demands.

However, in the complex multivendor and hybrid world of 5G, a network is only as good as its slowest segment. CSPs should consider implementing E2E service orchestration, which automates network design, provisioning, full life cycle management and E2E optimization. Its open API-based architecture ensures flexible programming and seamless partner integration, while its closed-loop AI/analytics capabilities enable intelligent resource management and service deployment without human intervention.

CSPs looking to invest in E2E orchestration solutions should keep a few key aspects in mind:

  • Consider AI/ML-Driven, Intent-Based Automation Solutions:Operators should look for intent-based automation with advanced analytics capability. This will help create closed-looped, zero-touch service management with proactive assurance and advanced capacity planning capability.
  • Make Sure the Automation Solution is Future-Proof:Key capabilities of intelligent intent-based automation will depend on how seamlessly it can manage E2E 5G operations automation. This entails managing core and RAN, which can be proprietary or Open RAN-based. The solution should also have proven interoperability and support cloud-based networking.
  • Real-Time Active Resource Inventory is Also a Must-Have: Dynamic on-demand networks need real-time inventory capability. Hence, CSPs should verify if federated active inventory for a single network view with capabilities for massive data intake and processing is a feature. Active resource inventory should be able to provide real-time visibility for all logical networks, resources and infrastructure while serving as a consistent and accurate source of data for the entire BSS/OSS and enterprise application ecosystem.
  • Enable Partner-Based Business Models:In order to fully embrace partner-based business models, automation solutions should be able to provide rapid onboarding of partners across multivertical industry segments. This will help operators reduce time- and cost-to-market with pre-configured packages, standard support, DevSecOps automation and pre-onboarded partners. It will also help operators gain or maintain leadership in the digital ecosystem through strong strategic partnerships and evergreen products.

Exclusive Interview: Empowering Telecom Providers: Netcracker's Initiatives for Digital Evolution

Leveraging AI for Automated Operations

Once the foundation of digital transformation is built, the intricacies of automation and AI to ensure seamless connectivity and buoy customer experience becomes self-evident, and the combination of OSS with AI/analytics will lead to significant advancements in the areas of service lifecycle management and service assurance. As service providers continue to evolve from telcos to techcos and take advantage of E2E service management, artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) is an essential component.

By applying automation and AI technologies to the service operations layer, significant advancements can be achieved in a number of key areas that will benefit telecom service providers:

  • Use AI Automation for Assurance: In an increasingly saturated market, customer experience is the battleground for differentiating service. When basic performance measures such as speed and coverage are similar, customer experience will make CSPs stand out. Combining AI, operational tools and observability enables service providers to create several AIOps use cases that ultimately improve customer experience, which leads to better retention and longer customer lifetime value. Common use cases include problem detection, impact analysis, root-cause analysis and service optimization.
  • Communicate Proactively with Customers: Most customers only contact customer service when they have a problem. Problem detection means that a huge percentage of issues can be detected and resolved before the customer is even aware. Root cause analysis accelerates fault resolution, meaning that downtime is minimized, and intent-based service optimization allows the operator to prioritize services based on their importance to the subscriber.
  • Improve Operational Performance Through GenAI: While AI-driven assurance enables a substantially better customer experience, Generative AI(GenAI) will further improve operational performance by augmenting AI with innovative content creation and natural language interactions. From assisting technicians in the field to creating service designs, or correlating alarms across domains, it will bring a further degree of automation and efficiency.

GenAI will also provide an important trust function for AI-automated operations by explaining (in natural language) every step of the AI analysis and proposed resolution. This level of explanation will help operations experts gain confidence in the technology to further accelerate its adoption across the business and continue the connectivity evolution.

This technology can also be used to improve network performance as AIOps holds the ability to monitor, collate, analyze, assess impact, and implement changes to the network without manual intervention, thereby improving overall performance, preventing the escalation of minor issues and reducing the duration of any outages. This ability to understand and mitigate future issues makes AIOps a key component of the digital future.

5G and satellite networks deliver an entirely new class of powerful technological capabilities and innovative business models. However, these advances come with the price of vastly greater complexity and scale, and require an updated approach to automation to capitalize on these investments and offer new services. CSPs that take the time to reinvent their operations environment now will reap the benefits of streamlined networks and differentiated services in the future.

Read More: Netcracker Recognized as Disruptive Leader in Automation and Monetization

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