Annie Turner, Contributing Editor, rounds up news from October and reports that while network automation market is growing fast, commercial network slices are still some way off.
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) highlighted the urgency of network automation to improve telcos’ finances at its latest plenary meeting. This was held in person at ETSI’s headquarters in Sophia Antipolis, France, in late November, with online participation.
Nurit Sprecher, Vice-chair of ETSI’s Zero Touch Network and Service Management (ZSM) group, acknowledged the road to network automation is long and challenging, adding, “We are expected to deliver and support diverse use cases with 5G, 5G-Advanced and later with 6G, with an extremely demanding range of requirements in terms of latency, throughput, reliability, coverage [and] security” and with networks that can be being dynamically configured, adapted and scaled.
The ZSM group Chair, Diego Lopez, a senior technology expert at Telefónica, stated, “being a business in which you’re not making money doesn’t make any sense,” whereas telcos will be “in the position of providing a wider and better portfolio of services, without increasing these costs” while following “the trend towards personalised services,” with greater network automation.
Network automation market growing fast
Network automation is not only expected to generate money for operators, but for vendors and others too: Coherent Market Insights has just published a report, Global Network Automation Market from 2022 to 2030. It reckons the market was valued at was valued at $14.56 billion in 2021 and predicts it will $94.58 billion by 2030 at a compound annual rate of growth of 23.4% between to 2030. It examines the variables that are affecting the market as well as which vendors are best at riding the wave.
Heavy Reading survey on network slicing
The analyst house is reporting findings from the Heavy Reading 5G Network Slicing Operator Survey by Senior Principal Analyst, Gabriel Brown. It reveals that operating complexity and cost are the key business challenges operators face as they look to commercialise slicing.
The survey asked what operators see as the critical operational challenges in network slicing. The graph shows responses split evenly between the top two, indicating early-stage technology. Assuring and reporting SLAs at 8% suggests a technology still in development. Brown says he expects SLAs to rise up the list as commercial deployments gather pace.
Operational challenges for network slicing
Source: Heavy Reading
How responses split down fault lines of job functions is revealing. Of those in R&D roles (16 respondents), 67% identify “cross-domain coordination, design and solutioning” as the most challenging whereas among the 26 roles in network engineering and operations, the “need to transform network operations” comes top with 50%. The top pick for the 16 respondents in management roles, “organizational and people readiness” is the biggest challenge with 50%. As Brown observes, this reflects the well-known trend of everyone thinking the challenges they face are the hardest.
Drei Austria moves towards full automation
Hutchison Drei Austria is deploying Elisa Polystar’s Automation Engine and ready-made use cases from the supplier to enable automated RAN operations. The solution supports closed loop operations for “key workflows” according to Elisa Polystar and Drei’s own automation development with a software development for new use cases.
Elisa Polystar’s use cases are highly targeted, such as for detecting sub-optimal network configurations, network roll-out and optimisation for generations of technology from 2G to 5G. Tilo Splitt, Head of Radio Network at Drei Austria, said, “We needed a solution that could span all our networks…Already, we’ve seen an improvement in KPIs”.
Strengthening the RAN in Libya
P.I. Works is to deploy its EXA automated network management across Libya Telecom & Technology’s (LTT) national RAN infrastructure. The intention is to improve the quality of LTT’s network coverage and reduce OpEx and CapEx.
Ahmed Eshakruni, Head of Networks & Service Quality at LTT, said, “We believe implementing such a solution, powered by AI capabilities, will reduce network OpEx considering the geographic area of Libya is vast and the cities and villages are sprawling, the network is continuously growing and more cells and technology layers are added, which will be directly proportional to the increase in complexity.”
To end where we began, with ETSI, which on 28 November launched a telemetry standard designed to improve automation and deliver better customer experience of optical networks. The standards body claims it provides better monitoring than established methods via automated real-time data collection, providing greater speed and scale.
Telemetry uses the push method to continuously stream data from the optical line terminal (OLT) and data of interest can be chosen from the OLT and transmitted it in a structured format to a data collection platform for monitoring, AI-based analytics and visualization. Telemetry data is more finely granular and frequent in the optical access network and so can help predict network problems and take preventive action without compromising the OLT’s performance, giving operators greater visibility and insights into the network.
ETSI’s Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G) Industry Specification Group, which devised the telemetry standard, is working on 10 other specifications and will soon release F5G PON (Passive Optical Networks) for industrial applications and an F5G security architecture.