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FutureNet Asia Awards: Victory inches closer as the shortlists are announced…

There are six categories in the FutureNet Asia Awards to recognise outstanding innovations in AI and automation that will change how APAC’s future networks will evolve and operate. The winners will be announced at the event itself, which runs from 18-19 October at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Here’s a sneak-peek at each of the categories and the ambitions of the nominees that were shortlisted earlier this week by the judges. Please note that there is no shortlist for The Technology Leader Award which recognises outstanding contribution to the industry. This Award is allocated by nomination only.

 

 

The APAC Operator Award

This Award is intended to highlight the best example of a successful automation deployment. The nominees are:

 

Advanced Info Service (AIS) & Huawei

AIS has 46% of the mobile broadband market in Thailand. Its vision is to become the leading Digital Life Service Provider through evolving into a Cognitive Tech-Co. Huawei has collaborated with AIS since 2022, initiating and implementing Autonomous Networks best practices to enhance network intelligence and automation to improve customers’ experiences.

One example is an AI-driven solution to avoid complaints from customers. It detects possible problem areas and integrates them into the customer complaint process via an API. The AI models run a fault identification decision tree using data from many sources. It provides first-line agents with the information, boosting first-call resolution for radio-related complaints by about 20% while streamlining back office troubleshooting.

There has been a 10% fall in complaints related to network issues through MyAIS customer self-service, a 30% increase in first-call resolution for known radio issues and a 70% automated resolution rate for radio-related complaints.

Ncell Axiata

Ncell Flood Early Warning System is to protect against the floods and landslides triggered by the annual monsoons in Nepal. The solution has been in place since 2016, in collaboration with the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Government of Nepal.

Ncell provides DHM with SIM cards and data connectivity to ensure seamless transfer of data between the hydrological and meteorological stations installed across the country and a central server. DHM tells Ncell to whom, where and when to send flood warnings and to let them know when water recedes to safe levels.

By the end of August 2023, some 10 million alerts had been sent this year. This solution has demonstrated remarkable accuracy in ensuring communities receive precise information at the right time, supporting better emergency preparedness and responses.

Rakuten Mobile & Rakuten Symphony

Japan’s Rakuten Mobile takes an end-to-end approach to service assurance, across legacy and modern infrastructure, to reduce operational expenses and improve quality of service and experience. To achieve this goals, the operator relies on the Symops Automation Deployment Solution, developed with Rakuten Symphony, which provides visibility into the network on a single pane of glass.

Rakuten Mobile has deployed Symops alongside Rakuten Symphony’s Automated Service Desk to manage automated incident response and Symworld Watchtower to detect root causes.

The integrated solution has: cut configuration errors by 90%; reduced open trouble tickets by 50% through automated resolution; delivered 30% better resource efficiency, without loss of productivity; 38% shorter meantime to resolve incidents; and100% reduction in service level agreement penalties.

FutureNet Asia takes place on 18/19 October at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Singtel and Red Hat

Singapore’s SingTel needed to reduce the costs and complexity associated with activating its broadband services. It sought to streamline operations, reduce time-to-market, and deliver the services efficiently to compete in the market. It chose the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. Deploying automation on a resident platform like OpenShift was “a seismic shift” in SingTel’s approach, offering a new way to design, test and upgrade components more flexibility, with reduced dependencies.

The Ansible Automation Platform provides APIs, enabling SingTel to streamline service activation jobs, creating templates to minimise human intervention. This speeds the activation process and reduces errors. Overall, Singtel has almost halved the time to market. Cost savings and operational efficiency gains are just the start: it has reduced errors in broadband activation error rates by 50%.

Telstra and Nokia

Telstra is advancing its Network-as-a-Service strategy (NaaS) in Australia by leveraging TM Forum’s Open APIs to support various use cases from its internal network domains. Telstra did this by collaboratively implementing Nokia’s Digital Operations Centre which provides declarative service orchestration and a unified inventory.

Now it runs a cloud-native, reusable and multi-tenanted Platform as a Service (PaaS) that ensures optimal use of network resources. The platform changes how Telstra can design and offer services to B2B2X customers, while enabling faster time to market for new services and to address new business opportunities.

Telstra also uses Nokia’s open software development kits to build and support new use cases with autonomy, and to own the service orchestration process in the expanding digital ecosystem. It plans to leverage the platform to deliver AI and automation across all network types.

 

The Automation Solution Award

This Award recognises the leading solution for network automation deployed in APAC.

 

Anuta Networks

Anuta Networks has recently expanded ATOM, its integrated network automation solution, to offer AI-powered cross-domain automation for hyperscale networking. It is designed to bring intent-based, scalable automation to multi-vendor, multi-domain, multi-cloud environments.

Anuta ATOM uses cross-domain automation with Generative AI to identify where key metrics fall short, drill into root causes, and proactively resolve issues wherever they are in the network via a single pane of glass.

One telco customer has been able to standardise services across multiple operating companies and reduce the mean time to repair. This customer also leveraged ATOM’s geo-redundancy to ensure high availability and scalable performance, reducing outages by a factor of 10.

ATOM has been validated to automate the manual provisioning of 15,000 sites and local data centres across 50 cities to underpin ‘hyperscaling’, onboarding 5G cell sites taking just 2 hours per device.

AsiaInfo Technologies

China Mobile Guizhou Company has many different business systems within its BSS. The resource pools of these deployments are separated by geographical factors and technological differences, and lack the resources for peak demand, although resources are idle during off-peak times.

AsiaInfo and China Mobile Guizhou Company addressed this issue by developing automated scheduling of resources among the heterogeneous resource pools through computing and network convergence.

Overall utilisation rate of resources has increased from 65% to 85%, while the time taken to deploy 30 machines has fallen from 7 days to 0.5 days. The quantity of procured hardware has reduced by an estimated total of more than CNY5 million (about $697,000). Analysis of big data applications has decreased from 7 to 4 hours.

Ericsson and DNB

Malaysia’s Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) deployed the world’s first 5G Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) to support six mobile operators. Ericsson’s data-driven operations manage the complex 5G wholesale network. The solution relies on machine learning and automation to manage complex processes on time, meeting stringent, nationwide 5G service performance indicators.

The key outcomes within the first year of operation include: network uptime improved by 90%, and mean time to restore faults decreased by 54%; 95% of trouble tickets for network operators and 100% of work orders dispatch were automated.

The average network throughput consistently is more than 500Mbps based on OOKLA analytics, although this is a greenfield network which saw traffic grow x30 and subscribers x40 in 2022. DNB attributes this to its full-scale, AI-based network optimisation and actuation on network elements.

P.I. Works

In February 2022, P.I. Works unveiled its Extreme Automation (EXA) Radio Access Network (RAN) automation solution. EXA integrates AI and machine learning with technologies like customer experience management, crowd source, geolocation and YouTube Video Server.

Now EXA manages over 8 million cells across 47 operators globally, serving 1.4 billion mobile subscribers. It supports multi-vendor environments, diverse radio access technologies and multiple standards, including those of 3GPP and ORAN. Notably, the platform optimises mobility between RAN technologies and load balancing.

A Tier 1 operator in Malaysia runs EXA as it moves towards zero-touch network management. The partnership began mid-2022. Since then, throughput of its daily average downlink user rose 10.74%, and the average uplink by 13.89%. Some 76% of outages were detected and efficiently compensated during the two-week baseline period.

During that time, subscribers’ complaints fell 62% and nationwide average power savings increased by 2.01%.

Rakuten Symphony

Network operating expenses are already as high as 15% of operators’ revenues, and rising. Rakuten Symphony’s Symworld platform seeks to tackle this by bringing automation to every application and process it manages. The platform digitalises the telecom processes for network planning, building, orchestration, operations, customer support and Open RAN, offering more than 70 applications.

There are four innovative attributes of the Rakuten Symphony Symworld platform, which have had such an impact on Rakuten Mobile’s operating KPIs in Japan. The platform makes developing automation easier through a telecom automation library; offers scalable, network-wide execution by creating containers on demand for specific jobs; one, end-to-end integrated Infrastructure as the automation platform covers all network domains; and AI-driven operations, based on a constantly added to dataset of automation actions.

 

The Orchestration Award

This Award is for most innovative automated service orchestration solution deployed in APAC.

 

Amdocs

Amdocs’ automated B2B service fulfilment and orchestration solution is deployed at a Tier 1 APAC operator across multiple lines of business. It chose Amdocs Intelligent Networking Suite as its strategic service and network automation solution to streamline and automate service orchestration and fulfilment processes for current and future services.

The operator has taken a cloud-first approach to its service management processes – its entire stack is microservices-based and deployed on AWS. It leverages AWS managed services to benefit from scalability, performance, elasticity and cost structure.

The operator has reduced manual processes by 40%, increased order throughput 300% and peak order volumes are up from hundreds to thousands. It also reduced total cost of ownership using AWS native services and Amdocs reporting tools (SKY/iPASS).

The 78% reduction in third-party software has saved the operator millions of dollars and reduced the number of virtual machines by 33%.

DCConnect Global

DCConnect Global’s flagship product, the cloud-based DC Gateway, which the firm describes as “a first-of-its-kind SaaS and NaaS wholesale and white-labelled product”. It enables businesses to automate the provisioning, deployment and management of network services. DC Gateway can be integrated with other systems due to its API-driven architecture to offer better, more integrated customer experience.

DCConnect Global can help telcos that have a legacy network, which does not rely on software-defined networking, to modernise and automate using the DC Gateway. This saves them time and money, and helps improve network performance and reliability.

DCConnect Global developed the BSS/OSS, which is designed to easily integrate an Application Block and an Orchestration Block. This means manual tasks can be replaced by process orchestration and system automation to streamline operations and enhance service delivery.

For example, a partner in Hong Kong reported it reduced network provisioning time by 75%, resulting in savings of $1 million per year. Another partner reported that they were able to improve their network performance by 20%, which led to a 10% increase in customer satisfaction.

Nokia & stc

stc chose Nokia’s solution in 2020 to fulfil its long-term, end-to-end vision for service orchestration. Its legacy tools and BSS/OSS stack did not provide the operator with the features and flexibility it needed to dynamically decompose and orchestrate delivery of new digital services. This is because they span multiple technology and multi-vendor domains.

Most importantly, the legacy OSS/BSS tools lacked the required intelligence for service placement and managing the entire lifecycle of cloud and software-defined functions in a hybrid environment.

Nokia’s solution provides stc with an open, standards-based framework for the abstraction and automated lifecycle management of hybrid services. They include across multi-vendor tech domains from NFV and telco cloud, to SD-WAN, WAN-SDN, 5G Core, RAN and edge.

The initial phase went live in Q1 to Q3 2023, and now, for example, a new SD-WAN branch is fulfilled and ready for service within an hour.

Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS)

TCTS’s MDSO platform supports end-to-end network service orchestration and automation across multivendor environments. It is aligned with ETSI and TM Forum industry standards.

TCTS has implemented this Orchestrator solution a Tier1 operator in Malaysia for its telco cloud, built on SDN NFV. Key components are data centre infrastructure and NFV infrastructure (NFVI), plus management and orchestration (MANO) and the virtualization layer represented by the cloud OS. The NFVI resources are managed and controlled by MANO.

The TCTS Orchestrator offers agile service automation in a DevOps-ready environment. Entire workflows can be created by building and connecting microservices – reusable individual service functions. This new flexibility and simplicity speeds development, configuration and deployment of services, as well as allowing granular changes to individual services or types of service.

 

The AIOps Award

This is to highlight the best operations solution incorporating AI functionality deployed in APAC.

 

Anritsu

eoMind is Anritsu Service Assurance’s AI-based anomaly detection engine that revolutionises how operators can detect anomalies in subscribers’ experience and resolve issues faster. The key factor to fast detection is leveraging real-time data with the right algorithms for the network.

eoMind works in real-time, without KPIs which are useful for longer-term reporting but are stuck in a time capsule when identifying real-time events. Instead eoMind uses metrics from 1 minute data, or faster, depending on the data stream, hence anomalies are detected in a time period of 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the shape of the issue, so follow-on impacts from long-running issues are reduced. Customer impacts are lessened because network operations are ‘first to know’ and this saves time when investigating and closing a case.

AsiaInfo Technologies

AISWare ReTiNA offers an integrated solutions for 4G and 5G network planning, construction, optimisation, and maintenance for operators. It runs on AsiaInfo’s AI platform and various AI algorithm models to enhance operational efficiency, reduce maintenance costs and improve end-user satisfaction.

ReTiNA is network- and vendor-neutral. This system integrates AI and specialised algorithms to create core capabilities like multi-agent reinforcement learning, wireless simulation, precise positioning, metric forecasting, anomaly detection, and knowledge graph utilisation. It facilitates closed-loop management for identification, localisation, solution formulation, and execution. The platform also evaluates issues related to coverage, capacity, interference and more, advancing operators’ ‘self-intelligent’ network levels.

In on-site testing for a China Mobile Tianjing Branch, coverage improved by 5% and traffic handling by 23%.

Ericsson and DNB

DNB deployed the world’s first 5G MOCN, supporting six mobile operators in Malaysia. It looked to Ericsson’s data driven operations to manage the complexity of this wholesale network, ensuring high availability while managing cost for each operator’s specific needs.

The Ericsson Operations Engine (EOE) is designed around AI-based automation, with a cognitive core running intent-based automation, complex co-relations and API-based connectivity. Results include that by correlating alarms and actuation in the network, there was a 500% fall in alarms overall in the first six months.

Also, predictive AI-based involved using a feedback loop from DNB’s network elements and third-party data, such as relating to weather, achieved network up time of almost 99.8%.

DNB’s operational model provides real-time network visualisation capabilities to the operators and helped reduce the time to resolve customer complaints by 90%.

Rakuten Symphony

Rakuten Symphony’s Symworld AIOps is designed as a one-stop solution combining big data with AI and machine learning to automate critical IT operations on a single platform. It provides real-time visibility and insights into the operational status of applications, performance and health.

AIOps does not replace monitoring, log management, IT service management or orchestration tools. Instead, it sits at the intersection of these domain stacks and integrates information across them to provide a meaningful output for complete automated observability.

AIOps does eliminate eye-ball monitoring of applications’ health and helps investigate issues, reducing mean time to detect. It helps save about 50% of effort for teams monitoring layers 1 and 2, and identiies false positives to reduces noise in the system by 30%.

VMware

VMware’s Centralized RAN Intelligent Controller (CRIC) allows service providers to optimise and improve network performance to provide the best quality of experience for their customers.

The VMware CRIC implements non-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (non-RT RIC) from the O-RAN Alliance reference architecture. It is a management-plane solution which hosts external, RAN-focused applications referred to as rApps whose control functions respond in times greater than 1 second.

VMware’s telco portfolio is designed to address customers’ key challenges, such as a lack of performance visibility for premium subscribers, not being able to identify which interference is impacting the most subscribers, and 5G handsets only being able to connect to 5G cells less than 20% of the time.

Operators can consume and enrich non-RAN data for RAN observation and analytics and consume and produce RAN data for non-RAN optimisation.

 

The most innovative application of AI & Automation

This Award is looking for the best use of AI and automation in applications to enhance customers’ experience in APAC.

 

AsiaInfo Technologies and China Mobile

AISWare CEM is a customer experience management system jointly launched by AsiaInfo and China Mobile Tianjin Company. AISWare CEM evaluates indicators of user-level perceptions using an AI-based psychology experience algorithm to generate an emotional connection score (as opposed to relying on the perception of the operator).

The training and verification of the algorithm was conducted through third-party customer-effort survey. The NPS results showed that after verification, the precision ratio and recall ratio were above 50% and 40%, respectively.

The implementation of AISWare CEM has greatly improved customer satisfaction, in part by raising the accuracy rate of customer satisfaction metrics to 85%. The processing cycle of work orders has been increased by 76%. The processing labour cost is down by 35%, while number of customers with perceived quantification scores per hour is over 50 million.

Ericsson and TPG Telecom

TPG Telecom (Australia) recently deployed Ericsson’s Expert Analytics (EEA) with troubleshooting, which is a cloud-native platform. Its AI-powered analytics are used to provide more accurate, more efficient troubleshooting of network issues to improve mobile network performance. This includes by being able to link events to the most probable cause, such as core, backhaul, radio, billing and the internet.

By correlating metrics and events from network nodes, probes, devices, OSS/BSS and other sources, EAE enables TPG Telecom to measure and improve service experience at an individual subscriber’s level.

This translates into capex savings in terms of footprint and deployment. TPG Telecom can trace and monitor subscriber sessions handled by the core network, the foundation of TPG Telecom’s mobile network. Currently, EEA successfully monitors approximately 5 million subscribers, and its coverage continues to expand.

Huawei

Huawei Premium Broadband Solution relies on AI and automation capabilities to enable experience-based operations. The solution is used by more than 100 commercial networks. In Zhejiang province, China Mobile uses the solution to cover 43 local sites and manage 108 optical line terminations and 230,000 subscribers.

China Mobile can proactively identify subscribers suffering poor quality of service with 95% accuracy and reduce the average onsite fault location time down from more than 2 hours to 10 minutes. Insights into customers’ requirements resulted in 30% of potential subscribers signing up for smart networking packages, improving the subscription conversion rate by six times.

Rakuten Symphony & Rakuten Mobile

Growing data consumption and high costs of deploying 5G require careful evaluation of capital (capex) and operating expenses (opex). At the same time, operators must consider new technology options to deliver accelerated innovation and efficiency. The RAN can account for more than half of a network’s total cost of ownership, innovation and cost savings here are critical – and Rakuten Mobile has achieved its goal of saving almost 22% in engineering and operational costs.

Rakuten Mobile has adopted AI models to enhance its network performance and subscriber experience. Leveraging these models, Rakuten Mobile has optimised its network, increased customer satisfaction and improved revenue generation.

AI-powered applications include for sentiment analysis, customer acquisition, predicting churn, segmenting customers, detecting and predicting anomalies, avoiding loss of coverage during outages, and much more.

Ranplan Wireless

 The challenges faced in our quest were twofold. First, the factory environment is an intricate mesh of metallic structures that challenged traditional wireless communication. Second, a densely populated wireless landscape, with various devices and machinery, introduced interference that could jeopardize network performance. Enhancing customer experience is also hard due to diverse customer expectations, the requirement for seamless connectivity, and application-specific services.

To overcome these issues, Sumitomo Shoji Machinex chose Ranplan Professional network planning software. Using automation tools within the software, it produced a 3D model of the factory, complete with machinery. Items from Ranplan’s library automatically simulates RF propagation, so the customer could precisely determine the number and placement of base stations, antenna tilt angles and installation restrictions.

In short, the use of 3D RF simulations and productivity-enhancing automation tools delivered and will continue to deliver substantial time and cost savings for customers.

 

The Network Sustainability Award

This Award is to recognise the best intelligent automation solution for network sustainability and energy efficiency in the APAC region.

 

AsiaInfo Technologies

With 5G deployment, network energy consumption has become a huge challenge. The energy consumed by 5G is concentrated in four places – base station, transmission, power supply and machine room air conditioning – but the electricity used by base stations account for over 80% of networks’ energy consumption overall. This is an issue of concern to society as well as network operators.

AsiaInfo and China Unicom have deployed the AsiaInfo Intelligent Energy Saving solution in most provinces of China, achieving an average energy saving of 15% for the base stations’ main equipment and an average energy saving of 10% in the computer room. The overall management of nearly 5 million 4G and 5G base station cells is the world’s largest dynamic control system for base station energy consumption.

Ericsson and Singtel

In line with Singtel’s target of achieving net zero by 2045, it partnered Ericsson to deploy AI and machine learning technology to reduce consumption by its network of up to 8%. It achieved by predicting radio cell traffic patterns and optimize cell sleep configurations without impacting customers’ experience.

Typically, cell transmitters could only be put into sleep mode at night but Singtel and Ericsson jointly developed an AI Recommendation Engine, with the best set of Configurations for LTE Cell Sleep Mode feature per cell. Singtel then deployed machine learning-based operations to leverage the relevance and accuracy of AI recommendations. The solution was initially in a live site cluster in the customer LTE network, then later scaled network-wide. The overall effect was 8% energy savings (in KW hours) at designated commercial 4G sites nationwide.

Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Mobile

Japan’s Rakuten Mobile and its technology partner, Rakuten Symphony, are implementing various methods to improve the energy efficiency of the network. For example, the AI Energy Intelligent Controller (AEIC) leverages real-time and non-real-time data from diverse network functions and nodes to determine actions for minimising energy usage across the network.

The AEIC takes real-time energy measurements from IoT devices which act on shut-down and activate instructions for specific cells. Sleep mode can be activated for central processing units when not busy and Rakuten Mobile is now investigating use of sleep modes for on-site RAN nodes like distributed unit radios and routers at the cell sites.

MIMO muting temporarily mutes or disables certain transmit antenna that are not immediately required to maintain the right quality of service.

With these and other efforts Rakuten Mobile continues to address the pressing need to reduce carbon footprint and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Red Hat, Intel and NEC

NEC partnered Red Hat and Intel to optimise power-saving solutions for user plane function (UPF) workloads in 4G and 5G networks. These workloads continuously interact with the network interface card (NIC) but NEC’s dynamic control of hardware resources, using Intel Xeon Scalable processor telemetry, achieved over a 30% reduction in CPU power consumption without packet loss.

The key lies in NEC’s approach to load determination logic, which was customised to accommodate commercial traffic and incorporated into the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) embedded in NEC’s UPF. Simultaneously, NEC established a mechanism for dynamic control of Intel’s CPU hardware resources.

Red Hat and Intel contributions to the Kepler Project (for Kubernetes-based Efficient Power Level Exporter), also came into play, capturing power-use metrics in cloud-native workloads. The Kepler Model Server adapts and fine-tunes models for system requirements, enabling power consumption reporting, carbon footprint analysis, power-aware workload scheduling and integration into CI/CD pipelines.

VMware

VMware is taking steps to promote sustainability in the telecoms industry collaborating with industry groups like TIP and the Next G Alliance. One example is developing smart energy solutions for RAN, such as the Traffic-Based RAN Energy Saving rApp.

Another is the joint solution, Deep Cooling, which optimises data centres cooling systems through continuous edge intelligence and real-time intervention is already deployed in large Chinese data centres.

By implementing VMware Cloud Foundation and virtualising operations, Orange can achieve higher virtual machine density, reduce network and storage infrastructure, and reduce carbon footprint by up to 30%.

Then there is the collaboration with Cohere Technologies to improve spectrum efficiency while VMware’s solutions to address shortages and outages, such as load shedding, green load balancing, and proactive DRaaS, also contribute to sustainability efforts.

 

In conclusion

We hope these sneak-peeks have whetted your appetite and look forward to seeing you at the Awards ceremony where the winners will be announced on 18th October.

 

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