FutureNet World was delighted to announce and congratulate the winners of its prestigious industry awards during its eponymous, award-winning and very successful event in London on 3-4 May.
And here they are…
The Operator Award for the best example of an automation deployment (for operators or operators working with vendors) was won by China Mobile in collaboration with Huawei for their digital twin solutions for autonomous networks.
Over more than three years, the operator has developed large scale automation for the network operations and is on track to achieve Level 4 automation by 2025.
It uses the digital twin network (DTN) to create a virtual mirror image of the physical network to improve risk discovery and network service quality. It provides pre-verification and simulation for iterative services that are visual and can be customised.
China Mobile and Huawei are proving the feasibility and value of DTN in simplified operations, administration and management (OAM) and to evolve automation. Two use cases to illustrate their approach.
In the first, China Mobile Henan and China Mobile Zhejiang successfully deployed digital twin technology on their core networks. When faults occur, network exceptions are detected and handled quickly. The digital twin automatically evaluates the issue, using simulation to identify bottlenecks, expand capacity and adjust parameters whereas traditional evaluation is slow and inaccurate, and can cause secondary issues.
In the second deployment, China Mobile Guangdong and Huawei used DTN for the optical transport network (OTN) and computing force network (CFN) business scenarios. CFN is a new information infrastructure that allocates and schedules compute, storage and network resources among clouds, networks and edges, according to business needs.
This set up was seen as “a major breakthrough” in supporting multiple digital services. For an Internet of Vehicles (IoV) service, the partners created service profiles for seven car companies and 2 million vehicles, based on the twin’s data. This included establishing the IoV visualisation system, implementing quality support for core services (like vehicle information reporting, remote wake-up, rescue and upgrades). The project improved traffic operational efficiency by 12%. CFN improved the use of resources by 17%. Operations and maintenance (O&M) costs fell by 21%.
Yao Yuan, Senior AN Project Manager, China Mobile, stated on winning the Award, “In future, we will continue to explore Level 4 highly Autonomous Networks technologies and contribute more excellent practices to the industry.”
The Automation Solution Award was won by Netcracker Technology for its cloud-native Network Domain Orchestration (NDO). Automating the transport domain is important to communication service providers (CSPs) as they strive to bring agility and cost efficiency to new, dynamic services and slices. Typically they have pockets of automation isolated around vendors’ solutions, so automating transport services across multiple layers, domains and vendors has not previously been possible.
Netcracker’s NDO takes a different approach and can be applied within a single layer – for example one that has multiple IP/MPLS vendors – or where multiple vendors are deployed across multiple layers of IP/MPLS, optical and microwave infrastructure. The solution can work directly with the IP/MPLS systems or via their network management systems (NMS). For complex optical systems, the NDO works via the NMS or software-defined network controllers.
NDO works and is co-developed in DevOps mode with customers, where Open APIs are exposed to simplify integration with brownfield OSS environments. NDO enables operators to do their own configurations and become more self-sufficient.
So far the company has commercial success with 11 NDO deployments, working with BICS, Deutsche Telekom (DT), Dish, Etisalat, Globe, Segra and Swisscom. For example, DT achieved opex savings of 54 % for IP trunk provisioning and 92% opex saving for optical trunk provisioning.
Peter Arbitter is Senior VP for B2B Portfolio & Product Management at Telekom Deutschland, Deutsche Telecom’s service unit for enterprise telco clients. He stated, “We looked at the hypercompetitive and critical enterprise market and knew we wanted the most cutting-edge automation software with a cloud deployment model so that we could gain new revenue streams in multiple B2B segments.
“Through our extensive collaboration with Netcracker, we have reached an important milestone that lays the foundation for innovation and business growth.”
Ari Banerjee, SVP Strategy at Netcracker, said, “Netcracker is delighted and honoured to receive the leading automation solution award from FutureNet World. Our CSP customers have experienced impressive results by bringing full automation and agility to their transport networks with our Network Domain Orchestration solution.
“Our goal is to leverage the proven successes of these innovative CSPs to help the telco industry accelerate automation projects across all network domains and prepare for a new era of highly dynamic services and slices that will transform telco value.”
The Network Disaggregation Award for the best example of a disaggregated networking solution was won by Rakuten Symphony for its cloud-native Open RAN software in collaboration with Rakuten Mobile.
Rakuten Mobile’s nationwide 4G/5G network in Japan is the world’s first mobile network built completely using Rakuten Symphony’s cloud-native, containerised Open RAN software. The software runs 5G RAN functions as microservices in containers on a commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware platform based on O-RAN specifications and cloud-native technologies.
The disaggregated RAN hardware and software, based on Open vRAN, enables independent lifecycle management and uses DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. Disaggregating the RAN network function into different microservices means memory size can be reduced for faster start-up and restarting of functions.
Fewer onsite RAN elements and the use of COTS hardware and automation support faster site installations and maintenance. This translates to 40% less capex and up to 30% less opex compared to traditional 5G deployments, with more efficient use of resources and power. The microservice architecture allows each function to scale independently, based on demand and performance.
Vendor diversity allows the use of best-of-breed components and software in architecting and building the infrastructure for the network. The results speak for themselves.
Independent analyst firm umlaut found that Rakuten Mobile’s network in Tokyo achieved an overall score of 945 out of 1,000 in the 14 largest metropolitan areas. It also received the second-highest score in terms of coverage and speed.
Provisioning of mobile services can take as little as 3 minutes instead of 3 hours. In terms of operating efficiency, Rakuten Mobile has a low ratio of 1 engineer: 20,000 subscribers and deployment can be 4 minutes for a 5G site.
Geoff Hollingworth, CMO at Rakuten Symphony, said, “Winning the Network Disaggregation Award at the FutureNet World Awards was a proud moment for Rakuten Symphony. It’s a stage that brings together trailblazers and we’re thrilled to be part of this vibrant innovation space.
“This award shines a spotlight on the transformative impact of Open RAN and reinforces our commitment to a software-centric approach, accelerating automation and swift delivery of telecom services.”
The most innovative application of AI & Automation to enhance customer experience went to VMware for its Network Scorecard rApp (powered by VMware RAN Intelligent Controller). This AI-driven application monitors a network’s market performance to enhance customer experience.
Operators that deploy Open RAN face the complex task of assessing the quality of their network across multiple markets. The networks are designed with different structures and forms, have various user traffic patterns and equipment from multiple vendors.
To succeed, operators must continuously monitor each market to detect performance issues before they impact customers. Without AI, this is an impossible task; traditional methods also ignore contextual factors that can cause unexpected network behaviour.
VMware Network Scorecard rApp, powered by the VMware Centralized RAN Intelligent Controller or RIC (that is, a non-real time RIC implementation) solves this time, resources and performance problem. It is fully automated and uses an AI-based analytical framework.
The Network Scorecard application ingests data from all sectors in all the markets it controls, adding context to the measured values, such as channel quality indicator (CQI). It assigns a ‘score’ to each market, based on how actual performance compares to the AI-derived benchmark. The insights generated from the comparison help the CSP to make network changes to remedy issues.
VMware Network Scorecard was built using the VMware RIC software development kit (SDK) to help onboarding by CSPs and is available to third-party developers via the RIC Partner Program. This is designed to accelerate the development of xApps and rApps. Various companies have brought their applications to market via the Partner Program, fast-tracking the latest research from universities and other bodies into commercial-ready solutions.
Stephen Spellicy, Vice President Service Provider Marketing, Enablement and Business Development, VMware, said, “I’m delighted that the judges recognised the VMware Network Scorecard rAPP in association with the VMware RIC as the winner for the Most Innovative Application of AI and Automation to enhance customer experience. Simplifying the network to produce clear and measurable benchmarks is a key operational need and assists operators in meeting their customer experience KPIs as we move towards an Open RAN architecture.
“VMware has always been an ecosystem player and, although the Network Scorecard is a VMware-developed product, I believe the judges recognised the lengths to which VMware goes to embrace the entire ecosystem.”
The Orchestration Award for the most innovative automated service orchestration solution was won by Inmanta for its Mobile Private Networks Orchestrator (MPNO) Solution. Inmanta’s patented service orchestration technology is the brainchild of three PhDs in computer science and the result of more than 15 years’ R&D. They says its key differentiator is being a purpose built, intent-based service orchestrator that is multi-domain by design.
On winning the award, Stefan Walraven, Co-founder & CEO of Inmanta, stated, “FutureNet World is the most prominent event for network automation, orchestration and AI in the telecom industry.
“Being judged by industry experts validates our dedication to pushing the boundaries of orchestration and reinforces our position as a trailblazer in the field. Receiving the award is a great recognition for the innovative work we do at Inmanta, especially winning in the face of all the other incredible nominees…who have made their mark in the industry.”
The MPNO allows multi-vendor private 5G networks to be deployed in less than 10 minutes, giving service providers the choice and flexibility to scale and create new revenue streams from the enterprise market.
The company claims MPNO is the first comprehensive orchestration solution in the market that deploys a fully automated end-to-end private network involving multiple vendors across edge, backhaul/transport, RAN, data centres and cloud, including setting up the data networks (that is, network slices) and configuring the firewalls.
Inmanta cited a customer case study whereby Citymesh uses the MPNO to deploy fully operational, private mobile networks in under 10 minutes commercially. Citymesh is a wireless B2B telecom operator, specialising in the design, fabrication, installation, deployment and management of wireless network solutions and products for the on and offshore critical operations and applications based on 4G/5G spectrum.
Citymesh is able to orchestrate and manage the lifecycle of its mobile private networks centrally and support frequent upgrades to its Athonet 5G Core, seamlessly and 100% unattended. Self-healing ensures the integrity and resilience of the private mobile networks, reducing what can be expensive operational costs in cases of failures, for example in off-shore networks.
Any new deployment will have automated testing, ensuring Citymesh’s customers have an operational network that complies with their SLAs. The end result is that Citymesh can scale hundreds of private networks with the same operations team.
The AIOps Award for the best operations solution incorporating AI functionality was presented to Nokia for its Homeview Solution in collaboration with BT.
BT manages nearly 10 million multi-vendor endpoints within UK homes including routers and set-top boxes. Delivering reliable, high-performance broadband to a big subscriber base was putting pressure on opex and resulted in long average call-handling times for customers phoning call centres with problems. Challenges in identifying problems and their resolution meant a high percentage of calls culminated in truck rolls to customers’ premises.
BT found that 60% of reported problems originated in the home Wi-Fi connectivity which is subject to all kinds of environmental issues, from impenetrable walls to radio interference.
BT wanted an AIOps solution to provide real-time observability, actionable recommendations and automated workflows to reduce the cost and complexity of fixed broadband troubleshooting, while providing better customer experience.
Nokia and BT developed HomeView which applies Bell Labs AI/ML predictive models to raw telemetry data from home devices to uncover correlations and causality related to current and potential network issues. BT’s broadband operations teams and more than 6,000 customer care agents are using the HomeView AIOps solution. So far it has saved more than £1 million annually through fewer truck-rolls and a further £1 million a year from shorter calls to customer care and proactive troubleshooting.
On average, BT now receives 260,000 fewer troubleshooting calls annually – the equivalent of 18,072 working days and, via the Smart Assistant, achieved a 10% improvement in first contact resolution.
Nokia and BT are implementing more than 30 ML- and analytics-based diagnostic capabilities this year to improve proactive identification and resolution of potential issues in the broadband network before they impact services. Nokia is also helping BT position itself to move up the value chain and address new revenue streams from future managed smart home opportunities.
“BT and Nokia partnered to revolutionise BT’s fixed broadband operations and customer care. Their collaborative effort produced HomeView, an AI/ML-powered solution that enhances the customer experience for BT subscribers and boosts operational efficiency with over 6,000 customer care agents benefiting from this innovation,” said Hamdy Farid, Senior Vice President, Business Applications at Nokia.
He added, “This award solidifies Nokia’s industry leadership in analytics, customer care automation, and carrier-grade device management, demonstrating its ability to drive tangible business results through AIOps for leading operators worldwide.”
The Network Sustainability Award for the best intelligent automation solution for network sustainability and energy efficiency was won by Ericsson and its Predictive Cell Energy Management (PCEM) solution. It is designed to reduce energy consumption by up to 8% while maintaining network quality and customer experience. As PCEM has a cloud-native architecture, it is also instantly scalable.
Over the last 18 months, Ericsson has run 20 trials of PCEM and customer deployments involving 6 million cells. Through supporting 16 billion predictions and automated activities in a year, it saved $60 million on energy on top of existing RAN energy-saving features and reduced CO2 by 200,000 tons.
PCEM´s Intelligence & Recommendation Engine provides granular, real-time data on energy consumption and performance for individual cells. This allows operators to define data-driven protocols, powered by multiple AI – machine learning – algorithms that allow operators to respond dynamically to hourly, daily and seasonal traffic changes, with very high accuracy, on a per cell basis.
In parallel, the solution’s Automation Engine implements the best energy-saving actions for a specific site at a particular moment using closed loop automation.
This approach contrasts with most energy saving applications on the RAN which tend to use the RAN power-saving features available with each different type of radios. Although they allow the radios to be activated and deactivated instantly, based on real-time traffic changes, they can only be configured based on certain traffic configurations and thresholds (like power use).
They do not have dynamic management protocols or tools to address different traffic (urban, sub-urban, rural etc.) and network configuration profiles. Hence operators tend to use blanket configurations at a network level and the power saving features only work on their designated technology (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G).
Sam Keys-Toyer, Head of Business & Portfolio Development for Managed Network Services, said, “We are incredibly proud to see our efforts are recognised outside the company on such an important topic not only for our customers, but for the planet.
“We are dedicated to creating a more sustainable future and this recognition is true testimony to how the Ericsson Operations Engine continues to transform network operations to be data driven, with a strong focus on reducing energy consumption for our CSP customers, while maintaining optimal network performance”.
The Technology Leader Award – Outstanding contribution throughout their career was won by Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer, Telefónica.
Watch the moment Enrique Blanco was awarded for an outstanding contribution throughout his career…
Congratulations again to all our winners and to everyone who submitted an entry. This was a truly outstanding field.