In the leadup to FutureNet Middle East & North Africa (20 March, Dubai) we caught up with Sam Keys-Toyer, Head of Business and Portfolio Development, Managed Services Networks, Ericsson to get his thoughts on Ericsson’s strategy and the topic of Intent-based network operations: unlocking the potential of 5G monetization.
5G continues to advance at incredible speed unlocking new monetization opportunities across enterprise & consumer segments. However, as the possibilities multiply, so does the complexity. How are you addressing this complexity through data-driven operations?
Absolutely 5G is growing fast, particularly 5G SA which is also accelerating and it is the real foundation for e2e network slicing that allows for differentiated performance down to the device level. When we look under the hood of many Operations today, we see that virtualization is driving notable complexity starting from the Core Network transformation to a fully cloud-native environment, often as the first step to introduce 5G Core.
We know that adding people around legacy processes is not sufficient to deliver the needed volume & speed of change. A new look at data, processes & automation is key to turn operations into data-driven. Today we have 100 managed services contracts globally, out of which 20 have been transformed to Ericsson Operations Engine, which is a multi-vendor, multi-technology framework, basically the heart of our data-driven operations approach. It cuts across multiple dimensions, from processes through competence, organization, strategy, governance, data, automation & artificial intelligence (AI).
What are the actual tangible benefits of those 20 Operational transformations you mentioned and how did the adoption of automation and AI help better meet the needs of the business?
We currently manage an unparallel multinational, multi-vendor digital data store that serves 1 b subscribers across 100 countries. This massive scale enables global feedback loops that we leverage to constantly evolve our processes, and grow our closed-loop automation & AI use case libraries, making it possible to handle 18.2 M work orders and 5b alarms every year with highly focused human intervention.
This has a significant tangible impact on CSPs’ operations business outcomes. From a network performance perspective, data-driven operations reduce network unavailability by 34 percent while decreasing customer complaints by 21 percent. On the network efficiency side, the transformation led to a significant 12 percent reduction of work orders (WO) and 24 percent less truck rolls per node and up to 8% reduction in energy consumption which has an important impact on CO2 emissions.
Automation & artificial intelligence are essential to get the most from our data-driven operations approach. Not just for the shake of the technology itself but to maintain the highest network performance and customer experience standards. To illustrate, the aggregated level of close loop automation within today’s network operations is above 88% and in 2022 we reached 4.8 M AI-triggered actions, so yes automation and AI are key in the transformation process but they are not the only ingredient. And in fact, there are other foundational aspects that need to be established before for AI to deliver value, such as process transformation, a futureproof application landscape, or a solid data strategy.
So, why do we need to shift towards data-driven intent-based operations?
Let’s start with what we mean by intent-based. Intent is basically a statement of what we want the network to do or the outcome we want from the network. It is not specifying how the network should achieve that goal, which could be by delivering on stringent SLAs or improving the net promoter score, or reducing energy consumption. We see lots of examples of autonomous intent in everyday life if you use virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, but also we should remember we have been using Intent statements for years as Humans – “ I want my network to have the best coverage, fastest speeds and lowest cost “.
To monetize the 5G investments, the industry will want to deploy more and more diverse services and open up new customer markets. The network will need to support all such cases and adding more humans to cope with this demand will not scale.
We see three main drivers for intent in building and operating new services:
- The complexity and cost of operating 5G networks and beyond require a new level of automation – a level beyond even AI/ML todays automation
- The need to transform operations to better meet the needs of the business
- The need for transparency and AI explainability – so that we can trace back all decisions recommended and actuated on by the system.
Where are we on the development of Intent-Based Operations?
The current stage of industrialization is taking us from the test network to the live 5G networks of our customers. The purpose is to experiment with real network data and real slices in order to strengthen the core capabilities of the system.
Alongside the core capabilities, a system that is replacing human cognitive effort has also to win the battle for trust. Where we are paying special attention to explainable AI.
So in summary our research and investment into Intent Based Operations continues. As we prove out the industrialization activities, we will be widening the scope for more field trials during the year before making the system generally available.
Intent-based operations is an inevitable shift in the approach to deploying and operating 5G services, leading us to a more autonomous and cost-effective approach. However, I would also like to leave you with the question: Why not apply the same philosophy to 4G services, even more opportunities for efficiency?
If this article and topic interest you, we recommend you read more here: Data-driven operations. Does it pay off? – Ericsson