Swisscom opts for Ericsson, Orange rethinks network performance measures

April abounded with AI and automation announcements. Contributing Editor Annie Turner takes a whistlestop tour

Orange has collaborated with the Canadian start-up LatenceTech to develop a software probe that measures the quality of connectivity in any location, from any kind of terminal.

The tool they developed measures network throughput, latency and reliability in real time. “This real-time software solution based on multiple protocols, including Two Wire Active Measurement Protocol (TWAMP), is simple to install and use,” according to LatenceTech’s Co-founder and CEO, Benoit Gendron who formerly was an Ericsson exec.  

He continues, “It is an automated container-based solution that runs autonomously on any type of terminal, including mobiles, modems, robots and cars. It is also scalable and can be deployed in multiple locations on the same network”.

The intention is to rethink performance metrics, stressing the quality of network experience instead of depending on the usual quantitative data metrics. The approach the reduces the amount of data needed for tests from 100-150MB to a 5-10MB.

Orange aims to cut NOC alarms

Orange has added the Augtera Network AI platform to its network operations centre (NOC) tools, to bring AI and machine learning to its everyday network operations. The aim is to reduce the number of NOC alarms by 70% using Augtera’s auto-correlation which is based on its knowledge of network topology.

In addition, Augtera’s Anomaly Detection predicts incidents so they can be fixed before they affect customers.

The integration into the Orange Global Network started in April and should be complete by the end of this year. It follows a two-year trial of the Augtera tech in a several Orange networks including the French backbone, the Orange Global Network and SD-WAN Network.

The trial involved thousands of backbone and providers’edge routers, and thousands of pieces of customer-premises equipment for SD-WAN. It evaluated Augtera Network AI technical capabilities along with quantifying the business value of AI and machine learning in multiple use cases.

Augtera is directly integrated with Orange International Networks in Orange Private Cloud to capture network topology and various network related data.

Swisscom picks Ericsson for more automation

Gerd Niehage, CTIO at Swisscom

Swisscom turned to its long-term partner Ericsson to increase its levels of network automation. In 2023, the operator began a trial of the Ericsson 5G Core applications running on AWS in 2023 to investigate hybrid cloud to augment its private cloud, using AWS to help with high volumes of traffic during maintenance, for instance.

The two said at the time they would explore migrating Swisscom’s 5G Non-standalone Network to 5G Standalone using AWS’ platform. Now Swisscom is to introduction of Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform (EIAP) to provide multi-technology network management and automation, leveraging Ericsson’s expanding portfolio of rApps.

Gerd Niehage, CTIO at Swisscom, explained, “We’ve been working closely with Ericsson for over 10 years with a great amount of trust and success. We are now taking the next step in this long-standing strategic partnership as we endeavour to turn Switzerland’s best network into its smartest one.”

Nokia backs network APIs, automation

Despite the tough market, Nokia’s CEO, Pekka Lundmark, was upbeat when he reported the firm’s first quarter earnings in mid-April. The mobile division suffered its first quarterly loss since he took the helm in August 2020 due to a 39% drop in mobile sales compared to the year before, in large part due to missing out on a contract worth up to $14 billion with AT&T in December.

It’s worth noting that Ericsson, whose equipment will replace Nokia’s in AT&T’s mobile network, saw its mobile revenues fall 19% in its equivalent quarterly earnings.

Still, Lundmark is bullish about making its stated numbers for the year, expecting things to pick up in the second half for the [fixed] network infrastructure unit, propelled by automation and APIs. He pointed out that, “To fully benefit from the emerging network APIs, CSPs need their operations to be fully automated because the API paradigm assumes an application interacts directly with the network in real time.”

He stressed that Nokia already supports zero-touch operations across all network domains, including autonomous operations across multi-vendor infrastructure, adding, “We have customers who are purchasing our autonomous operations specifically to accelerate their API exposure strategy.

“Our holistic solution is what also enables network programmability and the ability for CSPs to expose their APIs to developers using our network as code platform. This is a key point and we already have 11 operator agreements for our platform.”

e& UAE’s publishes AI white paper

e& UEA has published a multifaceted blueprint for the strategic application of AI in the telco sector and beyond. The paper offers a behind-the-scenes look at e& UAE’s AI and data-driven vision and a blueprint for itself and others navigating the future of telecoms with AI.

The paper explores e& UAE’s strategic integration of more than 400 AI use cases and 160 machine learning models across its operations. The company said in a statement that the paper provides “a meticulous overview of how AI is ushering in a new era in which telecom players like e& UAE transcend their traditional role as connectivity providers to become architects of complete digital experiences”.

Network innovation is springing out all over

March was a busy month for new partnerships, pilots and deployments pushing the boundaries of networks, from Gigabit Ethernet and NaaS, to instant new ways of boosting mobile coverage and direct-to-device, writes Contributing Editor Annie Turner.

e& UAE has joined the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) to participate in the standardisation of carrier-grade Ethernet as Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) revenues increase. This follows the operator beginning trials of 800Gbps Ethernet in March with Huawei.

The operator said it intends to deploy 800GE networks for commercial services to accommodate the growth in network traffic and the network’s architectural needs.

e& is preparing for the 5G Advanced era by prioritising bearer networks to act as a backbone and to build out IP infrastructure in fixed and wireless access networks.

The operator wants to combine 800 GE ports with network automation and slicing to gain a bearer network with “ultra” bandwidth, intelligence and low latency.

e& UAE and Huawei intend to complete their 800GE router trial this year using the Chinese equipment vendor’s NetEngine8000X platform and 19.2T line processing unit. They will also jointly explore ways to exploit the technology.

e& UAE becomes Yahsat’s first telco partner

woman holding phoneElsewhere, e& UAE and the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) signed an MoU. Under its terms, the operator will be the first telecom partner in the satellite operator’s direct-to-device initiative, launched in March.

The services will use Yahsat’s geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellites including T2, T3 and T4. The latter two are scheduled for launch this year. GEOsats have higher latency than low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations but are suitable for less delay-sensitive traffic.

The partners plan to offer phone calls and messaging this year followed by SMS and IoT capabilities on smartphones in 2025.

In the second phase, called Project BlueStar, the companies plan to enable full direct-to-device connectivity through a “scalable and sustainable satellite network.”

Yahsat is expected to merge with Bayanat later this year to form an entity worth an estimated $4.1 billion.

 

TOTEM takes on tunnelsBeautiful young woman travelling in a train of Parisian underground and using her mobile phone. Eiffel tower is behind the window

Orange’s towerco TOTEM has started to deploy 5G in the tunnels of Line 15 South which will involve 1,000 network elements. It is one of Paris’ four new automated train lines that are part of the city’s ambitious Grand Paris Express transportation project.

TOTEM’s 5G deployment will cover 33km of tunnels and 16 stations. It is due for completion by the end of 2025 and will be the first 5G-connected Grand Paris Express line within the city’s metro system. The 5G infrastructure will be available on a wholesale basis to all mobile service providers.

Smart poles to boost 4G/5G

Virgin Media O2 in the UK has piloted a new way of improving and expanding mobile services. It combined its fixed network infrastructure with new smart poles which are much smaller than conventional mobile phone masts.

Front view of small cellsThe smart poles are powered by Virgin Media’s fibre network which can transmit power from on-street cabinets along the fibre cables. The street cabinets themselves are connected to the national electricity grid.

Small cell technology is installed at the top of the pole. As they do not require planning permission, the poles can be installed in less than a day to boost coverage in busy areas, according to the operator. Also, the fibre infrastructure provides instant backhaul.

Virgin Media O2 has about 25,000 street cabinets across the UK which could potentially power smart poles, helping meet demand for mobile sites in urban areas “for years to come”.

AI driving need for more DCs

Market analyst DC Byte reported that Europe, the Middle East and Africa’s data centre capacity grew from 4.6GW in 2018 to 8.8GW in 2023. Even so, the growth lags that in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas.

blue UTP cordAccording to DC Byte’s 2024 Global Data Centre Index, the reason EMEA growth is slower is due to problems with power supply and the high cost and scarcity of suitable land. Tighter regulations also play a part.

Consequently, demand has outstripped supply in Europe for several years which has increased the cost of colocation. The situation is likely to worsen as AI gobbles up ever more capacity.

Faced with these challenges, the analyst house has identified a new trend. Network operators and hyperscalers are expanding beyond the established clusters and into places where adequate land and electricity are available to run AI models and applications.

Despite Europe’s limiting factors, the biggest, established markets – Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin or FLAP-D ­– added an average of 450MW of Live Supply each. Secondary markets like Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UAE each gained at least 100MW of Live Supply between 2018 and last year.

Is the apps era ending? AI is everywhere as MCW looms

BT is applying AI to product development, while DT has transitioned its telephony to multi-vendor cloud and is working with Qualcomm on phones without apps. Contributing Editor Annie Turner reports

BT Group has started applying AI to product development with Amazon CodeWhisperer, provided by AWS. The operator says that the ‘code companion’ and initial group of volunteer software engineers generated more than 100,000 lines of code in the first four months. The CodeWhisperer also helped automate around 12% of their most tedious, repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing them to do more productive work.

Woman at computerThe companion generated 15 to 20 suggestions of code per software engineer in real time, per day, with an acceptance rate of 37%. This might be in the form of a small snatch of code or a function. BT says the output is within itscomprehensive guardrails” aligned with the group’s tech principles BT Group has now made the solution more widely available to 1,200 engineers across the business.

Deepika Adusumilli, Chief Data and AI Officer, Digital, BT Group said, “The adoption of generative AI solutions on this scale is not just a major milestone for BT Group, but for the industry as a whole. It will equip our colleagues for a world of work that is transforming overnight, in turn delivering solutions for our customers quicker than ever before.

“Implementing coding assistance is step one in a wider enablement move for our digital colleagues in AI-supported product lifecycle management.”

DT moves telephony to cloud

Deutsche Telekom (DT) is also claiming an achievement as a blueprint for the telecoms industry. In its case, successfully transitioning its IP-based telephony system to a multi-vendor cloud. Landline connections are now centrally controlled from cloud data centres in Germany. The new platform is known as Next Generation IP Multimedia Subsystem (NIMS) and handles billions of voice minutes a year for 17 million subscribers.

One advantage is that features created by third-party application developers can be incorporated into the platform through what the operator says is the “near-complete automation of the telco cloud.”

Abdu Mudesir, CTO of Telekom Deutschland
Abdu Mudesir, CTO of Telekom Deutschland

Abdu Mudesir, CTO of Telekom Deutschland (DT’s German subsidiary) and DT Group’s CTO, commented, “This project is a game-changer in the industry. It is the result of excellent cooperation with partners such as Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, HPE, Red Hat and Lenovo.

“Our common goal in this innovation project has always been to set a benchmark for excellence in the industry [and] for our customers. The success has spread – many network operators are now asking us specifically how we managed to achieve this.”

There is more about NIMS’ development in this interview with DT’s Thomas Van Briel.

Smartphones without apps

And that’s not all. DT is to demo app-free smartphones at MWC, showcasing its “generative interface” powered by Brain.ai.  The idea is that an AI-enabled, concierge-like functionality will enable individuals and businesses to carry out many everyday tasks that today are done through apps.

Smartphone useDT has already demo’d two use cases integrated into Telekom’s T Phone, which is widely available, with the AI located in the cloud. The operator is also showcasing a version of an AI smartphone based on the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Reference Design, in which the AI processing is done on the device.

DT said in a statement, “This underlines the Group’s commitment of introducing innovations on devices that are already on the market and making them accessible to everyone”.

This move, which looks inevitable, could have big repercussions for the duopoly that controls most of the global app market – the Android platform and Apple. It could strip out the intermediary layer between app developers and operators’ customers that has proved so very lucrative.

The app-store model is already involved in various anti-trust court cases and under scrutiny by regulators for possible abusive use of dominant market power.

Ericsson’s explainable AI for networks

Ericsson announced new capabilities using Explainable AI (XAI) within its Cognitive Software portfolio for operators which has a cloud-native architecture. The solution relies on AI models trained on the largest, most diverse global data sets in the market, according to Ericsson. The models can be retrained locally for specific use cases.

XAI provides the rationale behind actions it recommends to identify and fix root causes that affect network performance and end user experience. The XAI gives optimisation teams visibility of the biggest contributing factors to an issue, its impact on the network’s performance and recommended actions.

Adaora Okeleke, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, observed, “Communications service providers are beginning to realise the value of AI but are hindered by several factors including lack of transparency of their AI solution, limited access to high quality data and the difficulty of scaling AI solutions. Ericsson’s focus on addressing CSPs’ current concerns…aligns well with current market needs and will help accelerate AI adoption.”

Jean-Paul Arzel, Executive Vice President and CTIO of Bouygues Telecom, said, “We have recently achieved very promising results on our network with Ericsson in applying AI to network optimisation, [reducing] congestion…increasing capacity and ease of use, as well as improving spectral efficiency.”

Dell and Nokia team up

Dell and Nokia team upDell Technologies and Nokia have extended their strategic partnership. They are to use each other’s expertise and solutions, including infrastructure from Dell and private wireless connectivity from Nokia.

Under the agreement, Nokia will adopt Dell as its preferred infrastructure partner for existing Nokia AirFrame customers. In future, it will offer Dell’s technology as its infrastructure of choice for telecom cloud deployments.

Nokia and Dell will gradually transition Nokia AirFrame customers to Dell’s infrastructure portfolio, including Dell PowerEdge servers designed for telecom network workloads from the core via the edge to the RAN.

Will HPE+Juniper create a bigger AI sum and do network neutrality and slicing mix?

2024 got off to a busy start, with Nile, Nokia and Ericsson in action in January on private 5G networks, 5GSA, NaaS and Network as Code, writes Contributing Editor Annie Turner

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Juniper Networks said they had reached a definitive deal for HPE to acquire Juniper for $16 billion. The rationale is that the “highly complementary combination enhances secure, unified, cloud and AI-native networking to drive innovation from edge to cloud to exascale,” according to the press statement. HPE’s share price fell 9% when the deal was announced and had not recovered at the time of writing.

Antonio Neri, President and CEO, HPE
Rami Rahim, CEO, Juniper
Juniper’s CEO Rami Rahim

The “complementary” part is that Juniper Networks got into AI network automation four years ago with its acquisition of Mist Systems. Its success in the enterprise market has surpassed slowing sales in its telecoms and data centre heartlands.

In summer 2023, HPE entered the AI cloud market with HPE Greenlake to develop large language models (LLMs) for enterprises’ use, on-demand. It also started working with NVIDIA last November, to deliver “an enterprise-class, full-stack GenAI solution”. In between, in made a slew of announcements at MWC 2023 around “AI-native architecture and hybrid cloud solutions”.

The deal is subject to the usual regulatory approvals and also the approval of Juniper’s shareholders. HPE expects the deal to close in late 2024 or early 2025. Assuming those hurdles are cleared, Juniper’s CEO Rami Rahim will lead the combined HPE networking business, reporting to HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri. As always, it’s going to be a tough job delivering the expected advantages from the merger.

Is network neutrality vs slicing?

T-Mobile and others in the mobile ecosystem are not happy about the Biden Administration’s determination to reinstate net neutrality rules. T-Mobile said new developments like network slicing don’t fit into the rules’ older landscape in its filing to the telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In its submission to the FCC, Nokia wrote, “It takes a long time to develop new technologies to enable things like slicing, and these will require additional investment by operators to implement them into the network to meet consumer and industrial expectations. Uncertainty driven by an unbounded GCS, and whether partitioning of growing network capacity to support implementation of advanced services will be allowed, will hang like a regulatory sword of Damocles over the 5G market in the United States.”

The public interest organisation, Public Knowledge, is unmoved. It argues that networking slicing is covered by FCC’s existing “reasonable network management” provisions and a new approach is not required.

Mixing private 5G nets and metal

SMS Group, a designer of metallurgical plants and machinery, announced it has built a private 5G campus network with European telecoms provider Mugler and Ericsson. They are to test large-scale automation and systems in real-time at SMS’s Hilchenbach facility in Siegerland, Germany.

The plan is to attain data rates up to 10Gbps to make real-time applications in large-scale systems safer with lower emissions and more flexible production options. The project has received both federal- and state-level funding to develop the use of automated guided vehicles, IoT and lone worker applications.

It will build on the knowledge and experience gained from the 5G-Furios research projects that are run and funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project Zero-SWARM, and the CLOUD56 research project of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV).

5GSA and Network as Code for NOS

Jorge Graça, Chief Technology Officer at NOS
Jorge Graça, Chief Technology Officer at NOS

Nokia secured a 5G Standalone core contract with Portugal’s NOS. The operator plans to exploit Nokia’s automation and low latency capabilities on which to base 5G-enabled services. The Finnish vendor leads the 5G Standalone core market with more than 80 communication service provider (CSP) customers around the world.

Jorge Graça, Chief Technology Officer at NOS, said, “Innovation is a core tenet of our market leadership in 5G and the collaboration with Nokia has proven to be key in that continued success. With the introduction of Nokia’s 5G SA Core we can further monetize our assets by exposing our network functions and exploring new growth opportunities.”

NOS also signed up for Nokia’s Network as Code portal which allows third-party developers to write software for industrial, enterprise and consumer applications. Since launching the Network as Code platform in September 2023, Nokia says sealed collaboration agreements with 10 network operators and ecosystem partners.

Nokia is providing NOS with its MantaRay Network Management solution (formerly known as NetAct) to deliver “a consolidated and automated network view for improved network monitoring and management”. The cloud fabric and networking infrastructure for this project will run on Nokia 7220 IXR interconnect routers, managed and automated by the Nokia Fabric Services System.

Frontier rides on Nile’s NaaS

The US’ fibre provider Frontier Communications is the first service provider in North America to deploy Nile’s Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). Frontier will offer NaaS to enterprise customers but it has implemented the tech for its own use at its new Dallas headquarters. Customers will be able to self-provision functionalities such as switches, firewalls and wireless access points as part of a monthly subscription. Frontier provides fibre for universities, healthcare institutions and local and state government organisations in 25 states.

Pankaj Patel, Nile’s CEO and Co-founder said, “The Nile Access Service is ideal for service providers like Frontier, as it provides a complete wired and wireless Local Area Network (LAN) offering that enables them to deepen their partnerships with their enterprise customers but doesn’t add to their operational burden.”

Nile is a networking start-up co-founded by former Cisco Systems’ CEO John Chambers and Pankaj Patel whose last role in his almost 14 years at Cisco was as EVP and Chief Development Officer. Nile raised $175 million in a new round of funding last August in its quest to rival Cisco.

e& shows off 1.6Tbps per wavelength, BT embraces Network as Code

December was super-busy with the ONF bowing out, successful WRC-23 outcomes for the mobile industry, RIC performing well in multi-vendor environments and more. Annie Turner reports

e& boosts hyperscale computing

red and blue light bokehe& (formerly Etisalat) completed a world-first trial of 1.6Tbps per wavelength technology on an optical transport network using equipment from Huawei. E& reckons this will address the growing demand for: capacity from cloud-based business services; enhanced 10G home broadband; and advanced 5G services.

Apparently the test consumed 65% less power per gigabit than other technologies. Khalid Murshed, CTIO at e&, said, “This is part of our network transformation journey to provide one of the fastest and [most] energy-efficient connectivity for hyperscale computing.”

BT embraces Nokia’s Network as Code

BT Group and Nokia signed an MoU to develop 5G monetisation opportunities through APIs on the vendor’s Network as Code platform and developer portal. The platform was launched last September, with the US’ DISH Network as its first operator customer.

It comes with software development kits and APIs, plus a ‘sandbox’ in which to create software code, simulate use cases and test them. Code ‘snippets’ can be used to build applications while developer analytics track usage.

Reza Rahnama, Managing Director, Mobile Networks at BT Group, commented, “5G-era networks are fundamentally software-based and rich in capabilities – such as improving network quality on demand – that can really make a difference to enterprises and consumers in ways that were not possible years ago.

“[The] new platform [will] help us better tap into those capabilities that we have been aggressively building into our 5G network.”

BT strives to improve streaming with MAUD

BT also announced it is pioneering technology designed to enable more reliable and sustainable, better quality streaming in the shape of MAUD for Multicast-Assisted Unicast Delivery. Major broadcasters, including the BBC, will help evaluate and possibly trial the tech for various live content the operator says.

Unlike unicast delivery, where each viewer consumes content via a dedicated internet stream, MAUD groups single streams into a shared one. This is much more efficient for broadcasters, content delivery networks and internet providers, with MAUD using up to 50% less bandwidth at peak times.

Fewer caches are needed, which reduces the amount of power required, and freeing up internet capacity should result in better quality transmission.

MAUD is also claimed to be superior to ‘standard’ multicast streams because its integration is transparent to the applications. Hence content service providers do not need to modify their customers’ apps to use the technology, saving them time and money too.

Intelligently managing multi-vendor RAN

Rakuten Symphony successfully trialled RAN intelligent controller (RIC) handling multi-vendor connectivity at Rakuten Mobile’s testing site. According to Rakuten Symphony, this showed that RICs can manage RANs’ efficiency, reducing overall power consumption in 5G and 4G Open RAN networks.

https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/akihabara-tokyo-gm484915982-72061831?phrase=japan

Rakuten Mobile has been conducting R&D on RIC applications, working with Rakuten Symphony’s RIC platform, since February 2023 as part of a project commissioned by Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). The project’s aim is to realise advanced RAN infrastructure beyond 5G.

Orange expands cloud expertise

Microsoft Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada - Dec 22, 2023: Exterior view of Microsoft's Vancouver office in Canada. Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Advertisement Stock PhotoOrange Business acquired French consultancy Expertime for an undisclosed sum. The consultancy specialises in Microsoft cloud, data and AI services and has about 165 staff, mostly based in France.

The acquisition is intended to “support the fast growth in digital, public cloud, AI and data” and help Orange Business achieve its ambition becoming “the leading network and digital services integrator in Europe, while reinforcing existing Microsoft expertise within Orange Business”.

WRC-23 “ground-breaking” for mobile

The GSMA, which represents the world’s mobile network operators, heralded spectrum decisions from the month-long World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) as “ground breaking”.

Secretary General of ITU on stage at WRC in DubaiThe treaty conference is held every four years, under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to allocate and harmonise the global use of spectrum for various kinds of communication through consensus.

John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, stated, “WRC-23 has provided a clear roadmap for mobile services to continue to evolve and expand for the benefit of billions across the globe.”

Decisions and plans of action towards future decisions were reached for spectrum bands including 6GHz, which is key for 5G, 6G (and Wi-Fi), low-band, the mid-spectrum 3.5GHz and direct-to-cell satellite services. More information here.

Goodbye Open Networking Foundation

Free White and Black Love Print Textile Stock PhotoThe end of 2023 saw the end of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) after 12 years. Its projects will be taken under the Linux Foundation’s (LF) wing. The rationale is that the movecreates independent, community-led governance for the three major project areas – broadband, Aether and P4”.

Aether provides 5G mobile connectivity and edge cloud services for distributed enterprise networks while P4 – for Programming Protocol-independent Packet Processors (P4) – is an open-source, domain-specific programming language for network devices.

Nick McKeown, a founder of ONF and P4, commented, “ONF was launched at the dawn of [software-defined networking], starting with the stewardship of OpenFlow…Today, ONF’s project portfolio has all the software needed to build networks that are fully programmable top-to-bottom and end-to-end. These projects are ready for a bigger community of developers, and LF is the ideal partner to help grow these projects.”

Moore’s Law is ending and who controls AI’s future?

November was an eventful month, with uproar at OpenAI and Nokia’s displeasure with Intel, overshadowing Nokia’s own AI breakthrough designed to enable verbal network configuration. Contributing Editor, Annie Turner reports.

Bell Labs, part of Nokia, claims its new AI and machine learning technology will enable telcos and their customers to reconfigure networks immediately, using verbal instructions.

Apparently the Natural-Language Networking technology can act on simple text or spoken requests to allocate and assemble network resources to suit end users’ specific requirements.

Profile headshot for Csaba Vulkán
Csaba Vulkan, Network Systems Automation Research Leader at Nokia Bell Labs

Csaba Vulkan, Network Systems Automation Research Leader at Nokia Bell Labs, said, “Operators won’t need to explore technical catalogues or complex API descriptions when they configure networks. Instead, a simple statement like ‘Optimise the network at X location for Y service’ will work.

“Those requests could be used to configure a wireless network in a factory for robot automation or optimise networks at a concert for a barrage of social media uploads.”

The Natural-Language Network will learn from the instructions it receives about how best to best optimise the network. The goal is that the technology will eventually anticipate users’ needs and automatically make adjustments.

The development is part of Nokia’s UNEXT programme designed to build a self-regulating, interactive operating system, “aiming to replicate the success of their seminal UNIX system,” which is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year.

The death of Moore’s Law?

Lightreading reports that relations are not so rosy between chipmaker Intel and Nokia. The relationship first came under strain when Intel had problems with its 10-nanometer designs which caused delivery delays five years ago. Nokia was hardest hit and didn’t have another supplier lined up for its 5G products. After a change of top management, Nokia added Marvell and Broadcom to its suppliers.

Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel

Now Nokia has decided that Intel’s general-purpose processors are not suitable for running the code that processes signals in cloud RAN, known as Layer 1, although Ericsson is sticking with the silicon for that purpose. At an update in Oulu in early November, Nokia executives reportedly complained about vendor lock-in, claimed that Moore’s Law is finished and said the company is looking at cloud RAN products that don’t involve Intel.

This is quite a moment for Intel, cloud RAN, tech industries and every other sector that relies on them. Intel has dominated the general purpose chip market for decades. But Brian Cho, Nokia’s CTO for Europe and a former Intel engineer was quoted saying, “Nowadays, with every generation of pure general-purpose computing, there is almost no efficiency improvement…Moore’s Law ended, and this opens the door for a so-called special-purpose processor.”

Check out this article in the MIT Technology Review which describes industries’ lack of preparedness for the end of Moore’s Law. Gordon Moore, who co-founded Intel in 1968, died earlier this year.

General purpose has its place

In Cho’s view, general-purpose chips are useful when the workloads they process are unpredictable and flexibility is needed. However, many workloads are predictable and consequently there has been a steady shift to specialist silicon in the cloud for better performance and for AI. Nvidia has been the most notable beneficiary, joining the trillion-dollar market cap club in May, the first chipco to do so.

For its part, Intel points out that its silicon is not expected to run in cloud RAN deployments much before the end of next year and say that Nokia’s implementation with Marvell is not truly cloud native, requiring proprietary software and human oversight.

Marvell and Nokia began their partnership to jointly develop silicon for 5G in March 2020. They extended it in November 2022 to collaborate on the “industry’s most advanced Radio Access and Transport Processing Platform,” based on their jointly developed ReefShark chipset and Marvell’s 5nm OCTEON 10 DPU (data processing units).

Bullseye

Big implications for telecoms vendors

The latest survey by TelcoTitans, TelcoX: EMEA Leadership and Performance Report, asked respondents from Europe’s largest operator groups which vendors are on target in its new TelcoX Brand Leadership Bullseye. Microsoft came out smack in the middle, most immediately surrounded by Google, Nokia, Cisco, AWS, Huawei, VMware and Ericsson. The report takes a deep dive into the ramifications of how vendors are seen/positioned in the concentric-circles schematic for operators and vendors.

Who controls the future of AI?

Satya Nadella is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft
Satya Nadella is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft

Microsoft has had a tumultuous few days after non-profit OpenAI fired its iconic CEO and co-founder, Sam Altman, blindsiding the software giant completely. Despite the fact that Microsoft has invested some $13 billion in the firm, that Altman is widely seen as the face of AI globally and that just days before, Altman and Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO appeared on stage together as “the best partnership in tech”.

Altman was back as CEO within a week after a huge backlash and one imagines considerable pressure from investors behind the scenes. There has been widespread speculation that it is inevitable that investors would be given seats on the board and much more say in the start-up whose organisational structure reflects its focus on safeguarding and altruism, eschewing profit. In other words, that commercialism and those with deep pockets would gain control of the future of AI.

However, The Information reported that OpenAI is to have a nine-person board. At the time of writing, the first three directors of the new board were awaiting confirmation: Chair Bret Taylor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Quora’s CEO Adam D’Angelo. However, there is no intention of giving seats on the board to any of the investors, which include Microsoft, Khosla Ventures and Thrive Capital.

And although it’s not fashionable to mention it right now,  OpenAI is not the only AI game in town.

NaaS takes centre stage, Wi-Fi, 5G and 6G wait in the wings for WRC-23

A whistlestop tour of industry’s highlights last month and a look forward to imminent the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) with Contributing Editor Annie Turner.

BT announced a new, multi-cloud international network, called Global Fabric, for business customers. Businesses can run and optimise their applications, making the most of cloud and network technologies, and share data with parties such as customers and employees. The operator says it will also allow firms to leverage automation and AI.

It is based on a Network-as-a-service (NaaS) technical and commercial model, designed to be flexible, scalable and resilient with customers only paying for what they use.
Customers choose the connectivity they want for their applications and workloads then can proactively manage the routes across the network. This self-service control is intended to give customers the best applications performance, help them manage costs and address regulatory requirements regarding data in transit.

MEF launches NaaS blueprint

For those not so far down the line as BT, MEF has developed a NaaS Industry Blueprint to help operators develop, market and deploy NaaS platforms. It explains how to choose the right NaaS platform and provides use cases for the transport network, SD-WAN, SASE and multi-cloud services.

MEF defines NaaS platforms as “as on-demand connectivity, application assurance, cybersecurity, and multi-cloud-based services across a standards-based automated ecosystem.”
The Blueprint references MEF services like the long-established Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) automation, as well as standard API and other industry tools for building and deploying NaaS services.

Source: MEF NaaS Blueprint
Source: MEF NaaS Blueprint

Dubai6G coming closer

The World Radicommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-2023) will take place in Dubai from 20 November to 15 December. It is held every three to four years, to review and revise if deemed necessary the global Radio Regulations. This is an international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the orbits of geostationary and non-geostationary satellites. Revisions are made on the basis of an agenda determined by the ITU Council, which takes into account recommendations made by previous WRCs.

Some of the hottest topics for telcos this time round will be the 6GHz frequency band, and how it should be shared between or reserved for either 5G and Wi-Fi. And also what Nokia calls the Golden Bands, which are frequencies between 7GHz and 15GHz. They are called “golden” because they could be used to improve 5G coverage and pave the way for 6G.

There are several, separate bands within that spectrum whose future must be decided. The goals are to ensure enough capacity is made available for 6G and a harmonised approach to the use of the spectrum across regions. The 7GHz-8GHz is seen as especially suited to 6G (shares similarities with spectrum already in use for 5G), along with 10-13GHz to ensure good network performance and lower investment, along with smoothing the transition from 5G to 6G.

Can 5G and Wi-Fi play nice?

Regarding 5G per se, there is a debate in some regions of the world about 6GHz. For example, the US, Canada and Latin America have decided to dedicate the spectrum’s use solely to Wi-Fi. In Europe there is a debate about possibly dividing it between 5G and Wi-Fi, with the upper bands going to cellular because it might be needed to avert a future capacity crunch. The massive markets of China and India are yet to express a preference.

Some believe that the upper parts of the 6GHz would allow 5G to work much better indoors than it does currently, helped by innovations like neutral hosts. Vodafone’s recent pilot, carried out in Spain, is a good example, achieving 2Gbps connections in various indoor locations.

Others, such as the Wireless Broadband Alliance, see the evolving Wi-Fi standards (like OpenRoaming and Wi-Fi 7) as the de facto technology for indoor coverage and 5G as its complementary outdoor counterpart in most circumstances.

Telia Norway pilots 5G and Wi-Fi

Telia Norway will put this co-existence to the test. Avinor, which operates most of Norway’s civil airports, will partner Telia Norway to explore the application of 5G and Wi-Fi to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability.

Ole Petter Røstad, Project Manager and Business Developer at Telia Norway, said, “During the pilot project, we will test how the management and transmission of data works over both the 5G network and Wi-Fi.

One of the projects will trial a 5G-controlled, self-propelled robot on the taxiways and runways to check the condition of landing lights, detect and chase away birds, and detect and remove foreign objects that could damage planes. It will also inspect cracks in runways.

Nokia outlines Technology Strategy 2030

Source: Nokia Technology Strategy 2030

On the last day of October, Nokia presented its Technology Strategy 2030. It is intended to highlight the trends and emerging technologies that will shape telecoms – and all that relies on them – for the next seven years. Nokia’s new Global Network Traffic 2030 report, reckons network traffic will rise dramatically to 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22-25%. This will be driven by AI, machine learning, extended reality (XR), digital twins, automation and billions of connected devices. In short, Nokia predicts closer convergence of the digital, human and physical worlds.

To capitalise on these and other trends, such as cloud, the metaverse, Web3, 6G and security, the report concludes that there are nine main ways in which networks will need to adapt and transform.

We’re not at peak GenAI yet – but APIs move from hype to happening agenda

September was month of Generative AI deals, with Amazon prepared to spend up to $4bn to crash the big league writes Contributing Editor Annie Turner. Meanwhile, the network itself made a quieter but significant return to centre stage.

 

Anthropic, which is developing a generative AI (GenAI) platform, continues to attract substantial investments In August. SK Telecom invested $100 million in the platform to help fund the development of a large language model (LLM) for telcos to leverage GenAI.

Amazon dwarfed that sum in September, saying it will invest up to $4 billion, but its plan is to make Anthropic’s models more useful to AWS’ customers and acquire an unspecified minor shareholding, secured by the initial stake of $1.25 billion.

The deal was widely interpreted as an admission by AWS that its own AI development is lacklustre. Critics have been particularly scathing of Alexa’s lack of progress its understanding language over the last five years or so and Amazon failed to attract much third party interest in training its AI chips.

Now Anthropic will to use AWS’ machine learning accelerators, Trainium and Inferentia, to build, train and deploy new foundation models for AWS as well as technology for AWS’ machine-learning chips. This is a necessary because Trainium and Inferentia cannot run on Cuda, NVIDIA’s accelerator platform – and NVIDIA has about 85% market share in AI-enabling silicon.

 

Jensen Huang, CEO, NVIDIA

NVIDIA in trouble in the EU?

It seems that NVIDIA’s dominance of AI chips, which have made it into the world’s sole trillion-dollar chip maker, has attracted the European Union’s (EU) attention. The European Commission (EC) is investigating suspected anti-competitive behaviour, according to Bloomberg, in the graphics processing unit (GPU) market.

NVIDIA originally manufactured GPUs for gaming before they were used in AI applications. The EC is to assess whether regulatory intervention will be required.

In parallel, French authorities are in discussions with industry stakeholders about NVIDIA’s prominent position in the AI chip sector, which include its pricing strategies, chip shortages, and the potential impact on prices.

NVIDIA’s share price has soared, along with demand, since the AI chatbot, ChatGPT, hit the mainstream just under a year ago.

 

Europe’s efforts to keep up

Xavier Niel, the French telecoms billionaire, is to invest €200 million in a bid to ensure Europe remains competitive with China and the US in AI. He will invest the money through the telecoms group he controls, Iliad, across various projects. They are to include a cloud-based supercomputer powered by NVIDIA, naturally.

Niel said in a statement: “To influence the AI ​​market, you need computing power. To have computing power, you need supercomputers. And to have supercomputers, you have to invest massively.”

Iliad’s cloud subsidiary Scaleway has been striving to offer an alternative to the US-headquartered public cloudcos and their massive investment in GenAI. Niel continued in the statement: “By equipping [the cloud] with a supercomputer, we want — and we can — create a European AI champion. It’s a question of sovereignty: to protect our data, we need platforms established on our territory.”

Niel continued, “It is not enough to create a champion, but an entire French ecosystem. Because we want to contribute to it, we are going to create an AI research laboratory, providing the means and recruiting the best researchers.”

 

DT hopes to drive the API economy

On a different theme, Deutsche Telekom (DT) is to charge developers and business customers for the use of APIs on its mobile network in Germany. Ericsson’s Vonage platform will host the access portal and the service is branded MagentaBusiness API.

The intention is to allow developers and business customers to embed communication functions like video, voice, messaging and other capabilities into their products, applications and workflows. The platform approach is intended to should lower barriers to entry, making the API service available to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as corporations.

MagentaBusiness API will be launched as a ‘friendly adopter program’. No information was available concerning how and how much third parties will be charged for use of the APIs.

Claudia Nemat, Board Member for Technology and Innovation at DT, commented, “With Vonage and Ericsson, we are the first to expose network APIs in a one-stop shop portal. APIs are a key strategic focus for Deutsche Telekom. This is underlined by our status as a founding member of the CAMARA alliance, which aims to make standardized APIs available internationally.”

 

BT looks to the network for XR

BT Group launched a testbed at its R&D facility in Adastral Park in eastern England to develop and trial immersive experiences in the areas of work, home, health and entertainment. The most interesting aspect of this announcement is that it is looking at how it can sweat its network assets to facilitate this, rather than focusing on user devices.

In particular, BT Group wants to understand how networks, platforms, services and apps can be optimised for cloud-GPU rendered extended reality immersive experiences delivered over EE’s public and private 5G networks. The testbed will look to support a range of extended reality use cases, with a focus on augmented reality which enables blended realities – mixing virtual content with the real-world.

Gabriela Styf Sjoman, MD Research and Network Strategy, BT Group, commented, “Network optimisation is a fundamental enabler for immersive experiences that will require high bandwidth, high capacity, and ultra-low latency networks which can be dynamically configured for the demands of different extended reality service applications.

“With this testbed we’re looking to understand what future extended reality immersive experiences might require from network service providers like BT Group, platform operators and application service developers. These requirements will obviously vary depending on the particular use case.”

AI rises up the network automation agenda

Contributing Editor Annie Turner rounds up the summer’s news headlines and notes how AI is moving beyond ML and positioned to unlock telcos’ data to speed automation

Heavy Reading has published a timely and, as far as we know, the first study into the future of network automation for Tier 2 and Tier 3 network operators. They are defined here as having revenues of less than $1 billion annually. The survey was commissioned by Juniper Networks, with responses from 217 Tier 2 and 3 execs around the globe – a far bigger sample than the average study.

What are the primary drivers for implementing automation in your network? (Select the top three)

For 30% of those surveyed, most operations are almost entirely manual, relying on command-line interfaces and other legacy software: closed loop and higher levels of automation are very rare, regardless of the size of the operator within the definition. Only 6% say they have fully autonomous, self-driving network automation.

The issue isn’t that these operators don’t understand the potential of automation for both customer-facing and internal, network-centric purposes, as the graph shows.

It’s just that it’s too difficult for a whole lot of reasons, not all of which have to do with technology. For example, the third biggest hurdle (named by 29% of respondents) is internal resistance due to the fear the automation will cut jobs and another is a lack of clarity about automation’s objectives. The the report looks at the role of SaaS, cloud and AI in network automation. Read on for how the elements of the industry are, via various routes, striving to address some of those obstacles.

 

Democratising AI?

Nvidia CEO and founder, Jensen Huang

VMware made a clutch of announcements at the opening of its VMware Explore event in Las Vegas in August. They included “new Private AI offerings to drive enterprise adoption of generative artificial intelligence,” and expanded its relationship the world’s biggest maker of silicon for AI, NVIDIA. It launched the VMware Private AI Foundation with NVIDIA. This, VMware said, puts the power of generative AI within the reach of any enterprise.

The chip-maker’s CEO and founder, Jensen Huang, echoed this in his presentation at the event: “Our expanded collaboration with VMware will offer hundreds of thousands of customers – across financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and more – the full-stack software and computing they need to unlock the potential of generative AI using custom applications built with their own data.”

 

Breaking data barriers

This interesting in the light of a the Heavy Reading survey and one carried carried out by Analysys Mason earlier this year of 84 telco execs from around the world. It was commissioned by Nokia and the main finding was that one of the biggest hurdles is integrating AI into heterogeneous networks is that access to high-quality data sets is hampered by legacy systems with proprietary interfaces. It also found that high costs mean some operators are not investing in AI platforms.

Enter the Global Telco AI Alliance. It was formed at the end of July by Deutsche Telekom, e& and Singtel to accelerate telcos’ AI transformation in telcos and develop new AI-powered business models. The memorandum of understanding between the parties includes the co-development of a Telco AI Platform.

Just a couple of weeks later, SKT again underlined its commitment to AI and to producing assets for use by other operators, announcing it had invested $100 million in AI firm Anthropic to build a large language model (LLM) customised for telcos. Anthropic had already raised $450 million from Google and Spark Capital in May.

 

VMware edges closer to Broadcom

Circling back, VMware seems closer to being acquired by Broadcom, having secured approvals for the proposed deals in many countries, most recently from the UK’s Competition Market Authority in August. The proposed deal was announced last summer but wasn’t greeted by much enthusiasm by Wall Street which didn’t see the logic of the transaction.

One school of thought is that chip-maker Broadcom plus VMware’s cloud and virtualisation software could bridge the gap between the data centres it powers and the applications that run in them. As Tom Nolle writes, “The data center used to be the focus, the resource that ran everything. Today, I’d argue that virtualization and the cloud have gotten us back to where our focus needed to be – the applications that support businesses.”

It’s worth noting that China has yet to pronounce on the proposed acquisition. There are suggestions that if it objects, the deal could be scuppered. Broadcom’s CEO, Hock Tan, has dismissed those concerns.

 

Finally, back in the here and now, BT is running a proof of concept (PoC) with French firm Infovista which specialises in network lifecycle automation. The aim is to reduce interruptions to voice services through faster identification of root causes, shorter mean times to resolution and greater customer satisfaction. Infovista said it generally expects to cut resolution times by more than two-thirds for network operators through an automated workflow.

In the PoC workflow detects issues, carries out analyses and generates alarms within BT’s trouble-ticketing system. The alarms embed data to streamline troubleshooting of issues in the network and services, and that are subscriber related. The tech should also reduce operational costs as there is no need for level 1 support or fast-tracking issues to the right level 2 teams, according to the vendor.

This is about shifting from manual to automated operations that are governed by key performance indicators and service level agreements to maintain service and business objectives.

 

 

 

AWS tees up gen AI for telecoms, Nokia shifts to Red Hat as primary infra platform

June was a hectic month for developments in network automation. Contributing editor Annie Turner rounds up some highlights.

AWS’ CodeWhisperer “coding companion” came out of beta in April. It has been trained on trillions of lines of code, so software developers can set objectives and the AI will generate the program. In June, Lightreading reported it has been shown to boost productivity by an average of 57%. Ishwar Parulkar, Chief Technologist for telecoms at AWS, is quoted in the article saying that CodeWhisperer “can be used for writing code for pretty much any kind of application”.

A photo of a host that runs AI workloadsThis is a very different proposition from the telecoms use cases talked up around Microsoft and chatGPT, which typically are sales and marketing, customer service, network management and fraud detection. This development, within such a short time of generative AI coming appearing on the radar, gives some indication of the huge breadth of the technology’s possibilities in telecoms – and the rapid ascendancy of Big Tech in the market.

In addition to all their other concerns about deploying AI – the possibility of flawed data and models producing misleading results and wrong outcomes, losing control, ethics, new regulation, data privacy and much more – they now have to mull the implications of dependency on public cloudcos for generative AI.

AWS might assuage this concern somewhat through its new, $100 million Generative AI Innovation Center. Telecoms is a target sector, along with financial services, healthcare and life sciences, automotive and manufacturing, media and entertainment, and energy.

The centre’s mission is to encourage customers around the globe create their own applications, providing access to a range of experts as well as tools like Bedrock. This is a managed service to help developers build generative AI models. A case of who engages wins for telcos?

Nokia opts for Red Hat’s infra platform

an aerial view of a grassy area with a white buildingNokia has chosen open source specialist Red Hat as its primary infrastructure platform for Nokia’s core network applications. The two say “tight integration” of Nokia’s applications with the Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat OpenShift platform enable operators to run all their workloads in a single, common layer instead of across multiple, often incompatible platforms. Importantly, the Red Hat infrastructure platform works equally well with private cloud and the hyperscalers.

Although about 350 Nokia employees will transfer to Red Hat, Nokia’s Fran Heeran said his company will continue to support its core network applications on other infrastructure platforms if that’s what customers want. He acknowledged, “We would like to see the landscape getting a little bit simpler with a little bit less choice, but at the moment it’s going in the opposite direction.” The partners hope the appeal of their end-to-end, full stack solution might help turn that around.

Rise of network automation software

brown white and blue textile

Operators’ investments in network automation software increased by more than 42% between 2020 and 2022, to $6.21 billion, according to a new report from Appledore Research. Leading Suppliers in Network Automation Software found network data management is the fastest growing segment in is a very fragmented market.

Nokia leads overall, but with just 13% market share. Huawei is hard on its heels with 12%, but they are the only two network automation software vendors with market share in double figures. The third of the ‘big three’, Ericsson, accounts for 6%.

Even those shares are under pressure though as the sector expands and smaller vendors develop software tools such as for service orchestration, AIOps, distributed cloud infrastructure, network data management, domain management and more, Appledore says.

Boost to GSMA’s API initiative

Free Woman Writing on Whiteboard Stock Photo

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom have signed-up to the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative which has a mission to provide developers with uniform, universal access to operators’ networks via open APIs. The GSMA says the initiative now has the support of 29 mobile network operators which collectively represent about 60% of mobile connections worldwide.

It was launched in February when Mats Granyrd, Director General of the GSMA, noted, “By applying the concept of interconnection for operators to the API economy developers can utilise technology once, for services such as identity, cybersecurity or billing, but with the potential to be integrated with every operator worldwide.”

Cisco to acquire Accedian

Cisco is to acquire network performance monitoring specialist Accedian, which has 75 of the globe’s top 100 telcos as customers. The value of the deal has not been disclosed but Cisco said it expects the deal to complete during the first quarter of its 2024 financial year.

https://newsroom.cisco.com/c/r/newsroom/en/us/a/y2023/m06/cisco-announces-june-2023-event-with-the-financial-community.html

Dion Joannou, CEO of Accedian, commented, “Microseconds matter to customers and customer experience, and precise, granular performance visibility is a foundational requirement for closed-loop automation, agile telco cloud environments and latency-sensitive 5G services. We look forward to bringing our critical capabilities to a wider set of solutions within Cisco’s Networking portfolio.”

Moves in the SASE market

Free Medals Tied on a Trophy Stock PhotoAccording to a new report from Dell’Oro, Cisco has been knocked off the top slot in terms of revenue by Zscaler in the secure access service edge (SASE) market. The analyst house says this is the first time Cisco has not held the top slot since it started tracking the sector in 2019. Palo Alto Networks has overtaken Broadcom (Symantec) for the third overall spot in SASE in terms of revenue.

This reflects some shifts in the market. The sector in which a single vendor offers both SD-WAN and security service edge (SSE) solutions grew 55% year-over-year in 1Q 2023, overtaking the multi-vendor SASE market, where vendors offer SD-WAN or SSE. The report says Check Point, HPE/Aruba, and Netskope have all become single-vendor SASE players. Overall SASE market revenue grew by more than 30% for the fifth consecutive quarter in 1Q 2023.

Automation’s chickens start to roost, Open RAN goes local in Turkey

Annie Turner rounds up network automation and AI stories from what turned out to be a very busy May.

BT hit the headlines when its group CEO, Philip Jansen, announced the operator would cut 55,000 jobs – about 42% of its workforce – by 2030. This is not quite as radical as it looks at first glance as of thousands of them are contractors working on Openreach’s massive fibre build out which will be all but complete by 2030. However, about 10,000 roles will be lost due to more automation and digitalisation as BT looks to make annual cost savings of £3 billion a year by the end of 2025.

Jansen enthused about the potential uses of AI-enabled tools for automation and its impact on BT’s business, pointing out the operator “has filed more AI patents than any other UK-based company” and that it already runs a dark network operating centre where “network planning can be done automatically with AI in a way that couldn’t happen two or three years ago”.

He added, “We’ve got AI and all the data that can help create self-healing networks,” and said BT will be a huge beneficiary, to the tune of many millions of pounds, in terms of efficiency and cost. Jansen was speaking on the same day that BT reported a 12% decline in pre-tax profits to £1.7 billion, which it attributed to the higher cost of building networks, although revenue was down 1% too.

 

Scott Petty, Group CTO, Vodafone, spoke at FutureNet World last month

More staff, more automation

Vodafone Group’s new CEO, former CFO Margherita Della Valle, said Vodafone’s poor performance meant it would be cutting 11,000 jobs – more than 10% of the workforce – over the next three years by becoming simpler and leaner in an attempt to be more appealing to customers and shareholders.

This is not a straightforward reduction of headcount. While Della Valle said “layers are to go” at the London-based group offices in Paddington, in a recent exclusive interview, Vodafone Group’s CTO and Head of Vodafone Technology, Scott Petty, talked about the strategic decision to add 7,000 software engineers in October 2021. Although still far from that target, he commented, “Our headcount has gone up in Technology as we’ve added those capabilities, but our external spend with systems integrators has gone down by more so it’s helped us deliver our cost savings targets as well.”

 

Nokia adds insights for AIOps

Nokia is adding AI-derived insights to its Fixed Network Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  solutions suite. AVA Fixed Network Insights will be launched later in the year and is designed to help operators to improve customer service while reduce operating costs.

It collects access and Wi-Fi network, router, device and OSS data to identify problems using Bell Labs developed AI/ML models. The insights will provide operations and customer care teams with automated recommendations so they can identify and resolve problems remotely before they manifest network service problems. The idea is to shorten call handling times and improve first-call resolution.

Julie Kunstler, Chief Analyst, Broadband Access Intelligent Service, at Omdia, said, “The SaaS delivery model is a critical piece of digital transformation for operators. Nokia’s new Fixed Network Insights SaaS component provides operators with another needed pathway towards AIOps-driven, self-healing fixed broadband networks.”

 

Turkey and acceleration

Mavenir announced a partnership with i2i Systems to work closely with network operators on Open RAN in Turkey. They plan to work on Mavenir’s containerised microservices portfolio and adapt it to “the necessary localization to accelerate the delivery and adoption of Open RAN”.

Mavenir also announced a $100 million funding round to expand its technology and its customer base. The firm said the funding is “anchored” by a long-establish backer and former majority owner, private equity company Siris.

Pardeep Kohli, Mavenir’s CEO and President, commented, “This new capital will allow us to accelerate our capabilities in automation, sustainability and use of AI as we enable our customers to efficiently deploy and operate Open RAN based end-to-end cloud-native networks. Our unique strategy incorporates best practices from the hyperscale, cloud and IT industries, to transform how the world connects and builds the future of networks.”

 

High performance Ethernet

DriveNets, which offers cloud-native networking solutions, has introduced Network Cloud-AI, which is designed to maximise the use of AI infrastructures to improve the performance of large-scale AI workloads. It is built on DriveNets’ Network Cloud which “is deployed in the world’s largest networks” and the company says has been validated by “leading hyperscalers in recent trials as the most cost-effective Ethernet solution for AI networking”.

The company explains that it was prompted to develop the solution because AI workloads perform best when the network is in full operational use. Yet until now AI networks were based on either traditional Ethernet leaf-and-spine architecture not intended to support high-performance AI workloads at scale, or with proprietary solutions that did not support network interoperability and had little flexibility for hyperscalers keen to avoid vendor lock-in.