PARTNER CONTENT: Many operators have great ambitions for their 5G networks with a range of innovative and demanding applications set to be delivered by the technology, and one of the key ways advanced carriers are seeking to achieve this is by use of network automation.

During an interview held with Mobile World Live for Win Win Live, Wasit Wattanasap, head of the nationwide operations and support business unit at Thailand operator Advanced Info Service (AIS), highlighted his company’s progress in embracing this cutting-edge technology.

As of September 2022, 12 per cent of AIS subscribers used its 5G network. In its Q3 financial results statement, AIS recorded an average revenue per user uplift of 10-15 per cent for subscribers using 5G, rather than older technologies.

“In order to overcome all the challenges after deployment of 5G, the network needs to become real-time, interactive, and personalised,” he said, noting significant benefits which can be gained from autonomous operations.

“Besides higher speed and low latency, [5G] brings streamlined customer experience. 5G also brings new opportunities to vertical enterprise digital transformation,” Wattanasap said.

“But from a network operations perspective we are facing architectures with more comprehensive complexities,” he added, noting a need to be able to guarantee network experience in complex environments both in the consumer and business sectors.

Wattanasap explained meeting this requirement was a big challenge in order to achieve its digital transformation strategy.

“The digital strategy is [to be] a telco aiming to transform ourselves from a traditional communication service provider to a cognitive technology company deliver[ing a] distinctive user experience for every customer,” he added. “In this digital transformation journey autonomous networks(AN) has been playing a significant role and has become the cornerstone of this journey”.

As well as being first to the Thai market with 5G, AIS is also an early adopter of autonomous networks and has been recognized globally for its achievements here.

Last month, it was recognized by the TM Forum for its autonomous networks white paper with the company aiming to use autonomous networks to take full advantage of its significant investments in 5G.

AIS’ work to deploy autonomous network technology has meant collaboration with leading suppliers and industry associations including TM Forum, which has set-out a multi-step plan to the adoption of these systems.

Network evolution

“The short-term objective of AIS is to reach Level 3 by the end of next year,” Wattanasap said. “That means [use] across all network domains including RAN, core, transport, IT and service operations.”

In order to fully achieve this goal, AIS is focusing efforts across four dimensions: defining autonomous network target architectures, evaluating AN levels, implementing high-value use cases and collaborating with industrial partners.

Discussing progress so far, Wattanasap said: “Based on TM Forum autonomous network evolution loops AIS has completed a full circle of autonomous network practice, which covers 4 major pillars: AN level evaluation, gap analysis, solution designs, and AN implementation.

“AIS also has practiced some high value use cases such as an end-to-end enhanced radio complaint handling process and end-to-end intelligent incident management, which all successfully helped us: reduce more than 10% of workload, improve network efficiency by more than 20%, optimize 10% of customer experience, and enhance network intelligence and automation levels.”

Having already made enviable progress, the company has great aims for the evolution of the system going forward, with its ambition to support a range of 5G innovations embracing artificial intelligence.

“In the future, AIS will keep discovering and innovating along the AN journey towards Level 3 and beyond,” the executive added. “AIS is open to collaborating with vendors to output greater AN practice so as to co-create and contribute more high-value assets, including business and technical architectures.”

Next level

Looking forward, the executive targeted 2025 for a “move towards Level 4”. This stage, according to TM Forum documents, constitutes a highly autonomous network.

The industry body defines this level as being a “more complicated, cross-domain environment”, where “the system enables decision-making based on predictive analysis or active closed-loop management of service-driven and customer experience-driven networks.”

AIS’ investment in technology towards its goal is designed to ultimately provide even further enhancements to its services in the consumer and business segments, while also delivering returns for the company as it seeks to maintain its position at the helm of the market.

GSMA Intelligence statistics for Q3 2022 place AIS as the largest operator in Thailand by connections with almost 46 million mobile connections.