PARTNER FEATURE: The pace of 5G network deployments across the world continues to accelerate as the ecosystem matures, with the price of compatible handsets falling to as low as $150 in China and fuelling rapid adoption of the high-speed technology.

As of end-March, operators in 62 countries deployed 157 commercial 5G networks, GSMA Intelligence figures showed. IHS Markit forecasts global 5G subscribers to reach 500 million in just three years since its introduction in 2019.

With operators investing heavily to add non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) 5G networks, they also face the reality of managing yet another generation of mobile technology. Analysts estimate the addition of 5G to an operator’s portfolio can increase complexity by as much as 100-times.

The co-existence of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks drastically raises the number of connections between people and things, while providing a wide range of services. The consequence, however, is a jump in the number of service requests and problems faced by operations and maintenance (O&M) personnel. Data analysis over the past few years suggests network O&M problems and major operating interventions are increasing by 5 per cent annually.

Lu Yu, Director of Assurance and Managed Services Department, Global Technical Service at Huawei (pictured), explained demand for improvements in O&M processes has increased sharply because of complex new technologies and diversified new services.

“Digital O&M transformation has become an industry consensus,” he said, citing TM Forum data from 2020 showing 88 per cent of operators were planning, initiating or executing on digital transformation programmes.

The impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus) has accelerated many operators’ initiatives, with 75 per cent planning to increase their spending on digital investments in 2021. A survey by Upstream, a mobile technology company, found more than half of respondents aim to spend at least 10 per cent more on the transformation process.

Lu argued current O&M practices with siloed tools, disparate processes, fragmented data and a reliance on manual labour have reached the limits of their capabilities. The introduction of intelligence to address the growing complexity of 5G and services means that a new operational model is required to evolve from people-centric to machine-centric operations.

AUTIN, Huawei’s brand for intelligent operations, integrates digital and automation technologies into an end-to-end O&M process across all activities to create a model supporting human-machine collaboration.

“The offering combines automation and intelligence to help operators modernise and reshape operations across fixed and all mobile networks, including 5G, for the digital era,” he said. It provides assurance for all new technologies and services, and its open platform offers an agile development environment to enable digital transformation of ICT operations.

Changing the model
He highlighted that AUTIN can delivery business value to operators in three ways: changing the operating model; changing the development mode; and changing the operating process. It delivers improved business agility by exposing the capabilities of the platform to partners and third parties to bring new and innovative ideas.

Capabilities such as predictive operation, intelligent trouble shooting and closed-loop automation enables Huawei to shift from a reactive to a proactive mode of operation, resulting in fewer faults, higher efficiency and faster mean time to repair (MTTR).

Based on the company’s general digital engine, AUTIN is designed to understand services and experience, and enable intelligence to provide new O&M capabilities to implement orchestration, predictability and automatic closed-loop management.

Huawei is leveraging its vast experience and accumulated operational assets to create a knowledge-based platform to deliver value, Lu said. “Open platforms and capabilities can help operators reconstruct their entire operation model, including processes, platforms and personnel to enable operators’ digitised operations transformation.”

In 2020, the company added more than 60 new AUTIN projects, bringing its global total to more than 180. Implementations cover more than 100 operators worldwide.

Efficiency boost
AUTIN has enabled mobile operators to reduce the MTTR by 25 per cent and reduce work orders by 30 per cent, significantly lowering the number of required site visits.

For fixed network, the platform has been applied to some 20 projects all over the world, covering 21 million users. It has helped operators lower user complaints by 20 per cent and reduce home visits by 13 per cent, resulting in improved home broadband user satisfaction and service experience.

For private-line services, AUTIN’s capability to have full end-to-end service quality visualisation, which together with its demarcation abilities, means operators can now guarantee the quality of service. This helps operators reduce service level agreement (SLA) violations and cut penalties by 10 per cent.

Lu noted that the upside for automating O&M is huge since it manages more than 100 network operations and provides 1,500 network assurance services to provide reliable connectivity for 3 billion users around the world.

“Huawei is committed to open platforms and continues to invest in its digital transformation capabilities to accelerate operators’ digital O&M transformation,” he said.