Ever since the dawn of the twenty first century, digital technology has stirred a whirlwind of changes in our everyday lives. Today, smart devices have become ubiquitous and automation has already started to increase efficiency of both individuals and enterprises. However, when we consider telecommunication operators’ automation efforts, it hasn’t been until recent years that we saw the implementation of few feeble automation use cases in daily operational processes. Contrastingly, we see a remarkable growth today in technologies featuring 5G, network slicing, massive MIMO and O-RAN, and these in turn are going to introduce a whole new level of complexity into network management. Thousands of configuration changes need to be performed in just a single minute of the network management lifecycle, beyond what is humanely and economically possible. Even if thousands of engineers were tasked to the job, human error would be unavoidable, if not exacerbated. 

To handle this complexity and dynamically scale the network, operators need to adopt network automation. To put it simply, network automation is the art of transforming manually performed repetitive network management tasks into processes that are orchestrated and controlled through intelligent software, thus simplifying the management, planning, optimization, and testing of the network. In short, all the operational decisions involved in the network lifecycle can be automated in order to create a safe, repeatable and sustainable dynamic. 

Benefits of Network Automation 
Subscriber needs have been growing immensely over the last few years and it is becoming increasingly challenging to juggle these demands while keeping infrastructure and labour costs in check. To tackle this, operators have begun to deploy network automation software across their networks to increase network agility and reliability, to lower OpEx and CapEx, and most importantly, to perfect service quality and maximize customer satisfaction. Let’s take a look at some of the key areas where network automation can prove to be extremely beneficial:

  • Efficient 
Repetitive and task-oriented network optimization processes are known to greatly exhaust engineers’ productive hours. Network automation software can seamlessly take over most of these routine operations. We observe that a typical ~30% reduction in network optimization OpEx can be achieved as a result, thus enabling operator teams to focus on value added tasks. 
  • 24/7 Available 
Network congestion and outages can occur at any time. Operator engineers, on the other hand, have fixed schedules. Instead, an automated software can be put in place to continuously watch over the network to detect problems even before they occur, thus ensuring around-the-clock service reliability. 
  • Error Free 
We have all been there. A single human error is unavoidable, but nevertheless entirely troubles operator systems. Autonomous software can be appropriately configured to work around deadlines and avoid exceeding expected threshold levels. It can assess the entire network in seconds and take corrective actions faultlessly. 
  • Scalable 
The introduction of new mobile technologies has led to huge added operational burdens. New complexities and configuration parameters increase the load on operator engineers and also call for new taskforce requirements. Automation, on the other hand, will enable the smooth integration of new technologies with existing systems, enabling the seamless evolution of networks. 

What to Automate? 
So far we have just discussed the main proposition and benefits of network automation. However, there also exist enormous opportunities and use cases that leverage the functionalities of network automation. Here we highlight some of the key use cases. 

  • Network Capacity Planning 
Capacity and investment planning can often expend months of effort from multiple departments across the organization. The recording of inputs and requirements is conducted in-silo within respective departments such as marketing, optimization and planning. These inputs and requirements are then consolidated by the planning teams into a single planning sheet. This step, however, requires the mixing and matching of different inputs, a process that is both error-prone and effort-intensive. Deploying an investment planning automation solution in place of this traditional approach will enable all internal departments’ inputs to be merged onto a single platform. The automation platform then predicts the network usage levels based on the inputs and generates optimal investment decisions. These, in turn, avoid redundant investments and allows the operator to devise the most efficient solutions, given its current needs and policies. 
  • Network Optimization 
Every aspect of network optimization can be automated. In a non-automated network, engineers focus on low-value tasks such as cell ID configurations, neighbour additions/deletions, initial site rollout configurations, or daily optimization activities. All of these tasks can be handed over to a centralized and intelligent automation solution, which boasts the advantage of having a holistic view of the network. It can simultaneously collect and analyze data from multiple technologies, multiple vendors and multiple domains to decide on the most efficient course of action, in real-time. The transition to zero touch networks begins with this but does not end here - with the help of AI and machine learning, automation solutions can also automatically optimize slice resources and instantiate or decommission slices as and when required. 
  • Service Assurance 
Networks are becoming increasingly service oriented, while subscribers are increasingly demanding access to a variety of different applications, some of which are incredibly bandwidth-intensive. Operators, on the other hand, want to ensure exceptional quality of service for each and every service running on their network. Network automation, thus, plays a critical role here, as it enables operators to detect service-related issues in real-time and resolve such issues before they impact customers. Service assurance automation can work multi-dimensionally by, for example, compensating cell outages, detecting anomalies before they even occur and tuning the network without running drive-tests, via geolocation powered analytics. 

Why choose P.I. Works? 
P.I. Works, with its award-winning product portfolio and over fifteen years of expertise, offers the most comprehensive end-to-end network management and automation tools in the industry. Our solutions enable operators to transform their networks, as they transition to zero-touch operations.  

Our open and AI-driven automation solution, the P.I. Works EVO Platform, orchestrates the entire network from the planning to the service assurance to the slice management phase. It allows third party data correlation and offers built-in SDK support to develop your own automation algorithms, with multi-vendor and multi-technology support into the bargain. To learn more about how you can benefit from deploying the P.I. Works’ EVO Platform, drop us an e-mail at marketing@piworks.net.  

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