The importance of adaptive networks for telcos

Technological development, and progress made in the automation and artificial intelligence fields, are generating increasing interest and significant investments in many industries, and in particular in the telecommunications sector.

Network providers are now able to re-evaluate their operations using the capabilities of artificial intelligence, with the goal of reaching (within a reasonable time scale) the complete automation of some processes.

In particular, telcos are investing in resources that make their networks and operations more “adaptive” so that they are able to respond to consumer needs which are in continual evolution.

All this requires a rather complex mix of factors and includes automated operations, people-managed processes, artificial intelligence based on data analysis and at the base, a programmable infrastructure.

What is an adaptive network?

An adaptive network is a network that is able to programme, monitor and repair itself and to optimise processes autonomously, evaluating the workload which the network must manage and automatically reallocating resources.

However, we are not talking about an entirely automated network, because it is still tied to the rules and policies set by network providers, and also subject to constant human supervision.

Via artificial intelligence and machine learning, these adaptive networks are able to gather new information, which they can elaborate and structure to optimise management processes and to adapt responses to variable service requirements and traffic models.

Thus, human operators can concentrate on more complex processes, and providers can grant clients a high-quality experience, including via predictive and proactive operations.

Moving from fragmented automation to adaptive networks

Automation of networks is not a new concept in the telecommunications sector; investment in the field has been ongoing for years seeking to optimise several processes.

Until now, however, efforts have been highly compartmentalised, conducted in a fragmented manner, based on single operations, associated with for example to the management of breakdowns or alarms, traffic management and RAN optimisation, and more recently on providing layer 1-3 services with software-defined networking (SDN).

The challenge now for telcos, is to move from these isolated instances of automation to complete networks, whilst remaining under human supervision. Thus a more strategic approach can be followed, of incorporated automation to make the network truly adaptive.

Advantages of an adaptive network for telcos

Adaptable networks present a series of opportunities for network providers. For example:

  1. increased agility of the network service to innovate faster, increase revenue by transforming the highly fragmented and static nature of networks and operations to an adaptive approach;

  2. operational costs management and the consequent increase in productivity. Effectively, an adaptive network that is human-managed and programmed can supply the following productivity gains to suppliers:

    • protect and increase productivity margins whilst developing the networks and services, with a significant increase in the number of employees;

    • minimise human error and reduce associated operating risks;

    • redistribute the qualified workforce from low-skill repetitive tasks to more strategic ones with added value.

  3. Delay capital expenditure costs, or redirect them towards new market opportunities such as 5G, IoT / M2M, video, etc.

Future adaptive operation processes will be based on a highly automated and simplified network. And this is the new challenge for telcos.