Spotlight on Tech

Why now’s the time to deploy network automation 

Geoff Hollingworth
Chief Marketing Officer
Rakuten Symphony
June 21, 2023
minute read

The mobile industry has known for a few years now that adopting network automation should be a top priority for every mobile network operator that wants to be agile and profitable.  

In the words of industry analyst firm Analysys Mason: “It is essential that (MNOs) should deploy closed-loop automation systems if they are to overcome the complexity of 5G.”  

So, how are we as an industry doing with that?  

Research by TM Forum confirms that automation maturity is quite low. The organization divides the automation journey into 6 stages (see the Figure below). The six levels of network automation adoption start with level 0 which is totally manual network management and go to level 5 which is fully automated networks.  

The organization found that most operators are between L0 and L2 (partial automation of parts of the network). That means there’s still time to deploy automation before it becomes a competitive disadvantage.

Automation slowed by culture & network Siloes

Why are so many MNOs at or near the starting line of the automation journey? As I wrote in a previous post, most MNOs have been operating their networks manually for decades and have been successful at maintaining “telco grade” performance and uptime.  

Another challenge is the siloed nature of today’s networks – each new service has its own set of operations and management tools and appliances which limits the impact of automation to that one service. That’s why my first recommendation to any MNO I speak with is to build a horizontal platform operation model.

Automation for a siloed network

The Rakuten Symphony SymworldTM platform can help MNOs push past these challenges and lay a foundation for rapidly automating the network. We understand existing operations and systems are in place. Here, we begin with evaluation to choose which workflows are most valuable to automate first, and which systems are most valuable to modernize or retire first.  

The Symworld platform digitalizes all telecom processes for network planning, building, orchestration, operations, customer support and Open RAN. The platform uses its own integrated suite of applications and software from third-party ISVs that can be purchased and deployed with one click from the Symworld marketplace.  

Each Symworld app has hooks into an automation layer of the platform which immediately ends the silo problem resulting in a comprehensive view of network processes, providing MNO operations teams with a multivendor approach that delivers zero-touch automation.

The figure above is the Symworld automation framework, showing how the platform delivers:

  1. Fault and performance resolution across a fully cloud-native and programmable open multi-vendor network.
  2. Automated service assurance workflow with appropriate triggering for issue recording, root cause and next best action identification and execution, with manual and/or closed-loop automation.
  3. Automation program/script management in any preferred programming language, including all existing workflows and implemented rule-based flows.
  4. Automated trouble ticket management, to enable post-issue analysis and historical attribution of all incidents and actions.

Symworld can log all network activities, allowing the creation of historical data that AI/ML can use to build predictive models utilizing the network performance data from different vendor’s software products and uses AI/ML to provide network optimization and automation. These capabilities assist MNOs in areas like zero-touch provisioning, zero-trust security, network anomaly detection, coverage gap detection, capacity forecasting and energy saving.

Symworld’s automation functionality spans across platform infrastructure, cloud, Open RAN, operations and ecosystem applications. It can be used for all stages of the network lifecycle – to build the network, operate the network and govern the network.  

This platform approach opens up automation across an MNO’s operation, rather than maintaining disparate silos of systems, data and resources which limits the ability to innovate.

Automation benefits

When manual service deployment processes were replaced by Symworld automation there was a 94% reduction in the time to market for new features. The launch took only two weeks compared to eight-months for a manual deployment. Not only does this free up vital human resources for other work it means an additional 7.5 months of revenue potential.  

From a cell site deployment perspective, Symworld’s automation features reduced the time needed to upgrade a site by 95% and the time needed to restore service at a site went from 5 hours to 5 minutes – a 98% reduction.

Moving forward

The network automation imperative will mean accelerating implementation will be an important priority for MNOs for years to come. The biggest challenge will be finding a solution that can help to bring automation to an MNO’s siloed network. The Symworld platform takes a comprehensive approach that adds automation to all applications that are a part of the system.  

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