5G offers the possibility of new types of services, new ways of connectivity and new charging opportunities. But CSPs will have some old problems to address alongside.

Dawn Bushaus, Managing Editor at TM Forum makes a bold statement ‘Automation is mandatory for 5G – the question is, how?’ in her recent INFORM insight article.

“Tomorrow’s network operations centre will have only a man and a dog,” writes Dawn. One old problem for 5G is the need to find a new joke. That one was doing the rounds when I started in the telco industry back in the 1980s, and I’m sure it was old then!

Consider the vision outlined in Dawn’s article by Eric Troup, of all the different types of connectivity required by a single car. The network equipment will need to be able to autonomously establish, maintain and tear down connectivity on-demand, and to support handover and bandwidth flexing to reflect device movement and usage requirements. To some extent, that capability is built into the protocols and the equipment used to deliver those services.

But increasingly automation will also be necessary for service provisioning, service assurance and service charging. CSPs already have some automation to address these areas, but it is fragmented and under-performing in the face of current volumes and service architectures. 5G will bring a step-change in scale which will require operators to deploy more intelligent automation if they are to realise the widely anticipated benefits of that technology.

Service Provisioning

In service provisioning for the scenario considered, there will be a much larger number of customers that the operator needs to supply. Eric has identified some of these: “the car manufacturer, an insurance company, a power company and governmental agencies”. Each of these will purchase different types of services, and those services will be more complex. The car manufacturer will buy capacity and connectivity for all its cars in the city. Therefore, there will need to be some automated processes for it to add new cars (and remove old ones) to its agglomeration of connectivity and capacity. Moreover, the insurance company will have a similar-but-different set of connections and allowed devices, as will the government agencies and the content providers.

The volume of these different IoT end-devices, the complexities of mapping to content provider capacities and the rate of change of provisioning requests dictate that operators will need to develop, establish and maintain intelligent automation based processes to onboard, manage and off-board this information in a fast, reliable and trusted fashion.

Service Assurance

In service assurance, if 5G follows the same approaches as seen currently, it is expected that the individual network elements will each report separately a plethora of alarm or performance management statistics. These will need to be correlated, enriched and the root cause analysis to be established. With an SDN/NFV based network, where functionality is extremely diversified across a multitude of VNFs (possibly from a range of different vendors), performing the root cause analysis for service failures can be complex. Intelligent automation of this process is the only way that operators will be able to keep on top of the myriad of different and diverse network issues that 5G is likely to surface.

Service Charging

And finally, service charging will allow more nuance in the information that operators can use when service change requests are received: what is the current billing status for the service owner? Are there limits on the numbers and types of service changes allowed according to the contract? Again, the volume and complexity of 5G service changes will drive the operator to adopt more and more intelligent automation for them to be accurately processed within the requisite timelines.

Cortex provides intelligent automation solutions to CSPs around the world, delivering step-change improvements in quality, accuracy, capacity and unit cost of business operations. For more information, please visit our Telecommunications page.