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AI will help the mobile communications sector to proactively manage the costs of deploying and maintaining new 5G networks, while helping to create a more personal approach for customers. (Getty Images)

By Berge Ayvazian, Senior Analyst and Consultant, Wireless 20/20

Wireless 20/20 believes that AI will play a crucial role in helping operators to maximize returns on their 5G network investments. AI will open exciting opportunities for the mobile communications sector to proactively manage the costs of deploying and maintaining new 5G networks while helping to create a more personal approach for customers. We will examine the role of AI in Telecom and Mobile (Track 12) on October 25 at AI World 2019 Boston.

In October and November of 2018 Ericsson conducted an AI survey, showcasing service providers that have adopted AI to manage the costs of deploying and maintaining mobile communications networks while helping to create a more personal approach for managing customer relationships customers. The Ericsson Report concludes that that more than half of mobile operatorsa total of 53%expect to have adopted AI within their 5G networks by the end of 2020.

AI in 5G Network Planning and Performance Management

5G is expected to cover more than 40% of the world’s population, and total mobile data traffic is predicted to have increased by a factor of 5 by 2024. With the advent of 5G, service providers are making huge investments in their networks to enable the new use cases that 5G offers. Ericsson research reveals that wireless service providers around the world are presently at various stages on their journey with AI and 5G. Early adopters of AI among service providers will undoubtedly gain an advantage, as they will be wellplaced to deal with new challenges that result from the proliferation of additional devices following the introduction of 5G. This is because the advent of 5G will make network topologies relatively complex, with small cells and new antennas making usage patterns more difficult for humans alone to predict, and current radio propagation models becoming more complex to compute as a result of new radio spectrum bands, denser topologies, Massive MIMO, and beamforming.

The Ericsson Report also reveals that AI is presently facilitating improvements ranging from simplifying network evolution to improving performance across existing networks. Most service providers are at the stage of testing AI, with 48% focusing on AI to reduce capital expenditures. Service providers believe the highest potential return from AI adoption will be in network planning (70%) while 64% intend to maximize their returns by focusing their AI adoption efforts on network performance management. The highest current focus of AI initiatives among wireless service providers worldwide is in service quality management (17%) and operational cost savings (16%). A further 41% are focusing on using AI for optimizing network performance, and 35% for new revenue streams. AI and machine learning will enable wireless network vendors to quickly process raw data and deliver analytical outcomes to help operators more rapidly recoup their 5G network investments.

AI Will Be Vital to 5G Customer Service

For service providers, AI offers opportunities to build solutions jointly with infrastructure providers, with a common goal to more effectively manage complexity and optimize network performance. Service providers around the world are observing improved reliability for customers as the area in which AI is currently having the greatest impact upon core network activities. The Ericsson survey demonstrates that AI is creating both benefits and challenges for service providers at the advent of 5G. Enhancing customer experience was identified by 55% of service providers as a key area where AI is presently having the greatest impact within core network activities. In addition, 68% of survey respondents highlighted enhancing customer service as a business and operational objective over the next 3 years. A further 72% agreed strongly that AI will be important in enabling monetization of new network technologies and providing a better service to customers. A wide range of operators are already beginning to enhance big data with AI to automate customer service with intelligent assistants and chatbots.

Many service providers are already concluding successful trials on using AI in their networks. Only 12% feel they have a detailed knowledge of AI’s application. However, 49% considered themselves to have a fairly detailed knowledge of AI application. More than half expect AI to be adopted in their networks before the end of 2020 (a total of 53% globally) and there is a general expectation (55% globally) that the benefits will be evident within 1 to 2 years.

AI to Deliver Optimal 5G User Experience

Ericsson is convinced that AI offers the best opportunity to achieve the high levels of automation necessary to optimize and manage the complexity of 5G system performance, allowing them a shift from managing networks to managing services. As 5G-enabled technologies develop, operators will need AI to augment the human capabilities to improve efficiency and manage their OPEX. Ericsson has introduced engineering solutions that combine AI, machine learning, and human ingenuity to enable networks to self-learn, self-optimize and deliver optimal user experience, allowing operator customers to capitalize on the opportunities of 5G. Ericsson believes that AI and machine learning will be crucial to the evolution of 5G network automation, IoT and industrial digitalization.

AI and 5G in Europe

Vodafone is one Ericsson customer that is leading the industry in using AI in radio networks, because of the pioneering work between Ericsson and the operator’s Networks Centre of Excellence. Vodafone and Ericsson are collaborating to develop advanced AI and Machine Learning algorithms. One use case is for Vodafone to improve MIMO energy management at radio sites by putting radio transmitters into power-saving Sleep Mode when traffic falls below certain levels and then re-activate them automatically when traffic surges. Vodafone has deployed 5G in seven UK cities, including London. Backed by its largest ever capital investment in partnership with Ericsson, Vodafone is enabling Londoners to access the new ultra-fast 5G network without any limits based on new unlimited data plans. Vodafone will provide comprehensive 5G coverage in London, leveraging the latest Ericsson Radio System portfolio, including the latest Baseband 6630 and Massive MIMO 6488 products to enable 5G using the 3.5GHz frequency. Combined with LTE, this will achieve speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G for 5G users with much lower latency. Vodafone Spain recently launched 5G services in three cities operating in the 3.7 GHz band utilizing Ericsson products and solutions. Vodafone and Ericsson have also launched a commercial 5G network in Germany with the goal of bringing 5G to 20 million people in over 20 cities by the end of 2021. Vodafone Business and IBM will also supply enterprise customers with managed services in the areas of cloud and hosting and will work together to build and deliver solutions in areas like AI, cloud, 5G, IoT, and software-defined networking.

AI and 5G in the US

AT&T and Tech Mahindra are collaborating to build an open source artificial intelligence (AI) platform called Acumos, which will make it easy to build, share, and deploy AI applications. The Acumos AI Marketplace is an extensible framework for machine learning solutions which provides the capability to edit, integrate, compose, package, train, and deploy AI microservices. By getting developers and businesses to collaborate effectively, AT&T will industrialize the deployment of AI at enterprises to deliver tangible value and solve real business problems. AT&T has used the model of moving its own technology into the open source community to engage developers and accelerate the development of the platform. AT&T is collaborating with Tech Mahindra and to make AI simpler to improve adoption and help enable enterprises apply AI to reimagine business models, unlock the potential of data and drive business outcomes. Tech Mahindra has now expanded this strategic collaboration to assume management of many of the applications which support AT&T’s network and shared systems. The goal is to accelerate AT&T’s IT network application, shared systems modernization, and movement to the cloud. This partnership should significantly boost AT&T’s 5G time-to-market and simultaneously reduce their cost of ownership by automating aspects of their network lifecycle. Manish Vyas, President, Communications, Media and Entertainment Business and the CEO, Network, Tech Mahindra will present the Acumos Project on October 25 in Track 12 at AI World.

T-Mobile is also leveraging AI and machine learning to completely overhaul and accelerate the automation of its customer service operations in the US. T-Mobile is using the predictive capabilities of AI and machine learning to augment human abilities and reshape its customer service. T-Mobile customers immediately connect with a live customer service agent that knows them, rather than talking to an IVR or chatbot. With the help of AI, these customer service agents can quickly access the information most salient to customer needs. These AI-driven customer care initiatives will be critical as T-Mobile prepares to deliver nationwide 5G using a mix of wireless spectrum. T-Mobile plans to introduce standalone 5G in 2020 and recently accomplished the world’s first standalone 5G data session on a multi-vendor 5G next generation radio access and core networkand the first standalone 5G data session of any kind in North America. However, T-Mobile has placed some of its 5G network deployment efforts on hold amid regulatory delays in its pending Sprint merger.

Verizon plans to invest between $17 billion and $18 billion in capital expenditure as it builds out 5G networks and launches 5G services in 30 markets based on millimeter wave spectrum in 2019. During Track 12 at AI World, Verizon speakers will discuss efforts to leverage 5G, AI and Mobile Edge Computing, with the aim to have some commercial services on this infrastructure by late 2019. By installing IT and network-processing resources in data centers at the network edge, instead of in the centralized facilities where they are normally found, operators could shorten the journey for a data signal and reduce latency. Verizon is confident it will be able to cut latency by at least 80% through investment in 5G technology and the rollout of new “edge” architecture. Verizon is testing a cloud gaming platform and this latency reduction could lead to new service opportunities in areas such as virtual-reality gaming services and self-driving cars.

Verizon is also enhancing its portfolio of managed services with an AI-powered toolkit for improving 5G customer experience outcomes. Verizon has made a large investment in AI and machine learning technologies and uses advanced predictive analytics algorithms to deliver “Digital Customer Experience” offerings for businesses. Verizon’s new Digital Customer Experience platform combines four AI-powered components to improve customer support outcomes: virtual agent, live agent, knowledge assist, and social engagement. Verizon believes the use of AI in customer service is likely to increase in the near future and is integrating AI into its existing customer support pipeline, providing virtual assistance 24/7 via social media, chat services, email, text message, or phone, with support experiences based on past interactions. Verizon’s Virtual Agent platform incorporates AI to solve customer challenges on the spot and escalates users to human support agents when presented with a situation in which it is unable to help. The Knowledge Assist component combines authoring tools with machine learning to provide relevant answers and guidance for agents.

Ericsson Survey Methodology

This Ericsson report provides unique insights into the increasing need for relevant data about how service providers plan to integrate AI in to their 5G networks, based on a global comparison of high-level business objectives. This Ericsson survey was based on telephone interviews conducted by Coleman Parkes Research with 165 senior executives from 132 mobile communications service providers globally. The respondents were segmented into six categories based on function: Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs)Chief Information Officers (CIOs)Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs)Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and Line of Business (LOB) managersMapping the response of 165 executives from 132 mobile operators across the globe, the report provides valuable insights about the reasoning and expectations of using AI applications across 5G networks.

Berge Ayvazian leads an integrated research and consulting practice at Wireless 20/20 on 4G/5G Networks and Mobile Internet Evolution. 

Learn more at Wireless 20/20.

Source: AI Trends

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