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New report identifies progress and benefits of 5G network lifecycles

Infovista has welcomed the findings of a new industry survey by TM Forum on the use and benefits of the automation of tasks and processes from across different phases in the 5G network lifecycle.

The global survey reveals for the first time, the progress made by CSPs in realising the blueprint of Network Lifecycle Automation (NLA), and the benefits expected or already achieved when implementing this new systematic approach.

While 92% of the respondents say they have made a return on their investment in 5G networks over the past five years, 87% of CSPs surveyed confess the way that their new network assets were deployed could have been done in a more efficient and optimised way, and only 14% think they have leveraged their investment fully.

Few CSPs are also completely satisfied with the time it took to deploy 5G networks, with 58% of respondents believing their 5G network rollout strategy has taken longer than it should have to execute. 86% of them even say the benefits have taken too long to realise or have not come to fruition due to business, technical and commercial barriers.

The report makes it clear, faced with increased network and service complexity, many CSPs are looking to the automation of tasks and processes from across different phases of the network lifecycle to maximise the returns from their 5G investments while accelerating deployments and maximising revenues.

To that end, the TM Forum report, 'Network Lifecycle Automation: Can CSPs optimise 5G investment?', details the numerous blockers and unprecedented level of complexity confronting CSPs as their plan, deploy and optimise their 5G networks.

CSPs are forced to manage massive volumes of data about business, technology, processes and product performance which creates a noisy environment that is difficult to manage, navigate and improve from end to end.

When asked about the top priorities to unblock maximising the returns from their 5G network investments, CSPs identified these top three ones:

  • Establishing a common platform for automation between planning, deployment and operations systems (42%)
  • Accurately linking planning, configuration, testing and operations with customer experience (33%)
  • Establishing the cloud-native technology and / or finding vendors with cloud-native solutions (30%)

According to TM Forum's report, these CSP priorities can be handled by:

  • Introducing new cross-phase processes that automate tasks and workflows spanning multiple applications in network planning, testing and deployment, and automated assurance and operations
  • Moving these operational functions from one-off activities to continuously improved lifecycle management processes
  • Giving disconnected but related teams like network planning, deployment, operations and revenue management a shared view of their responsibilities, processes, tasks and outcomes
  • Creating a data feedback loop across these operational functions to drive collaboration, observability and continuous optimisation

Under the name of Network Lifecycle Automation (NLA) in TM Forum's report, this new, systematic approach to realising multiphase and multi-silo automation use cases is already being implemented by 62% of the CSPs surveyed.

As also noted in this same report, many of the individual elements of NLA are being worked on by TM Forum members, including: AI-based automated network planning; flow-through network build; automated network configuration/build/turn-up; automated end-to-end network testing/validation; AI operations predictive and preventive operations; AI-based, cross-domain correlation of events; zero-touch provisioning; self-healing and self-optimising networks; cognitive smart field operations; unified network and IT operations; and continuous monitoring and improvement of automation through agile delivery processes and tools.

Dean Ramsay, Principal Analyst at TM Forum, says, “Communications service providers are continuing to invest aggressively in 5G network rollouts and now find they must better optimise planning, deployment and operations to meet ambitious ROI expectations.

"Our global survey of CSPs intentions clearly reveals that many are turning to Network Lifecycle Automation as a new, systematic approach to realising multiphase and multi-silo automation use cases. Operations leaders are now looking to expand the remit of automation to span the full network lifecycle in a systematic way as the path to increasing productivity and performance at a lower cost.”

NLA may be applied to a variety of use cases that have immediate relevance to CSPs because of the urgency to expand and improve 5G networks. According to the survey, the most pressing blockers requiring removal are high CAPEX due to inefficient CAPEX allocation (29%) and slower than expected roll-out due to difficulty establishing a business case (27%).

Reflecting this, the priority areas for network lifecycle automation identified by CSPs are:

  • Optimising network planning to maximise RoI by combining operational data about quality of experience with network data about performance (61%)
  • Optimising planning prediction using test data, and optimising testing using planning data (18%)
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