AI Needs Networks – And Networks Need AI

Kevin Casey

July 4, 2024

3 Min Read

Artificial intelligence needs reliable, secure, and lightning-fast networks. But it’s not just a one-way dependency: Modern telecommunications networks increasingly need AI, too.

That was the theme of a recent address given by Calvin Zhao, President of Huawei’s Wireless MAE Product Line, titled: “Bring AI to Networks, Empowering High Level Autonomous Wireless Networks.”

AI has become a major strategic enabler for network operators to achieve autonomous networks, according to Calvin Zhao, and integrating AI into wireless networks is also the optimal way to deal with the increasing complexity of modern wireless networks.

The primary objectives of autonomous networks are “Zero-X” and “Self-X,” as in: zero-wait, zero-touch, and zero-trouble operations, paired with self-configuring, self-healing, and self-optimizing network capabilities.

This represents a considerable change for some legacy networks, but one that must be undertaken to both unlock innovation in the 5.5G – also known as 5G-Advanced – era, but also to solve the scaling complexity facing operators today and in the future. Calvin Zhao described four phases of the evolution to truly autonomous networks, moving from tool-assisted (L1) to partial autonomy (L2) to conditional autonomy (L3) and finally high autonomy (L4) networks that integrate generative AI and other emerging technologies.

AI can be used in many valuable applications that benefit both operators and their customers – and ultimately the bottom line. These span several key categories including: Network operations and maintenance (O&M), customer experience, and green energy savings.

AI-Generated Solutions Simplify O&M

Network O&M has historically been a labor-intensive and inefficient process marked by repetitive manual processes. Troubleshooting, root cause analysis, and repair often requires multiple site visits just to accurately diagnose – much less resolve – issues, along with multiple node checks and redundant communication among different stakeholders and roles (such as O&M engineers, vendor support technicians, and operator experts.)

When AI is integrated with O&M solutions, Huawei says site visits, checks, and communication can be streamlined to a single step for each, thanks to greater precision in identification and diagnosis, leading to more precise troubleshooting and resolution – the technician or O&M engineer can arrive on-site fully prepared, if they’re needed at all. AI-generated O&M solutions can produce 2X faster mean time to resolution (MTTR) speed.

AI-Based Predictive Capabilities Improve Customer Experience

Calvin Zhao used a popular consumer requirement – always-available, high-quality HD video streaming – to illustrate how AI can enhance customer experience as well.

In this scenario, greater network intelligence – based on both historical data and AI-based trend predictions – can automatically provision and configure network resources to ensure excellent HD live streaming experiences.

Streaming a sporting event, for example, might have depended on manual service provisioning with too many blind spots in terms of actual usage trends and requirements, producing a less desirable (720P) experience for viewers. AI enables more precise rate predictions and service provisioning, guaranteeing a 4K HD experience.

AI-Generated Sample Data Facilitates Green Initiatives

Energy utilization and sustainability is a major priority for operators and other stakeholders. This concern will continue to grow as networks expand and become more technologically advanced in the 5.5G era and beyond.

AI-generated sample data can greatly increase and optimize potential energy savings relative to the more limited samples and imprecise energy usage policies generated by non-AI solutions today, according to Calvin Zhao.

These three categories illustrate not just the promise of “networks for AI,” but of “AI for networks” – that is, more intelligent, autonomous networks that simplify O&M, optimize service experience, and increase energy savings.

Calvin Zhao noted that Huawei Wireless Intelligence has had more than 100 business collaborations to date with global carriers, and said the company will continue to explore the evolution of AI technologies and applications in the future – with the goal of bringing AI to networks to unlock even more opportunities than already exist today.

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