Redefining the autonomous network

Adopting a deep tech innovation strategy will allow leaders to take control of their technology platform – and their commercial destiny.

4 Min Read

The emergence of high-level autonomous networks offers a tantalising promise of transformative quality of experience and network management, complete with greater cost efficiency, sustainability and market differentiation. But to really seize this potential, business leaders need to make a radical reassessment of the opportunity open to them.

Up till now, network automation has been typically understood to mean incremental advances in sophistication. You buy an extra management system here – while adding an extra piece of technology there – to augment your existing automation and improve the performance and management efficiency of the network.

But the availability of a comprehensive deep tech strategy that leverages more advanced levels of AI and machine learning is allowing us to redefine ‘network automation’. What we are talking about now is intrinsic automation of the network itself – and this has huge business significance. The strategy will give network operators the ability to take control of their technology platform, to differentiate themselves from their competitors and hence drive their own commercial destiny.

In an upcoming Cambridge Consultants whitepaper, Get Ahead in the Race to Autonomous Networks, my colleague Stéphane Remy explores the extraordinary value that this shift represents. Cost savings and operational efficiency will be a given. While advanced AI models will automate mundane maintenance, monitoring and security tasks to minimize costly errors and downtime, the true value will come for operators who retake the innovation initiative s.

Whole new revenue streams will be unlocked with cutting-edge and highly personalized customer experiences and services. Among the many examples are dynamic network-as-a-service (NaaS) models to tune bandwidth and network resources to real-time user demand and application requirements. Tailored connectivity solutions and premium subscription rates for high-demand periods will follow.

Stéphane also outlines how autonomous networks will scale to keep pace with explosive growth of data and user numbers, while helping to tackle the global sustainability imperative. By using AI to manage and optimize network operations, energy consumption in autonomous networks will be reduced, making a significant dent in the carbon footprint. Because AI algorithms can be designed to smartly adjust energy use based on demand, only the necessary amount of power will be used at any given time to cut down emissions while simultaneously lowering operational costs.

Getting ahead and staying ahead in this new commercial landscape will mean remaining relevant as market conditions fluctuate. Autonomous networks grant the agility to pivot at a moment’s notice – whether it’s due to a sudden surge in demand, the rollout of new features and services or shifting consumer trends.

Real-time adaptability ensures platform owners will always be one step ahead, ready to seize opportunities and navigate challenges with ease to ensure the business is equipped to meet the evolving demands of customers and industry. This will pave the way to truly sustained growth, service innovation and competitive advantage into the future – through the exploitation of new technologies and architectures such as non-terrestrial networks, 6G and beyond.

This brings me back to the key thrust of my article. Autonomous networks are much more than a technical upgrade; they're a fundamental strategic asset. Developing a growth strategy goes beyond the improvement of operational infrastructures, it sets an ambitious company on a path to unprecedented growth, performance and agility.

By forging ahead with autonomous network development now, operators can establish high performance, technology platforms, offering differentiated services portfolios and a readiness to adapt to future technology developments and changing customer needs.

The ability to differentiate will be the gamechanger for those who win the race to be first – and to be unique. The true value of investment lies in innovation that can be safeguarded through patents or unique service models, offering something that no one else can. This won't just differentiate a business in the value chain, it will put it miles ahead, creating significant long-term market value.

This ambitious attitude to growth is core to the advice we share with our clients at Cambridge Consultants. For us, deep tech innovation is more than the application of emerging AI, quantum technology, advanced computing and so on.

Fundamentally, deep tech is a mindset – a strategy that harnesses radical science and engineering to achieve things no-one else can. In the case of autonomous networks, I expect this attitude to prevail over a wait-and-see approach that will leave businesses reaping only commoditized benefits that are available to all.

Dr Derek Long, SVP Telecommunications, Cambridge Consultants, part of Capgemini Invent

Derek leads Cambridge Consultants’ collaboration within the telecoms and mobile sector, helping create breakthrough innovations that transforms the delivery of high-performance communication – for mobile carriers and ISPs to vendors and component manufacturers. With over 20 years’ experience in mobile technology, Derek has held a range senior management roles with multinationals and has a wealth of expertise across all generations of mobile and broadband technology, including 5G advanced and candidates for 6G. Derek holds a PhD in telecommunications from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

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