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Is AI the only way for 5G and automation?

Partner content: Despite they hype around AI, many telco processes may not need it. Automation can be an incremental step on the way to AI, bringing immediate business benefits

The telco industry knows that AI is essential for supporting 5G and for unlocking the significant B2B and B2B2C opportunities operators are targeting. But there is a danger of becoming obsessed with AI – many telco processes may not even require it. Automation offers an incremental step on the way to AI, while bringing immediate business benefits.

There is no doubt that AI is the direction of travel for the telco industry, but that journey has only just begun. Sure, AI is essential for the successful automated operation of full 5G Standalone networks – but is it a prerequisite for automation in general? In this blog, we explore progress towards AI adoption – and consider how we can accelerate automation without AI.

AI is key to unlocking the powerful benefits that the 5G Core is about to bring. The 5G network will be the most complex mobile infrastructure to date, offering the dynamic orchestration of services and network slices – each with their own performance and KPI parameters and demands – edge computing, virtualisation, and a whole new set of use cases.

However, this will require AI-enabled automation to realise. That’s because machine-speed operation is required, with real-time, dynamic control – for which AI is required. AI also works hand-in-hand with Machine Learning (ML), which learns over time, enabling it to use the massive volumes of data generated by the 5G network to make decisions in real time based on multiple factors and variables, and to train itself over time leading to the optimisation of different processes and various outcomes.

In sum, it will allow connected devices and machines, from smartphones to robotics to connected vehicles (and much more), to make their own decisions faster and more accurately than a human.

AI can gather, categorise, group, and analyse data and identify patterns – impossible to see from a human perspective – and learn how to respond (improving over time) at a scale and speed never experienced before.

What does AI bring to 5G?

So, AI will unleash the potential of 5G SA. For example, AI will be able to collect, analyse and ‘understand’ data in real-time, enabling it to not only provide insights into network (and device and user) behaviour, but also use that data to make instant decisions that optimise network resources and dynamically allocate them to ensure that, for example, network slice KPIs and SLAs are met, or that mission-critical applications at the edge consistently meet performance requirements. Of course, over time AI will learn and improve (thanks to ML), and even find new ways of optimising the network.

Automation delivers business benefits now

It’s clear that the end goal is AI. However, it is imperative to understand that it is not the only way forward. Many telco processes and domains will not actually benefit from AI – this is where other forms of automation play a vital role – and are already doing so today. There’s plenty of scope to leverage automation before the full advent of AI-enabled processes.

Indeed, there is a danger that operators will hold off on network optimisation projects while waiting for AI to mature. The truth is: Automation is providing rich and significant business benefits today, and it doesn’t have to be dependent on AI in many cases.

Operators are securing significant benefits — today — by automating processes, sub-processes and by connecting different operating domains. Essentially, the right approach enables a step-by-step, incremental approach towards the ultimate goal of AI/Automation.

There’s a huge amount that can be achieved without AI.  Automation is already a powerful tool that offers numerous and significant opportunities today. Many telco processes can be automated today, without AI. Automation uses reusable software that can already deliver significant efficiencies and reduced costs across multiple telco domains and processes.

To find out more, explore key use cases, and make a start on your automation journey today, download the latest We Are CORTEX White paper here

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