AI in telecoms: why 5G and IoT won’t work for carriers without AI
The telecoms industry is heavily invested the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) based technologies. “The telecoms network is the basis for the outbreak of AI, and AI will greatly enhance the telecoms network,” comments Zhang Sihong, chief engineer of AI solutions at ZTE.
For telecoms providers, the need to automate is urgent. “The amount of data is about to explode,” says Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research. The notion they will gain control just by re-defining their networks in software is wrong-headed, he says. “It is supposed to get simpler with software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV); it won’t. It will get more and more complicated. It just becomes virtualized chaos.”
Even just on the radio-access side, the picture looks gnarly. The number of parameters per base station has jumped from 500-odd in the 2G era to 1,500 with 3G, and closer 3,500 with 4G, notes Ericsson. LTE has introduced some automation tools to allow network managers to auto-tune these settings, but more is required. “We have to do better,” comments Ulrika Jägare, director of analytics and machine intelligence at Ericsson.
Indeed, the human mind will be over-whelmed, says Adaora Okeleke, senior analyst at Ovum. “Humans can’t handle the volume of data and insights that will be coming out of the networks. We need AI to harness all this information – to see the patterns in the data, and to inform the activities.”
Andrew Burrell, head of marketing for ultra broadband and analytics services at Nokia, adds: “As 5G brings along new levels of efficiency and at the same time complexity, AI is in a key role to enable ‘living’ networks that adapt to constantly fluctuating conditions.”
AI promises to bring logic and order to the incoming chaos, and, with the arrival of 5G networks, a way for operators to harness the whirlwind, reckons Sihong at ZTE. “AI will empower 5G, and 5G will enable AI to play a greater role in the field of networking,” he says.
Telefónica sums it up effectively. “There is no future for operators without taking advantage of data through AI, including ML and big data technologies,” says Francisco José Montalvo, director of the Spanish firm’s ‘fourth platform’ division.
Click here to register for the Enterprise IoT Insights webinar on March 21st on the developing role of AI in telecoms. Look out for the editorial report, ‘Artificial intelligence and machine learning: making IoT work for telecoms’, also published March 21st.