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Artificial Intelligence (AI) research began in 1956 and has had varying degrees of success and misfires over the ensuing decades due to factors like research missions that were overly broad and solving the complexities of simulating the analytical skills and knowledge of human experts. Recently AI technology has gained a great deal of hard-earned influence as the community of AI researchers are more focused on developing specific solutions for specific tasks. Developing and applying AI innovation to mobile networks, especially 5G network design and build, is no exception.
In September 2021 DISH Network, for example, selected IBM to help automate what the communications service provider (CSP) is touting as the United States’ first greenfield cloud-native 5G network. DISH seeks to design a new smart network that is agile, scalable, and fully virtualized, benefitting enterprise customers across a multitude of industry verticals. DISH will leverage IBM’s AI-powered automation and network orchestration software and services to bring broad 5G network orchestration to DISH’s business and operations platforms.
To attain AI-powered automation benefits, DISH is using IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation software solution across its cloud-native 5G network architecture. Through IBM’s solution, DISH aims to use intent-based orchestration capabilities that efficiently synthesize hardware and software resources and enable the dynamic, on-demand network slicing that is key to the creation and accelerated delivery of new services. As a result, I believe DISH can also apply advanced AI with IBM Watson and orchestration capabilities to augment the optimization of network operations and performance.
IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation software is designed to continuously learn, provide insights, and use financial impact analysis to prioritize and manage network function and issue resolution through AI capabilities. The ability to simultaneously administer the lifecycle, optimize the performance, and customer-specific requirements of each slice on the network can be a key differentiator for DISH as it seeks to power innovation benefitting the enterprise market segment.
DISH also plans to use advanced network slicing to offer new use cases and vertical industry opportunities that are customized to each business and customers who uses the private hybrid 5G network. In sum, network slices can be managed by customers to set service levels for each device appropriate to their use of the network. As a result, automation of smart factory processes and power systems can be augmented by ultra-low latency while an HD surveillance camera can be allocated high bandwidth.
I see DISH’s selection of IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation as further demonstrating the increasingly critical role that AI is playing in operator build of 5G networks. For example, AI is vital for the automation and self-healing features of 5G operations and business processes.
At MWC 2021 in June, Orange made a marketing splash by announcing its experimental 5G network, branded Pikeo, that uses a cloud-based open platform and AI capabilities, Orange is assigning AI the central role in its experimental 5G network that is serving as the blueprint for the next-generation of more efficient and agile networks.
The 5G experimental network builds on the alliance formed with Google Cloud in 2020 to use AI in driving the transformation of Orange’s IT infrastructure and the development of future cloud services, particularly edge computing and cybersecurity applications. The alliance forms part of Orange’s Engage 2025 plan, to drive its internal transformation using AI and data to improve operational efficiency and the overall customer experience.
Key Takeaways on AI’s Role in Enabling the Success of 5G Networks
I see AI gaining more influence and momentum in the network design and architecture of CSP 5G network builds. The collaboration of DISH Network and Orange with key partners to assure the success of their 5G network builds validates AI’s central role in determining the fulfillment of 5G network builds and business outcomes. I anticipate that we will learn a great deal more about AI’s role in powering 5G use case innovation and services across the entire digital ecosystem.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.