December 14, 2023

How AI and ML Automation is Redefining the Quality of 5G Network Services

How do we keep up?

It's a question that's been asked in the boardrooms of businesses across every sector for decades — and probably before boardrooms even existed.

More recently, the question has taken on a new relevance due to the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies — and the related excitement over its capabilities.

For the telecommunications industry, however, AI and ML are provoking an answer rather than prompting the question.

Given the hurried evolution of 5G technology, our industry has become all too familiar with the concept of "keeping up." The development and deployment of 5G has occurred so quickly that the tools we use to ensure the quality of network services have failed to keep pace.

It's only through AI and ML automation that we can catch up and properly maintain the high level of service standards that network customers expect — not just for mobile phones, but for all their connected devices.

The Evolution of Wireless Networks

The Evolution of Wireless Networks

As 5G has continued to transform wireless networks, mobile operators and communications service providers (CSPs) have witnessed firsthand the expansion of wireless communications, high-speed internet, augmented reality, and virtual connectivity — far beyond what was once thought possible of cellular networks.

This fifth generation of wireless technology isn't just about enhanced mobile broadband or the improved network connection for a multitude of devices at extraordinary speeds; it's about reshaping how we interact with the world around us.

But the leap forward is not without challenges. The most important has been ensuring the quality and reliability of these advanced 5G services.

What Does '5G Network Quality' Mean?

More than merely maintaining network capacity, high speed, and low latency; network quality refers to guaranteeing the network’s reliability and availability to handle everything from video streaming to augmented reality — and the future applications we haven’t yet considered.

Once mobile network operators and CSPs can ensure a reliable, uninterrupted experience to users — with consistently high performance across all critical metrics — the possibilities for increased revenue opportunities are endless. 

Beyond the benefits of lowering operational costs and improving customer service and experience, guaranteed reliability would open the door to:

  • Premium Service Offerings: With a more reliable network, CSPs can offer higher-tiered services at premium prices. These could include enhanced broadband speeds, superior quality of service, and specialized services for businesses.
  • Market Expansion: Reliable networks allow CSPs to expand services to new geographical areas, including remote or underserved regions, thus tapping into new customer bases.
  • New Services and Innovations: Guaranteed network quality allows CSPs to explore and launch the next innovative service beyond IoT connectivity or cloud services, attracting new customer segments and creating additional revenue streams.

The Automation Journey in Telecom: Opportunities and Bottlenecks

As we've established, 5G technology introduces a level of complexity unseen in previous wireless networks. From handling a broad spectrum of radio frequencies to managing diverse connected devices, 5G's complex network architecture requires sophisticated automation strategies capable of ensuring consistent service quality across all connected devices.

While aspects of network operation, like data curation and monitoring, have seen some automation, a complete integration across all functions is still lacking. This results in gaps where manual processes prevail, slowing down overall network management efficiency.

The Challenge of Network Analysis

One of the most significant bottlenecks is in network analysis. With the increased complexity of network connections and the plethora of connected devices, maintaining network quality has become an extremely labor-intensive process.

The Stages and Challenges of Manual Network Analysis

  • Service Onboarding: Testing for interoperability is a primary challenge, ensuring that various virtualized network functions work seamlessly together. Given the diverse range of equipment and software in 5G networks, establishing interoperability represents a daunting task.
  • Validation: Ensuring that each component meets required standards and functions correctly within the network is crucial. The complexity of 5G networks (more on this below), with advanced features like beamforming and network slicing, makes this process more intricate than in previous generations.
  • Deployment: Once services are validated, deploying them into a live environment is fraught with challenges, particularly in maintaining quality amid real-world variables and user demands.
  • Complexity of 5G Architecture: The multi-layered nature of 5G networks, involving an array of radios, core networks, and edge computing resources, further complicates the deployment process, as well. Ensuring all components work in harmony without causing disruptions is a significant challenge.
  • Monitoring: Post-deployment, continuous monitoring is vital to ensure the network maintains its performance standards. The challenge here lies in effectively managing all of the data being generated by various network elements and utilizing it to preemptively address potential issues.
  • Adapting to Evolving Technologies: As 5G technology continues to evolve, keeping monitoring processes updated and capable of handling new technologies and standards is a constant challenge.

Each of these stages is critical in determining the overall quality and reliability of a 5G network. The ever-increasing complexity and number of components within the 5G architecture pose persistent challenges, making it imperative for service providers to adopt innovative solutions and strategies to ensure seamless service delivery throughout the network service lifecycle.

Troubleshooting in 5G Networks: A Labor-Intensive Bottleneck

To break it down further, let's consider the most labor-intensive aspect of network analysis. The advanced architecture of these networks, with their multiple layers and components, makes identifying issues a complex task. As part of overall network analysis, the troubleshooting process in 5G networks represents the largest bottleneck of all.

Why Troubleshooting is Challenging:

  • Complexity of 5G Networks: Not to overstate this factor, but it's worth mentioning once again that the advanced architecture of 5G involves multiple layers and components, making identification of issues more complex compared to previous generations.
  • Volume and Variety of Data: The sheer volume of data and the variety of its sources in a 5G network add to the complexity of pinpointing issues effectively.
  • Dynamic Network Environments: 5G networks are constantly evolving, with virtualized functions and services changing rapidly. This dynamism demands continual adaptation in troubleshooting approaches.

Current Troubleshooting Processes:

  • Manual Analysis: Despite advances in technology, much of the troubleshooting in 5G networks still relies on manual inspection by highly skilled experts.
  • Domain-Specific Expertise: These experts possess deep knowledge in specific domains of 5G technology, crucial for understanding the multifaceted nature of issues that may arise.
  • Detailed Diagnostics: The process involves a meticulous, step-by-step approach, requiring substantial time and effort to move from symptom identification to root cause isolation and resolution.

Time Allocation in Troubleshooting

Time Allocation in Network Troubleshooting
Agility E2E Automated Testing Lifecycle

A significant portion of the network service lifecycle for communications service providers — up to 60% — is dedicated to troubleshooting. This substantial investment of time underscores both the critical nature of this process in maintaining the overall health and performance of 5G networks as well as the need for improved automation to reduce the time spent by highly skilled experts on what is often a tedious process.

PCAPs: Unraveling Fifth Generation Network Mysteries

Where does all that time go?

It's impossible to talk about network troubleshooting without mentioning PCAPs. Packet Capture files (PCAPs) play a pivotal role in network analysis, especially with 5G technology. These data packets are essential for diagnosing network issues, providing insights that are crucial for effective troubleshooting.

Why PCAPs are Indispensable

  • Vendor-Agnostic Data Capture: PCAPs capture network data in a raw, unbiased format, making them applicable across different vendors and network setups.
  • Standardized Data Format: They follow a standard format, crucial for decoding complex network communications and ensuring consistent analysis across various network scenarios.

The Unique Benefits of PCAPs

  • Visibility into Network Problems: PCAPs offer a clear view into network operations, revealing issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Comprehensive Network Analysis: They enable a thorough examination of network functions, helping identify not just the symptoms but also the root causes of network issues.
  • Identifying Network Anomalies: They expose irregular patterns and disruptions within the network.
  • Understanding Network Failures: PCAPs offer detailed insights into why certain failures occur, providing a roadmap for effective troubleshooting and resolution.

The Issues with PCAPs

However, the application of packet captures for diagnosing issues comes with its share of constraints. Sifting through individual packets to pinpoint the root cause of a problem consumes valuable hours and energy — typically from highly skilled talent whose expertise would be more efficiently spent elsewhere.

And with Mean Time To Resolution standing as a critical strategic KPI for enterprise applications, time efficiency is vital to measuring overall network health.

Optimizing 5G Troubleshooting with AI and ML

We've established the disconnect between fifth generation network advancements (rapid, accelerated, and complex) and the methods used to ensure its quality (slow, tedious, and time-consuming). But now, it's time to examine the solution.

The integration of AI and ML into 5G network troubleshooting marks a significant shift from the traditional, labor-intensive methods to a more efficient, automated process. This AI and ML automation addresses the core challenges of time consumption and resource allocation in troubleshooting and by doing that, enhances the overall network analysis and service quality.

Transforming the Troubleshooting Process

AI and ML technologies have the capacity to transform the traditional troubleshooting approach in several important ways:

  1. Automated Issue Identification: AI algorithms can quickly analyze vast amounts of network data, promptly identifying anomalies and potential issues. This replaces the need for manual data examination, which is often slow and prone to human error.
  2. Detective Analysis: ML models can detect potential network failures before they occur by learning from historical data patterns. This proactive approach allows network operators to address issues preemptively, reducing downtime and improving network reliability.
  3. Root Cause Analysis (RCA): AI-driven systems can delve into complex network architectures to pinpoint the exact cause of a problem. By automating RCA, these systems significantly reduce the time required to isolate and understand the source of network issues.

Reducing Time and Complexity

But the main benefit is increased efficiency. Using AI and ML Automation not only decreases the time and complexity involved in network troubleshooting, it brings a new depth of insight and optimization:

  • Speed: Automated systems can process and analyze data at a speed unattainable by human operators, turning hours of analysis into minutes or seconds.
  • Simplification: By automating intricate processes, AI reduces the complexity faced by network engineers. It streamlines the troubleshooting workflow, allowing engineers to focus on higher-level tasks.
  • Comprehensive Data Analysis: Automation analyzes data from various sources simultaneously, and can provide a holistic view of the network's performance and health.
  • Detailed Insight: ML models offer detailed insights into network behavior, identifying trends and patterns that may be invisible to human analysts.

Automation Telecommunications
How Telecommunications Firms Can Benefit From Automation

Accelerating and Guaranteeing 5G Service Quality

Of course, the ultimate goal of integrating AI and ML into 5G network troubleshooting is to accelerate and guarantee network capacity for wireless communications.

It accomplishes this through:

  • Rapid Resolution: Faster identification and resolution of issues lead to minimal service disruption, ensuring a high-quality user experience.
  • Consistent Quality: AI-driven continuous monitoring and detective maintenance from ML models ensure a consistently high quality of service, aligning with the high standards expected of 5G networks.

AGILITY: Ensuring Network Quality for All Connected Devices

In the section above, when we express all that AI and ML automation can accomplish to keep up with 5G technology, it might seem more theoretical than practical. However, this integration isn't a future aspiration. It's the present reality.

AGILITY is B-Yond's AI and ML-powered tool that specializes in packet capture data analysis to provide a sophisticated solution for the challenges faced in the network evolution lifecycle — which, admittedly, is a somewhat grandiose way of saying AGILITY reduces analysis time from hours to less than five minutes.

Tangible Benefits: Enhanced RCA, Cost Reduction, and Speed

With AGILITY, the stages of testing, validating, and troubleshooting are streamlined and accelerated, ensuring that 5G services are rolled out faster and more reliably.

  • Increased RCA Coverage: AGILITY has proven to enhance Root Cause Analysis (RCA) coverage by 10x. This increase means network issues are identified and resolved with greater precision and speed, leading to improved network reliability and customer satisfaction.
  • Cost Reduction: By automating complex processes, AGILITY reduces operational costs by up to 90%. This cost efficiency benefits not just the network providers but also the end users, leading to more affordable mobile broadband.
  • Accelerated Testing and Analysis: The tool significantly speeds up the testing and analysis processes. This acceleration ensures that network services are not only quickly deployed but also meet the highest standards of quality and reliability that the latest 5G technology demands.

How Does AGILITY Accomplish This?

Agility by B-Yond

Interactive Call Flow Visualization

  • Navigate dynamic visual representations of call flows to pinpoint and tackle root errors.

In-Depth Protocol Level Analysis

  • Examine detailed, protocol-focused data to reveal underlying network irregularities and issues.

Intelligent Root Error Identification

  • Use ML-powered insights for the automatic detection of Root Errors.

Accelerated Root Cause Identification

  • Streamline problem-solving in network troubleshooting with ML-driven root cause detection that accurately identifies network issues.

Comprehensive Call Flow History

  • Access an extensive archive of previous network issue resolutions as a guide to address and resolve current network challenges.

Insightful Call Flow Summary & Deviation KPIs

  • Evaluate the severity of network issues by comparing current deviation scores against historical KPIs, aiding in strategic decision-making.

Security You Can Trust with AGILITY

  • Benefit from robust data security and compliance in a cloud-native SaaS environment. AGILITY adheres to the Cloud Security Alliance's highest standards.

The Goal: End-to-End Automation

We consider AGILITY to be a major step toward an end goal of achieving 100% end-to-end automation in all lifecycle stages, including testing and monitoring.

This ambition translates to a future where manual intervention in network service lifecycles is minimized, leading to increased efficiency and accuracy. Automated processes in testing and monitoring mean quicker deployments and more reliable network services, a critical need for rapidly evolving 5G technology.

AGILITY Paves the Way for Future Advancements in 5G Technology

Maybe the most exciting aspect of AGILITY's capabilities is that the prospects for 5G technology are now more tangible than ever. With AGILITY ensuring enhanced network quality, the path is clear for further innovation in wireless technology and mobile networks.

Ensuring the quality of cellular networks will no longer be a constraint. Instead, improved network analysis and automated troubleshooting will offer a strong foundation upon which future advancements can be built with confidence.

Embrace the Future with AGILITY

If you're excited by a future where keeping up is about the future and not the past, you need to discover how AGILITY can transform your network operations. Take the first step into a new era of network quality. Sign up for a free trial and witness firsthand the power of AI and ML automation.

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