Ericsson expands its 5G Platform, demos AI-driven network management
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Arun Bansal, Ericsson’s president & head of Europe & Latin America

​Ericsson has expanded its 5G Platform with additions across core, radio access, transport and service orchestration areas to help mobile network operators (MNOs) evolve their networks and deploy 5G at scale. The company also demonstrated the use of machine learning driven automation to improve and simplify network management at a briefing event that took place earlier this week.

The company has added seven new products to its Cloud Core portfolio and these support both 5G Standalone and Non-standalone, along with earlier generations of cellular technology. Ericsson’s Dual-mode 5G Cloud Core solution is cloud native for automated capacity management and the company claims that it delivers also delivers a high-performance user plane to cope with 5G use case needs and includes open APIs for innovation on 5G capabilities like network slicing and edge computing.

In a similar vein, Ericsson’s updated dynamic orchestration solution introduces network slicing automation, comprising the creation, testing, and development of network slices for the fast introduction of 5G services. It also includes AI-driven closed-loop automation for hybrid networks in a multi-vendor environment to allow issues that can potentially impact service delivery to be identified and for the network to be adapted in real-time to ensure that these do not affect the end-user experience. Ericsson-acquired company CENX’s service assurance system will also be used to allow operators to easily visualise the state of their networks in real-time. Ericsson claims that this overall approach can reduce the time need to deploy new software by 30 per cent, reduce the time to market for new services by 70 per cent and reduce operational expenditure by around 30 per cent (with the bulk of the latter coming from AI driven closed-loop automation).

These capabilities were demonstrated by Peter Laurin, senior vice-president & head of business area managed services, during Ericsson’s pre-Mobile World Congress Barcelona briefing for media analysts which took place on 18 February. He had a conversation with a chatbot regarding a UK network’s performance, in which it alerted him to a situation where a site in Manchester serving a high number of VIP customers was predicted to experience a critical throughput degradation and recommended a soft reset, an action which it expected to have minimal negative impact. It also warned of a weather forecast that predicted storms in Wales, created work orders for relevant sites to address this, mentioned that the system was using a digital twin technique and reported unusual behaviour at a site at Guildford and automatically assigned a ticket to address this.

Laurin also mentioned that a machine learning project had managed to reduce the percentage of sleeping cells on a network in the Middle East to 0 per cent from 2.2 per cent in eight weeks. He highlighted that the combination of AI and human expertise allows engineers to be proactive rather than reactive and that Ericsson’s initial introduction of this kind of capability will start with the ability to address 15 specific use cases, with another 30 “on the run and then we’ll add as we go forward”.

Patrick Weibel, head of 5G program, Swisscom, said: “As we evolve our network to 5G, we need to simplify operations, reduce time to market for new functionalities, and open up our network for innovation. Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Cloud Core allows for the flexible evolution of our 4G Core network to a combined 4G and 5G network while maintaining cost efficiency. Adding to this, the evolved Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration solution bring us the automation of network slices required to reduce our provisioning time of services from weeks to hours.”

Daryl Schoolar, practice leader, service provider technology, Ovum, says: “Ericsson’s latest product launches further facilitate the vendor’s goal of providing its customers with a smooth and efficient transition from 4G to 5G. More importantly, the evolved 5G Platform provides service providers with the tools to monetise upcoming 5G use cases, with an initial focus on enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access. The platform will also provide the scalability to support more advanced services as they come to market.”

During the media and analyst briefing, Arun Bansal, Ericsson’s president & head of Europe & Latin America, drew attention to the 10 commercial 5G deals it has announced so far (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the US; Vodafone UK, Swisscom, Telenor and Wind 3 in Europe; SK Telecom in South Korea; and Telstra in Australia). He also described its European-based R&D effort, which consists of 14,000 engineers, in 22 R&D centres in 15 European countries.

While Bansal couldn’t comment on what governments want to do in terms of the national security aspect of telecommunications or the GSMA’s recent call for a European-wide testing and security assurance regime, he noted the shift towards an agile approach to network software development and added that in some cases software is being deployed every four hours in some cases on live networks. “If that software were to be going into a certain lab and tested before it is deployed it will slow down innovation.”

Bansal's comments echoed those made by Ericsson's president and CEO, Börje Ekholm, in a recent blog post. In the blog, Ekholm also said that the company has shipped more than 3 million 5G-ready radios to its customers worldwide.

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