MTN Group has big plans for the next three years.
The Johannesburg, South Africa-based communications provider is making a major investment in autonomous networks to realize its vision of becoming the largest, most valuable business platform in the African continent.
Fueled by the principle that “everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life,” the company is implementing mobile and fixed-access networks with self-healing, zero-touch capabilities to deliver services across the consumer, enterprise and wholesale segments.
MTN has been developing an implementation blueprint and is in the process of testing some use cases.
MTN’s strategy is called Ambition 2025 and aligns with TM Forum’s vision for autonomous networks with self-serving, self-fulfilling, self-assuring capabilities to provide zero wait, zero-touch and zero trouble experience, according to Mohamed Salah, Senior Manager, Network Operations Assurance, MTN Group.
“We have defined our autonomous networks framework to operationalize Ambition 2025, guaranteeing new service network readiness and high operation efficiencies,” Salah said in a presentation at TM Forum’s October Digital Leadership Summit.
Salah described MTN’s vision for Ambition 2025 and provided an update on how far the company has gotten with it. MTN delivers services to 277 million subscribers in 20 markets.
The provider is looking at best practices across the industry, partners such as TM Forum standards to create the implementation blueprint. The blueprint, he said, should be finished by year’s end.
Through Ambition 2025, MTN aims to drive efficiencies and performance while reducing network complexity in order to better manage network operations and deliver digital services to meet the evolving demands of customers.
Some of the next-generation services that MTN plans to deliver include network as a service (NaaS), fintech solutions and an API marketplace, Salah said.
To make it all happen, MTN is adding network awareness and some decision-making capabilities on the infrastructure layer “to support domain intelligence and autonomy together with the manager, controller and analyzer in each autonomous domain,” Salah said.
“On the service layer, we focus on developing our next new-generation digital OSS (Operation Support System) platform.”
“Our next-generation digital OSS platform will be considered as a digital engine to enable man-machine collaboration.”
“And we have to depend on this digital OSS platform to build our AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities in the future.”
Aiming for Level 4
Explaining the company’s implementation strategy, Salah said MTN aims to reach a Level 4 designation in 2025 for its autonomous networks across all of its operating companies (OpCos) across Africa.
TM Forum defines Level 4 system as one that “enables, analyzes and makes decisions based on predictive or active closed-loop management of service and customer experience-driven networks.”
Level 4 also includes the availability of Zero X capabilities, such as zero touch and zero trouble, in “select Autonomous Network services.”
To get there, Salah, said MTN has a strategy for its OpCos to move up through Levels 1, 2 and 3 gradually, each year achieving a “certain level of upscaling of the autonomous level.”
The implementation blueprint, he added “will provide a comprehensive list of the use cases that need to be delivered” by each OpCo. An assessment will be conducted at each operating company to come up with an OpCo-specific list of service use cases.
Starting in 2022, each OpCo will begin customizing and delivering their use cases based on best practices employed by MTN partners Huawei.
First Use Cases
Salah mentioned three use cases during his presentation – network intelligence, digital twin and cross-domain fault automation.
As an example of network intelligence, Salah cited the delivery of IP private lines with end-to-end intelligence for maintenance and SLA visualization
The digital twin use case involves DQ ODN, which provides dark resource awareness in fiberoptics networks so that operators can get accurate information on service delivery and resource service provisioning.
Without DQ ODN capability, the fiber network inventory is inactive for about 5% of the time, he said. MTN has piloted the capability in Ghana to positive results.
Cross-domain fault automation, Salah said, enables self-healing and closed-loop automation through visual fault troubleshooting for auto diagnosis and rectification.
This capability, which MTN has started testing in South Africa, is expected to help the company achieve operational savings and improve network availability while reducing the need for field maintenance.
“Enabling an autonomous environment and autonomous ecosystem is vital,” Salah said.
As telecommunications networks undergo a massive transformation driven by advances like virtualization, SDN (software-defined networking) and 5G connectivity, a provider cannot go forward without automating its operations.
Other pressures and responsibilities, such as ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, also play a role in the need to drive efficiencies through automation, he said.
“We have to have an automation plan and implementation on the ground. And we in MTN group believe that we have to have a serious automation strategy that can enable the leading customer experience,” Salah said.