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5G Factor: MWC24 Preview – AI and GenAI Percolating

5G Factor: MWC24 Preview – AI and GenAI Percolating

In this episode of The 5G Factor, our series that focuses on all things 5G, the IoT, and the 5G ecosystem as a whole, I look at the top 5G innovations and what’s going on that caught my eye in the lead up to MWC24. Key AI and GenAI developments that stand out include the GSMA and IBM collaborating to advance AI skills and adoption using IBM’s watsonx platform and training programs, Juniper launches its AI-Native Networking Platform built to optimize AI in assuring comprehensive, enhanced operator and end-user experiences, and Nokia’s AVA Energy Efficiency solution targeted at ensuring operators fulfill their strategic sustainability goals.

My analytical review spotlighted:

GSMA and IBM Pair Up to Boost Telco AI Skills. The GSMA and IBM unveiled a new collaboration to support the adoption and skills of AI in the telecom industry through the launch of GSMA Advance’s AI Training program and the GSMA Foundry Generative AI program. The AI training program, the first in a new series of courses by GSMA Advance, seeks to prepare telco decision makers for the AI-era and bridge skills gaps in the telecom industry, by equipping members with skills and knowledge to help leverage Gen AI technologies using watsonx, IBM’s AI and data platform with AI assistants. The training program will span a wide range of topics, from fundamental AI principles to specialized Gen AI applications in telecoms. I examine how the GSMA Foundry Generative AI program, by providing GSMA members with access to IBM’s watsonx platform, can aid telecom decision makers in diligently exploring industry-specific use cases of Generative AI, including those serving the world’s least connected communities, as well as ensuring that risk management is foundational and critical to operationalizing AI.

Juniper Unveils AI-Native Networking Platform. Juniper announced its AI-Native Networking Platform, purpose-built to leverage AI to deliver end-to-end operator and end-user experiences. Juniper promotes that it is trained on seven years of insights and data science development. Juniper’s AI-Native Networking Platform is designed to unify all campus, branch and data center networking solutions with a common AI engine and Marvis Virtual Network Assistant (or VNA). This can enable end-to-end AI for IT Operations (or AIOps) to be used for deep insight, automated troubleshooting and end-to-end networking assurance. I assess why the new Juniper AI-Native Networking Platform can elevate telco AI strategic objectives by enabling IT teams to transition from maintaining basic network connectivity to delivering secure end-to-end experiences for customers and partners that boost business outcomes.

Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency Uses AI/ML to Advance Telco Sustainability. Nokia’s Telco AI initiative’s aimed at supporting the fulfillment of telco sustainability objectives through its Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency AI solution designed to help operators reduce CO2 emissions and network energy costs. Operators want to meet environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) goals by optimizing their 5G networks. I expect that operators and their supply chain and value chain partners can commit to proactively addressing the sustainability challenge our society faces. Nokia is collaborating with key partners such as China Mobile in using the TM Forum’s Autonomous Networks technology and AI/ML intelligence as well as the Green 5G project to help define a unified energy efficiency standard and delivery methodology. I assess why China Mobile selection of Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency to help reduce energy consumption and control costs without compromising the customer experience is an exemplar on how AI/ML can be enlisted to help mobile operators to fulfill their long-term sustainability goals.

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group 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.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Transcript:

Ron Westfall: Hello and welcome everyone to The 5G Factor. I’m Ron Westfall, Research Director here at The Futurum Group, and today I’ll be focusing on the major 5G ecosystem developments that have caught my eye and that will include drilling down on the emerging 5G innovations in the AI and GenAI areas that are impacting the 5G ecosystem today and well beyond. And with Mobile World Congress 2024 on the horizon, I think this is an important topic to address naturally. I am going to provide previews of the key mobile industry developments leading up to the event, and this is one of several.

So with that, let’s jump right in. And I would like to kick off by looking at the GSMA and IBM unveiling a new collaboration to support the adoption and skills of AI in the telecom industry specifically. And this is through the launch of GSMA Advances AI Training program and the GSMA Foundry Generative AI program. The AI Training program, which is the first in a series of courses by GSMA Advance seeks to prepare telco decision makers for the AI era and bridge skills gap in the telecom industry by equipping members with skills and knowledge to help leverage GenAI technologies using watsonx. And that is IBM’s AI and data platform that uses AI assistance.

Now, the training program will span a wide range of topics from fundamental AI principles to specialized gen AI applications and telecoms. To ensure that a wide range of participants can benefit GSMA Advance AI training sessions will take place at IBM offices in five locations around the world in 2024, including Dubai, London, Mexico, New York, and Seoul, as well as an online training program that will be available in multiple languages. A digital version of the program will be available to help address both the business strategy and technology fundamentals of generative AI.

And I see that as something that has become pretty much a consensus approach that is not only is GenAI technology important for achieving efficiencies in areas such as call center support, but also driving efficiencies across the entire operations. And I think that will be something we’ll see more of later out, for example, with automation as well as performance gains, but also in terms of the business aspect that is improving business outcomes. So this is a very good idea and the platform is intended to help telecom industry players explore industry specific use cases of generative AI, enabling members to improve those business outcomes, revenue growth, and also enhance customer experience.

Now as part of the ongoing collaboration, GSMA Foundry and IBM will drive a series of GenAI industry programs and challenges to investigate the use of generative AI in various functional areas of a telecom provider. And I think this will help ensure, for example, advancing responsible AI in telecom and 5G environments as well as for example, sustainable AI in a very important topic. Now through this I believe that GSMA and IBM can aid operators directly including those that are serving the world’s least connected communities to benefit from AI technology and develop new inclusive solutions to help connect those in society who are not yet online.

And so with the new AI trend that is taking a lot of the headlines, the digital divide aspect has not disappeared. So yes, there has been progress in terms of reducing it. And so that is something I think the 5G mobile ecosystem has definitely contributed toward. However, there’s more work to be done. And so in fact, the good news here is that AI can be enlisted to not only ensure that the telco and 5G industry is able to take advantage of AI capabilities, but also for example, to help with overall society-wide sustainability goals.

That is for example, by ensuring that 5G can be deployed to these wider audiences that can for example, reduce the need for commutes as one example. But there are also other ways that this can benefit all of the 5G users out there. Now for additional background, I think this is helpful. IBM’s latest AI adoption index found that 40% of telecom surveyed are exploring or experimenting with generative AI. And 45% have accelerated the rollout of AI. In line with this is the research from GSMA Intelligence that shows that while 56% of operator surveyed are actively training generative AI solutions, and this is something that is at a rate higher than any other priority technology. So this is again reinforcing just the dramatic impact that AI is having across the entire 5G ecosystem.

But I think what is also important from this is that the adoption rate however, is less prevalent among mid-sized and smaller operators. And I think this is something that is not surprising. We’ve seen this with other innovative and cutting edge technology adoption curves. Basically it’s the top tier operators that have the resources to basically kick the tires and find out what works best and then the second tier and other operators can basically follow on and find out what are best practices. And I think we’ve seen operators such as Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom express that desire because it helps with the ecosystem, helps with interoperability, but also to advance things like Open RAN as well as Open 5G as a philosophical foundation for future networks.

Now from my view, IBM Watsonx is well positioned to ensure that risk management, which I touched on, is foundational and critical to operationalizing AI. And as such, I believe telcos will learn that either the hard way through ignoring it or the easier way by embracing it. So this is again why this is such an important initiative. Now, IBM is again in a great position to help 5G service providers navigate AI risk management. I mentioned this because IBM’s approach to AI is full stack and Watsonx governance as an example is very distinct and it’s a differentiated element. As we look at Watsonx, it includes comprehensive products for AI models and managing data, both of which face competing products. Now this time from my perspective, there are few, if any competing products that actually directly counter the Watsonx governance capabilities. And so this is again something that will benefit the 5G ecosystem.

And with that, let’s turn to the second topic. And again, it’s about what is going on with AI. And so next up is Juniper announcing its AI native networking platform, which is purpose-built to leverage AI to ensure end-to-end operator and end user experiences. Now this is important. From my view, what is coming about is that Juniper is training on seven years of insights and data science development. So in other words, Juniper has prioritized diligent AI development across its portfolio years before the current AI wave.

And this is something that will benefit the 5G ecosystem as well. And it’s also quite simply linked to the fact that HPE is planning to acquire Juniper for $14 billion, mainly because of its AI portfolio capabilities. It’s certainly been a major factor for the motivation of that deal. Now, Juniper’s AI native networking platform was designed from the ground up to assure that connections are reliable, measurable, and secure for every device, user, application and asset. In addition, Juniper’s AI native networking platform is designed to unify all campus branch and data center networking solutions from a common AI engine and Marvis Virtual Network Assistant or VNA.

So this is where Juniper is coming in with a very well differentiated proposition. This is something that could enable end-to-end AI for IT operations or AIOps. Certainly a hot topic across the entire AI terrain, and that’s especially applicable to 5G mobile operators. And this can be used for deep insight, automated troubleshooting and end-to-end networking assurance, which in turn can elevate IT teams focus from maintaining basic network connectivity to delivering, for example, more secure end-to-end experiences for the customers out there. And this is very important. Why automation? Why invest in AI? Well, here’s the reason. I think it’s just again, enabling the operators to optimize their resources. They’re taking very important skilled workers from having to, for example, address manual tasks on a repetitive basis, liberating them from that and being able to advance strategic goals that are related to quite simply improving augmenting the user experience as one.

Now the Juniper AI native networking platforms spotlights that it can result in up to 85% lower operational expenditures than traditional solutions. Also eliminate up to 90% of network trouble tickets and 85% of IT onsite visits and up to 50% reduction in network incident resolution times. So clearly with a data backup like that, this is a compelling solution, one that should I believe get serious consideration for those types of benefits. And with that, let’s segue to I think a third solution that is also impacting, for example, not just the 5G ecosystems evolution but fulfilling strategic imperatives such as sustainability.

And with that in mind, I’m turning the spotlight on Nokia’s telco AI initiative that’s aimed at supporting the fulfillment of telco sustainability objectives through its Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency AI solution, which is designed to help operators reduce CO2 emissions and network energy costs. Now as I see, as we all see operators want to meet environmental, sustainability, and governance or ESG goals by optimizing their 5G networks. And as such, I expect that operators and their supply chain and value chain partners can commit to proactively addressing the sustainability challenge that our society faces.

However, the telecom industry accounts for approximately 1.5% of global electricity use. And as such, to help address this, the telecom industry has worked together to create a climate action roadmap to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. So it’s not too early to start. That is for sure, especially in terms of meeting such an ambitious goal as that. Well, not the most energy intensive verticals. CSPs do face a challenging paradox and it’s this. 5G equipment is designed to be more efficient, but as 5G rollouts accelerate and internet traffic surges, the overall energy consumption demand on mobile networks will rise on an aggregate global basis as well as also associated costs. Now to address this paradox, Nokia has collaborated with the ecosystem including China Mobile to use the TM forum’s, autonomous networks technology and AI/ML intelligence, as well as the Green 5G project to define a unified energy efficiency standard and delivery methodology.

So this is important. It’s really about how can the ecosystem basically fulfill the goal on a cooperative collaborative basis. And this again, is something that I think we all understand is fundamental to how society will be able to thrive in the decades ahead. Now, the collaboration demonstrates how operators can reduce end-to-end energy consumption in the 5G network, even as energy costs rise and as data traffic drives energy consumption higher. This is happening although CSPs are deploying more energy efficient 5G equipment to offset this ongoing trend. Now, China Mobile to be specific with the help of Nokia and other contributors achieved quantifiable results in that regard. Using intent-based APIs and AI based software, the Green 5G pilot showed that China Mobile can save in total 475 million kilowatts per year across its end-to-end network. And as such, help the operator power companies and other verticals such as manufacturers reduce their carbon emissions by 373,000 tons.

Now this is potential, but it’s also important groundwork. This is what has to be done in order to find out what is the best way to go about this. That is quite simply, let’s build the 5G networks out there. Let’s bridge the digital divide. Let’s make sure that both businesses and consumers benefit from the benefits of 5G such as lower latency, greater bandwidth, et cetera. Now this is something that has to tie into also the sustainability goals, and this is I think an important technology that can help both of them meet in a mutually beneficial way. Now, China Mobile has chosen Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency to help reduce energy consumption and control costs without compromising customer experience. And of course that’s always important. And I see it as enabling China Mobile to maintain its rollout of 5G while controlling costs and reducing energy in the short term while setting up the network to meet again those long-term sustainability goals.

Now, as of note, Nokia AVA Energy Efficiency is an integral part of Nokia’s AVA intelligence everywhere portfolio. So again, it’s about using that portfolio to align specifically to the needs of the operator and the environment that they’re competing in. Now I see this intelligence software suite as further aiding customers in securing and automating network operations to also monetize new services. So it’s all tying in together. Yes, it’s important to fulfill things like reducing OpEx to fulfill strategic sustainability goals to improve the customer experience, but it has to tie into monetization. Quite simply in order to compete and quite simply survive, the operators need this built in. And this is where I see the Nokia solution making a difference.

And so that is the MCW 24 preview for today. And again, I think this is something that will contribute not just at Mobile World Congress 24, but also throughout the course of the year. And with that, again, I appreciate the viewing and listening audience joining The 5G Factor webcasts. Again, please reserve us, bookmark us in terms of other upcoming webcasts and there are certainly going to be more leading into Mobile World Congress as well as Mobile World Congress itself and takeaways from the event. And with that, thank you everyone and have a great 5G day.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

5G Factor: HPE Juniper Deal – The 5G Ecosystem Impact

MWC23 LV: Nokia Debuts Network as Code To Spur App Innovation

IBM watsonx.governance Tackles AI Risk Management

Author Information

Ron is an experienced, customer-focused research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets, working with businesses to drive consistent revenue and sales growth.

He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including a wide range of topics across software and services, infrastructure, 5G communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Ron worked with GlobalData Technology creating syndicated and custom research across a wide variety of technical fields. His work with Current Analysis focused on the broadband and service provider infrastructure markets.

Ron holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Nevada — Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Arts in political science/government from William and Mary.

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