Guest Post: The Critical Need for Automated Assurance & Operations in a 6G World

August 8, 2022

Written by 6GWorld Contributor

By Marc Serra Jaumot, Chief Marketing Officer – Infovista

As the roll-out of 5G gathers pace, discussions are underway about the specification for 6G – and it is becoming clear that telcos will need to employ a range of new techniques to monitor their networks, services, devices and applications, along with those of their customers and ecosystem partners in a new and more demanding era of colossal amounts of data, dizzying speeds, and demanding standards.

This article takes a look at some of the expected design goals and technology deployments we can expect to see develop in the course of the next 15 years, which in turn will reduce time-to-market for new solutions and improve return on investment (ROI) for telcos. In addition, we’ll look at what this means for telcos’ assurance needs in meeting the most pressing business challenges, including the likes of urgent decisions that need to be made quickly and with flexibility, but still ensuring that KPIs and business objectives are met.

This diagram shows an early estimate of timings for various technology roll-outs and the network performance impact they are aiming to have:

Ultra-high data rates and ultra-low latency: Each iteration of the “G”s brings higher expectations for speeds and reductions in latency – which offer potential for the network to carry a much larger range of services.The most important revenue generation opportunity for telcos of increasing speeds in the next 5 – 7 years will be services such as FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) and mobile broadband. Related to this will be the opportunities to offer improved experience for homeworkers and also the potential for verticals such as manufacturing to perform some parts of their processes remotely, utilizing the higher speeds and lower latency on offer. Improving speeds also offer opportunities for new services such as AR/VR/MR – and while the move towards holographic representations and the Metaverse require capabilities not feasible in the near term with 5G, the advent of 6G could unlock this already over-hyped opportunity.

Flexible multi-band utilization: Tied with the discussions around 6G are concepts of increased network interconnection – including, satellite and flying access points – to increase coverage, improve backhauling and provide backup connectivity for mission-critical applications (particularly drones). These will need an increased ability to monitor and manage across networks and devices. There is also much discussion around use of new frequencies such as THz and visible light, but these technologies are still away from being available. We can expect them well into the 2030s.

Ultra-massive MIMO and flexible control: There are a wide range of new technologies discussed within the 6G community. Significant amongst these are more distributed and larger antenna arrays for utilization of higher frequency bands, duplex technologies and higher adjustability designed to allow users to adjust their uplink and downlink speeds (useful for verticals with high uplink requirements such as manufacturing) and the development of Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces which will improve coverage and energy efficiency in certain high-usage environments such as airports.   

Higher resolution location and improved sensing capabilities: The use of higher frequencies and larger antenna arrays allow an increase in precision of location and ability to offer sensing at higher sample rates. The degree of precision and sampling achievable in the mid-term will most likely limit the range of use cases, but better utilization such as the ability to efficiently control systems or robots using more precise location and or the ability to sense motion through walls look possible without pinpoint accuracy.

What does this mean for the future of network, service and experience assurance?

The new areas for deployment above look set to create a number of requirements for assurance and closed-loop management of current and predicted network issues:

  1. There will be an increasing range of more complex services that require assurance
  2. Some of these services will require measurement of specific metrics related specifically to that service; think of a supercharged network SLA management
  3. The number and diversity of devices and applications attaching, and within the network, is set to significantly increase
  4. A move towards integration of more types of network will require more cross-domain assurance – which will add to existing efforts to monitor across all the “G”s and into the cloud
  5. Customers will require confirmation that their low-latency, high-data rate services are meeting terms and conditions
  6. A rise in network configurability translates into more ways in which things can go wrong
  7. Working with more partners and the potential for more managed services for customers will require the ingestion of more data and creation of new assurance products that can be used by third parties.

Solving these problems requires ubiquitous, real-time, cross-domain visibility; openness and interoperability; and proactive, intelligent, automation. In essence, delivering a medium with precise apported costs that provide the highest level of standards, with faster operating speeds, larger data lines and all with increased demand that also ensures profitability. Basing network investment decisions on an understanding of both the addressed revenue of today and the revenue potential of tomorrow is essential.

The list of relevant data will expand. Currently, tools such as heatmaps provide information about network capacity, potential revenue, and population density. Futureproofing can’t be assured, but by planning ahead, possible outcomes can be predicted.

Why is this important now in 2022 when we have so much to do with 5G still?

According to a Heavy Reading poll on what drove organizations’ wish to implement automated assurance, respondents said closed loop monitoring was by far the biggest driver, with the replacing of their current outdated processes and assurance systems being the other main reason behind wanting to change.

Telcos are today embarking towards this new assurance environment. However, as independent telecom analyst Charlotte Patrick outlines, telcos need to develop a real vision for automated assurance and operations in conjunction with their vision for 5G Advanced (aka Standalone) and 6G. Only then, given the complexity of requirements and the speed at which they are changing, will they be able to avoid adding high levels of technical debt and stranded bespoke solutions in the mid to long term, and instead seize and monetize the new opportunities the next generation of connectivity will present.

In other words, the automated assurance choices Telcos make today will determine their future success in the next 10+ years. They need to focus on truly cloud-native and open systems to unleash the economic potential of 5G Standalone and later 6G.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

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