Huawei and Chinese Telcos Take Lead In Integrating AI in Networks  


Amid the increasing network complexities driven by the growing usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, telecom solutions provider Huawei, in partnership with telecom operators is intensifying efforts to commercially deploy AI across their networks

The operators are leveraging 5G-Advanced (5G-A) technology capabilities and AI applications to make the telecom networks intelligent, energy efficient, automated, secure, and adaptive, thus boosting productivity and saving costs.  

“Our goal is to bring AI to networks. To achieve this, we will, for our part, shift from a solution provider to a co-builder of intelligent networks,” said Eric Zhao, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Huawei Wireless Solution at the MWC Shanghai 2024 for the 5G-A & AI Roundtable on June 25.  

This is significant as with the advent of 5G, 5G-advanced technologies and AI in everything, data traffic has been increasing widely, thereby requiring intelligent networks for traffic management. In fact, predictive network maintenance and reduced downtime, along with real-time analytics, are also the need of the hour for telcos to improve end-user experience. 

5G-A or 5.5G, is an upgrade to 5G technology, with improved speeds, latency, capacity, and energy efficiency. Lately, China has been leading in testing and deployment of 5G-A networks and operators are looking to commercially deploy the network in 2024.  

Boosting Network Performance with RAN Intelligent Agent 

Huawei, which has been leading the charge in works around 5G-A, says AI to 5G-A networks will prove effective in boosting network productivity. The company has built Radio Access Network (RAN) Intelligent Agent that provides copilots or virtual assistants to support role-based chatbots and agents to support scenario-based solution automation in telecom networks. RAN is one of the key domains of telecom networks. It uses radio frequency to connect mobile devices with the core network.   

“We believe that the co-growth of RAN Intelligent Agent and networks will create more extensive business value, transform networks more rapidly, and lead our industry into a new era of intelligence,” said Zhao. In the first phase of deployment of RAN Intelligent Agent, the company looks to cover 1,000 site engineers and 10,000 sites across Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Jinan, and Shenzhen, and more cities within a half year. 

One of the use cases of RAN Intelligent Agent pertains to fruit farmers, who can show their consumers the quality of fruits through live streaming on 5G-A. For a high-definition live streaming experience, uplink is important, and Huawei solutions in telecom networks ensure that in real time. 

Similarly, for automated network operations and maintenance (O&M), Huawei believes that the RAN Intelligent Agent can operate stably for thousands of hours, maximizing performance automatically while keeping energy consumption as low as possible. 

“In future, telecom networks will be able to resolve issues automatically. With copilot and intelligent agents we intend to improve O&M and network efficiency for telcos,” Zhao said.  

Chinese Telcos: Effectively Leveraging AI To Acquire New Capabilities  

China Unicom, one of the major telecom operators, is looking to leverage the Open Gateway framework for AI integration into networks. Open Gateway is a framework by GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association) that consists of common network APIs (Application Programming Interface) designed to provide universal access to operator networks for developers.  

This helps developers and cloud providers deploy services rapidly across operator networks via single access points to the world’s largest connectivity platform. 

“China Unicom deeply integrates open models with its commercial services to display the business value of network capabilities,” said Yang Jianjian of China Unicom at the 5G-A& AI Roundtable. The company is open to new partnerships to increase the adoption of AI in networks. 

The company is also leveraging its network capability openness platform, which aggregates capabilities such as resources, data, AI, fault identification, instructions, and cloud communications and integrates operational services.  

China Mobile also echoed the views on deploying AI into the networks, as it is through AI that the potential of technologies like 5G-A can be maximized. The company is trying to be a comprehensive solution provider by integrating AI and connectivity.  

“We don’t have to wait until 6G to have coordination of services and network. Now is the time to combine 5G-A and AI,” said Deng Wei, Head of Wireless and Device Research Center at China Mobile. Wei emphasized intent-driven communication with 5G-A networks, wherein AI can be leveraged to improve the effectiveness of data transfers. 

Intent-driven communication involves leveraging AI to deliver a personalized experience to users by understanding their preferences and needs. “AI is helping to improve energy savings. Platforms can make predictions and also conduct analysis,” Wei said. 

According to Shaun Collins, Executive Chairman of CCS Insight, telecom operators require 5G Standalone as a foundational technology network to benefit from AI and 5G-A. “5G networks need to be even more responsive with better latencies, be more reliable and faster,” said Collins.  

Further, he said using AI would also make private networks easier to manage, thereby boosting the enterprise take-up of AI applications. Across China, there are 27,900 private networks that are deployed. According to CCS Insight, operators will face an enormous compute challenge and opportunity with over 4-8 billion parameters operational on devices. 

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