TM Forum’s annual Digital Transformation World (DTW) is a major event in the communications industry, where innovation comes to life, inspiration is sparked, connections are made, and knowledge is gained. Around 3500+ attendees, 50+ CSP VPs, and above from 100+ countries joined this event. Network automation is a hot topic and it is one of the 5 main tracks during this exhibition.
As the front runner of this digital era from the African continent, MTN shows its impressive influence in this industry. Mr. Mohamed Salah, Head of Network Operation and Transformation joined the release of TM Forum Autonomous Networks white paper 5.0 (Autonomous Networks: Empowering digital transformation – evolving from Level 2/3 towards Level 4 (IG1326)) as a contributor.
Figure 1: TM Forum Autonomous Networks white paper 5.0 release
After the white paper release, he also delivered a keynote speech titled “Leading Africa’s Progress of Autonomous Network” at the Autonomous Networks summit in DTW 2023.
Figure 2: Mr. Mohamed Salah, Head of Network Operation and Transformation, MTN Group
MTN, the largest mobile network operator in Africa, provides voice, data, fintech, digital, enterprise, wholesale, and API services to more than 290 million customers in 19 markets.
During the speech, Mr. Mohamed Salah provided insights into MTN’s company strategy “Ambition 2025” and the technical strategy “PACE” (Platform, Agile, Connectivity, and Experience) which anchors to accelerating the PACE of Ambition 2025.
Within PACE, value-based automation is one of the most important pillars, and it is charged with the adaptation of autonomous networks into MTN’s network.
Strategy to Implementation Approach
From 2021, MTN has embarked on its journey to the Autonomous Networks. In 2023, MTN passed through the milestones of consensus & standardization and started to focus on commercial promotion. “For autonomous network implementation, we have a clear understanding that value-based automation is the key.”, introduced by Mr. Mohamed Salah.
A 3-D model of Service, Network, and Value Stream is used to select the value scenario, where service refers to service experience and service type (ToB/ToC/ToH/…), Network refers to the infrastructure (transport, IP, RAN, etc.) and Value Stream mainly refer to the operation flow. After the certain scenario passed the value scenario selection, it entered the 4-step iteration loop of the autonomous network level including assessment, Gap analysis, Solution Design, and Implementation to promote the autonomous network level of each scenario.
Up until 2023, MTN has implemented 21 autonomous network use cases in 5 OpCos. During the presentation, Mr. Mohamed Salah also introduced some of their cases cooperated with Huawei.
Intelligent load shedding management: South Africa is facing a power supply issue and suffering load shedding daily. In 2023, there were 1176 hours of total power outage up to week 29, which had a big effect on the network availability and customer satisfaction. Proactive management was implemented to address this challenge. With the load shedding plan from the power supplier and the network data such as traffic, and site location as input, the same make intelligent scheduling to for battery replacement, mobile generator deployment, and fuel refilling. The work orders are dispatched automatically to close timely in advance to avoid site outages.
After the system was implemented, the network availability improved by 4% compared with before.
Best experience mobile backhaul: NPS (Net Promoter Score) is important to MTN, to support this goal, a best experience mobile backhaul network is mandatory. Traffic engineering to avoid network congestion used to be a time-consuming and highly required workload. MTN implemented a network digital map to have real-time awareness of the network resource status information such as pack lost rate (PLR), site availability, link availability, etc. The dynamic paths are calculated and the traffic optimization engineering is carried out automatically. After this autonomous network use case was implemented, more than 12k times of automatic traffic engineering was done by the system, and network traffic increased by 15%. This automatic traffic engineering effectively avoids user traffic suppression caused by network congestion and provides important support for the network NPS.
At the end of his speech, Mr. Mohamed Salah shared the MTN autonomous network framework blueprint (2023) with the whole industry as a reference for all the attendees to know MTN’s strategy and practices in Autonomous Networks.