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5G will bring a new level of complexity which can be faced with the adoption AI to augment human capabilities together with automation in order to act in digital time, according to Henrique Vale, head of Nokia software for MEA. Telecom Review discussed 5G complexity with Vale in an exclusive interview and tackled Nokia’s role in the new digital era.

It is thought that the future of 5G requires the development of software-defined networking. To what extent do you agree?

SDN actually enables policy-driven, dynamic programmability of the abstracted underlying infrastructure. By programmatically defining and controlling the connectivity, quality of service (QoS) and associated security rules, it is possible to create enterprise processes as dynamically orchestrated service chains of virtualized functions. Furthermore, it provides the ability to instantaneously adapt to changing demands along with automatic application and/or modification of requisite policy controls. Thus, SDN works hand-in-hand with software virtualization to make the integrated enterprise infrastructure elastic, dynamic and secure.

However, with 5G, we should discuss beyond just SDN towards full 'Programmable Network Fabric'. The era of manually configured, static, closed networks has come to an end. The need to support new virtualized network infrastructure and millions of simultaneous virtual private services with dynamic flow identification and adaptation will drive the creation of a new “network OS” with cloud-like intelligent automation and scaling of myriad network slices with deterministic performance. Network slicing as key enabler for dynamic services in 5G will be end-to-end across the radio, transport, core edge and central clouds.

A truly Programmable Network Fabric will enable dynamic services, dynamic network optimization and multi-operator federation as key elements to 5G which is why Nokia fully leverages its end-to-end portfolio.

5G brings with it a huge amount of complexity. Do you think automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are required now more than ever to help deal with this level of complexity?

Digital service providers (DSPs) are already dealing with a large amount of complexity inherited from 20 years of technical evolution: radio layers addition (2G, 3G and then 4G), fixed-mobile convergence, virtualization of key functions of the core network, addition of e-services such as mobile-money, video-on-demand, security and so on. 5G will add another level of complexity, not only for managing the network but also to be able to deliver thousands of new services on demand (what we call 5G slices).

We reached a point where the limit of human capabilities has been reached to deal with such complexity of information and such amount of data. This is why AI is a must to assist DSPs in such diverse as network monitoring, service creation, customer analytics and predictive maintenance.

Artificial Intelligence is only one side of the coin and you need automation to respond in digital time to the fast-changing needs of the customers, to quickly fix a fault in the network and to create a new service being ordered online by a customer.

As a conclusion, 5G brings an extra level of complexity to an already very complex DSP environment. The way to deal with this challenge is to adopt AI to augment human capabilities together with automation in order to act in digital time.

Similarly, how is Nokia helping operators and service providers defend against the advanced and growing threat landscape?

The challenging nature of 5G networks to support unique and diverse business requirements of vertical sectors have rendered current network security less than adequate. For example, multi-tenancy in 5G networks, i.e. infrastructure sharing by multiple virtual network operators also known as network slicing will require strict isolation at multiple levels to ensure absolute security. These are just a few examples of security challenges out of the many that are anticipated in 5G networks. In addition, service specific security requirements must also be considered as the 5G ecosystem is anticipated to be service-oriented. For example, remote healthcare requires resilient and robust security while IoT demands lightweight security. Security requirements can therefore vary substantially.

In 5G networks, reliability does not only refer to the network infrastructure but also to ensuring high connectivity, infinite capacity and coverage (and other promised 5G features) anytime and anywhere. This implies a security makeover of how confidentiality, integrity and availability will be maintained and managed in 5G networks. Furthermore, the already high complexity of securing a network and its services has scaled up another notch with the introduction of SDN and NFV in 5G networks.

5G is a disruptive technology and global telecom’s biggest infrastructure upgrade challenge ever. This will require a huge amount of investment from operators and service providers. How is Nokia helping its customers scale up their business and monetize on their investment?

Service providers need to look into 5G with a different business mindset. 5G brings new business models and monetization use cases that go beyond the traditional B2C use cases which most of the current CSPs rely on as a main source of their revenue stream. 5G services will build on connectivity with capabilities such as guaranteed latency and bandwidth, network slices, and edge computing resources to support much more complex use cases and business models.

To address these use cases, service providers will need to develop (or acquire) new expertise or greatly expand their use of partners. Partners can play an important role in B2B2X scenarios, selling end solutions that incorporate offerings from the service provider and potentially several other partners. Many other models exist, including cases where the service provider takes the lead and sells solutions that include components from partners. Although they may represent a challenge to service providers, these approaches are not entirely new to them. After all, service providers have supported mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and sold in a simple bundled model with partners for many years. For example, Amazon offers cellular connectivity with Kindle subscriptions, rental car companies offer LTE hotspots with their vehicles, and security companies offer smart alarm systems and video feeds that utilize connectivity.

Finally, enabled by 5G, IoT use cases are expected to explode, and to cover an increasingly wide range of verticals with specific requirements that introduce new types of complexities. Service providers will need to be able to offer IoT services on a bigger scale, simplify productization of partner offers and roll these offers out much faster. They will also need to make these offers much more dynamic and granular than they are today to address the specific needs of each of the verticals.

Nokia software provides wide set of 5G monetization solutions in BSS/OSS space, e.g. service orchestration/network slicing, charging/billing solutions with partner portal for B2B2X across consumer/enterprise and IoT use cases, which are mandatory to start monetizing the 5G investment done by CSP in the network level.

Can you brief us on some customer experience management solutions that Nokia offers to telecom operators?

From a customer experience point of view, Nokia is a leader in the telco customer and network experience solutions domain. Our solutions in this space have helped both fixed and mobile operators drive their digital transformation initiatives around customer experience.

Nokia's approach to customer experience not only measures the customers’ experience at all touchpoints of their customer journey with the operator, but also incorporates the voice of the customer as a calibration mechanism, using advanced machine earning (ML)/AI. This allows operators to attain a proxy NPS which helps to have unprecedented clarity on their customer 360 and experience.

In the context of 5G, end user experience will be key. The mission critical use cases of 5G will make it mandatory for operators to have a business closed loop mechanism, which is all about having robust AI/ML driven solutions to track, measure and trigger actions in real or near-real time against quality of service or customer experience KPIs and SLAs.

Nokia is ready for this paradigm shift with its business closed loop solution comprising the Nokia Exp Center, Nokia Assurance Center, Nokia Orchestration Center and Nokia Autonomous Care.

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