GSMA is forging ahead with its live, in-person conference, Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, February 28 through March 3 braving the last vestiges of the Omicron wave. While attendance is not expected to reach the pre-pandemic levels of well over 100,000 attendees, show sponsors are hopeful for a reasonably well-attended event. Likewise, network evolution continues to march forward despite the ebbs and flows of the virus over the past two-plus years. Everyone in the industry is looking to 5G to improve the world situation as it looks to move forward from the pandemic. Whether it’s addressing the supply chain blockages, supporting hybrid work arrangements, joining the fight against climate change, and helping recovering economies grow the adoption of 5G technology is at the forefront.

The key themes of Mobile World Congress 2022 including 5G Connect, Advancing AI, CloudNet and Internet of Everything represent the key technology initiatives and challenges facing the telecom industry and in particular Network Operations and Engineering.

5G deployment is well underway in many places around the world with a quarter of the LTE operators having launched 5G by end of 2021 and the GSA (Global mobile Supplier Association) forecasts that more than 200 5G networks will have been deployed by the end of Q1 2022.  The cloudification of the 5G network poses new challenges for Network Operations and Engineering firstly, with visibility. Disaggregated network elements and services decomposed into literally hundreds microservices spread onto distributed compute resources must collectively work in together to deliver the ultra-low latency, very high bandwidth, ultra-reliability and device density capabilities promised by 5G. You can't manage what you cant see! That visibility challenge combined with the co-mingled needs of a converged network including legacy 3G, 4G, and fixed-line infrastructure further complicates this task.

The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning routines are viewed as essential to managing this new cloudified network as automation is needed to constantly tune cloud resources to meet the needs of various 5G enabled services and the resulting consumption of these services together with the demands of other traffic on the network. Indeed, AI and ML are being talked about with nearly every 5G conversation as they are in the hype stage. Accordingly, OEMS must do a good job of explaining exactly how these automated routines work and serve Network Operations and Engineering.

The CloudNet theme reflects what has been going on in the Enterprise space for many years and is now ramping up in the telecom world driven by 5G and Digitization. Multi-cloud and Open RAN also mean multi-vendors which falls on Network Operations and Engineering to have to manage this expanding set of vendors and ensure that the various interconnected clouds and virtualized components are all working together harmoniously.

Internet of Everything is a significant name change from the Internet of Things to signify the connection of people, devices, data, and interconnected processes and it certainly means something different for Network Operations and Engineering. As “things”, that is, devices are rolled out in ever-increasing numbers, how do you ensure high-quality services? Devices are not likely to call into Customer Support to raise a trouble ticket. Hence, the paradigm continues to shift from reactive to proactive and further onto a predictive and prescriptive approach to service assurance.

It is certainly a challenging time for the telecom industry and indeed the world at large with all that is going on as the effects of the pandemic linger for us both medically and economically. Moving on from the pandemic will mean action to take back what has been lost and using 5G technology can certainly help us. Having these challenges with 5G and network evolution to focus on as we emerge from the pandemic is likely a very good thing for all of us.

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