The ongoing growth of cellular wireless network applications creates new demand for emerging technologies. Fifth-generation (5G) wireless communication includes several network layers that leverage technology such as Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), network slicing, and cloud edge computing.
Within cloud-edges, the broader artificial intelligence (AI) industry is witnessing a migration of AI to the edge. According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the edge AI training and inference market for chipsets is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2020 to $10.7 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 35 percent.
Furthermore, new enterprise use cases place new performance, agility, and latency requirements on the network. These, along with the ongoing quest to drive new growth, are compelling the industry to shed human-intensive networks in favor of an intelligence-driven ecosystem.
5G network market development
According to the ABI assessment, telecom service providers are already actively expanding the utilisation of AI and machine learning (ML) beyond merely digitising internal and external interactions.
“Many communication service providers (CSPs) are already on a journey to become augmented service providers where AI augments human decision making for prediction, analysis, and new revenues,” said Don Alusha, senior analyst at ABI Research.
Rakuten, for example, has renamed its network operations centres (NOCs) to service experience centres (SECs) as it implements extreme automation for self-aware networks. In addition, Telefónica Tech is a new venture to incubate new growth based on AI/ML, cloud and IoT/big data.
“AI/ML capabilities enable the industry to leverage IT-oriented nimbleness and scale as they seek to manage the complexities of today’s networks and establish new commercial models,” Alusha adds.
New commercial models will need to complement existing asset-intensive environments where an understanding of the cost of goods sold, inventory turns, managing factories, and supply chains is key to success. In the new world of cloud, AI/ML, and software, technology vendors do not manufacture a product and sell it.
“They sell a capability. They sell knowledge. They create it at the same time they deliver it. The business model is different and so are the economics. DriveNets, Enea Openwave, Ericsson, HPE, and Nokia are some vendors among many others that are building software-centric ways of marketing and selling solutions. The point is that AI/ML-based platforms are re-shaping existing commercial models. The winners will be those who act decisively and thoughtfully,” Alusha says.
For CSPs, the continued maturity of AI/ML will be a key enabler of new value creation in their journey to become a digital service provider. Technology is a key pillar of that journey, but there are other key dimensions, that if not considered part of the overall digitalisation journey, may limit CSPs’ ability to capture the full value at stake.
Specifically, change management is critical and constitutes the bulk of the effort as CSPs embrace new ways of working. Equally important is to embrace openness and break the siloes, two sides of the same coin. CSPs that are investing in AI/ML-based platforms must consider that efficiency will come from sharing knowledge and embracing open platforms where APIs and data can be easily accessed.
Outlook for 5G and AI/ML applications growth
AI/ML, big data, and open APIs offer agility and the ability to drive innovation. Consequently, the new world in cellular must start with a foundation on software and API-led connectivity. The ability to harness the power of software-defined networking platforms and AI/ML capabilities are the future.
“This may well mean that, in addition to bolting on software and intelligent capabilities, CSPs need to learn how to build them as cloud-edges, Open RAN, and 5G core proliferates in the ecosystem,” Alusha concludes.
This is an emerging market where mobile network operators can differentiate their network services with value-added offerings. I believe that open innovation methodologies will enable service providers to engage their chosen technology partners that become part of evolving and expansive 5G ecosystems.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.