MTN, a prominent Communications Service Provider in Africa, is betting on Autonomous Networks (AN) to realize its Ambition 2025 vision of extending the benefits of modern connected life to everyone.

With a presence in 20 markets, 277.3 million subscribers and 117.4 active data users, MTN is the largest telcos in Africa. The telco recently launched Ambition 2025 strategy to accelerate growth and better leverage the value of its network assets and platforms.

MTN hopes to leverage AN to build the largest and most valuable platform business. This demands building mobile and fixed access networks across the consumer, enterprise and wholesale segments. This strategy will also help MTN to bring down network complexity to make it easier to manage network operations while evolving the network to meet the customers’ changing demands. Over the next few years, MTN anticipates that its network will be ready to provide next-generation services, including digital services, Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), fintech solutions and API marketplace.

The service providers are grappling with the challenge of network complexity and autonomous networks are emerging as a popular technology approach to address this. With the launch of 5G, more and more Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are facing the challenges presented by the co-existence of multiple RATs and growing kinds of service in toC/toH/toB Scenarios, and by introducing various new technologies such as cloud-native computing and Software-Defined Networking technologies. This leads to network and service complexity.

Essentially, intelligent autonomous networks enhance network efficiency and bring down this complexity. This approach is helping the CSPs provide superior network performance, ensure exceptional customer experience, enhance sustainability, and maximize the returns from network investment.

Defining Autonomous Network Strategy
MTN’s is targeting to use autonomous networks to realize its business goals of greater network efficiency and improved performance. This is in line with TM Forum‘s vision of Autonomous networks, which includes self-serving, self-fulfilling, self-assuring capabilities to provide zero wait, zero-touch and zero trouble experience.

The service provider believes that its autonomous networks framework will ensure the new service network readiness while enabling greater operational efficiencies. This framework is based on a foundation of best-in-class network infrastructure, which is required to provide network awareness and some decision capability on infrastructure. This is needed to support domain intelligence and autonomy with the manager, controller and analyzer in each autonomous domain.

"On the service layer, we focus on developing our new generation digital OSS platform as a digital engine to enable the man-machine collaboration. In the implementation of this framework, we are working on three main approaches: developing use cases, developing AN blueprint which guides all operations to realize MTN Group strategy and AN Level (ANL) evaluation to evaluate our ANL per each operating company," elaborated Mohamed Salah, Senior Manager at Network Operations Assurance, MTN Group. He was speaking at the recently concluded Fourth Wireless Autonomous Network Industry Forum during Huawei MBBF 2021.

The ANL evaluation includes a four-step loop including assessment, gap analysis, solution design and implementation. As of now, MTN is doing the ANL evaluation for South Africa and Ghana operations. Based on this strategy, MTN hopes to move the autonomous level from L1/L2 to the L4 milestone by 2025.

Defining Use Cases
During the evolution of use cases, MTN zeroed in on four major technical scenarios to consider before deciding on the use cases. "The first is network intelligence, which focuses on end-to-end intelligence on one particular service. The second is the digital twin, which provides accurate network information to planning, deployment, operations and management, optimization and business operation. The next is energy efficiency for carbon emission, and the last one is operation augmentation which is oriented to implement service closed loop in its layer," says Mohamed Salah.

Salah also elaborated on another use case is cross-domain fault handling automation, where the company hopes to achieve better operational savings and improved network availability with reduced field maintenance. Closed-loop automation is helping MTN record significant opex savings.

Globally, several CSPs, like MTN, have aggressively started leveraging Autonomous Networks to ensure better cost economics even as they modernize the networks to address the customers’ evolving demands. Autonomous networks strategy is likely to play a key role in MTN’s network digital transformation.

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