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Ericsson’s Intelligent Automation Platform designed to cover all RAN bases

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The Swedish vendor says platform in line with Open RAN principles but also works with existing 4G and 5G nets

Ericsson has launched an Intelligent Automation Platform which it says is an open service management and orchestration (SMO) product. It is designed to help communications service providers (CSPs) optimise network performance, improve operational efficiency and provide customer experience.

The vendor is not exactly in the vanguard of Open RAN development, but claims this platform’s service management and orchestration functionalities are “in line with Open RAN principles, taking automation forward with support for diverse vendors and multiple radio access network technologies”.

Open scepticism

Neil McRae, MD Architecture & Strategy, BT Group Chief Architect, has openly expressed scepticism regarding some claims about the potential cost savings that can be derived from Open RAN any time soon

He is cited by Ericsson saying, “I’m pleased to see that Ericsson is launching the Intelligent Automation Platform for automating networks, based on the O-RAN Alliance Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) concept.

“Ericsson’s vision to extend that SMO concept to support both Open RAN and existing 4G and 5G networks, using a single operational pane-of-glass is an innovative approach.”

Rakuten Mobile, which is looking to massively disrupt the Japanese mobile market, has made dramatic claims about how much Open RAN could save operators – 40% on normal capital expenditure and 30% on typical operating costs.

At the moment though, it is racking up huge losses. Quarterly operating losses across the parent Rakuten e-commerce empire were JPY39.8 billion (306 million) at the end of Q3, up from JPY7.5 billion (57.6 million) a year earlier.

Rakuten Mobile itself reported losses of about JPY105 billion (€80.6 million) at the end of Q3, up by more than 70% since the corresponding quarter last year but sales were only 20% higher – about JPY55 billion (422 million).

Nothing daunted, but in fairness, starting from a very different base, fellow European operator groups Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, TIM and Vodafone signed an MoU earlier this year to demonstrate their commitment to Open RAN, which they followed up with a technical specification for it.

Japanese competition

Toshikazu Yokai is Executive Officer, Chief Director of Mobile Technology at KDDI, which directly competes with Rakuten Mobile. He is also quoted by Ericsson and goes further: “KDDI recognises the importance of…SMO and automation to achieve optimal network operations across multi-vendor, purpose-built RAN and Open RAN environments.

“SMO combined with an open software-development toolkit (SDK) has the potential to drive application (rApps) innovation and diversity, unleashing CSP, telecommunications vendor and third-party software provider innovation to optimise network performance, improve operational efficiency and drive superior customer experiences.

“KDDI expects SMO and the Non-Real-Time RAN Intelligent Controller (Non-RT-RIC) to fine-tune RAN behaviour and to assure [service level agreements] dynamically based on slice specific service requirements. KDDI looks forward to collaborating with Ericsson to explore the potential of these solutions.”

Analyst's view

Sue Rudd, Director Networks and Service Platforms, Strategy Analytics, adds, “Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform brings scalability, performance and operations simplicity to the increasingly complex environment of mobile networks, including purpose-built and Open RAN.

“Ericsson’s long-demonstrated expertise in radio networking and end-to-end network slicing, in parallel with its active participation in the O-RAN Alliance and leadership in ONAP network automation, have enabled it to create this powerful platform to assist customers to maximize their ROI through smart delivery of high-quality services to their end-customers.

“Ericsson’s proven record of multi-vendor service orchestration and open operations automation make it an excellent partner for rApps developers and systems integrators who can leverage this unique toolkit and development environment.”