Operators’ plans for 5G network automation are ‘grinding to a halt’

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Operators are slowing investment and reducing their ambitions when it comes to network automation, according to new analysis from Rethink Technology Research.

Pulling back on 5G automation could mean losing out on significant benefits, Rethink warns.

Although some operators, particularly in the US and Asia, are making good progress, many reported that their plans for completion of self-organising networks (SON) have now slipped back to the mid-2020s. Globally, only 18% expect to have more than 40% of functions automated by the end of this year.

Just 14% expect to have more than 60% of processes automated by the end of 2020, down from 20% of respondents saying the same last year. This appears to suggest that respondents had been over-optimistic previously or that projects are stalled or harder than initially anticipated.

Losing the benefits

Rethink notes that most of the issues holding operators back relate to fear of organisational upheaval; immaturity of the technology; and an overall lack of urgency from operators.

The RAN automation is central to the 5G case – but is it a distant dream? Automation and SON deployments, trends to 2025 report warns that failure to properly see through the full automation of 5G will mean much of the business case for installing it in the first place will be lost.

“If operators fail to automate fully, their business case for 5G in the period to 2024 will be severely compromised – resulting in higher costs, less network flexibility, lower ROI on 5G RAN and on virtualisation,” the report concludes.