March 5, 2024

The 5G rubber is about to meet the road. Why network digitalisation will make for a smoother ride.

Justin Head

Founder, Executive Vice-Chairman

An essential paradigm shift

Across the world, the ever increasing numbers of mobile subscribers - combined with their strong demand for next-generation technologies - is putting unprecedented pressure on digital infrastructure companies to deliver cost effectively for the digital era. Amid rising costs and corporate sustainability targets, the higher bandwidth and energy demands from 5G mobile technology means tower companies (towercos) and mobile network operators (MNOs) must revolutionise their network operations to deliver reliable and efficient connectivity.

The impending dominance of 5G, expected by the GSMA to account for over half of global connections by 20301, is looming large. Take a typical emerging market - Sub-Saharan Africa for example – which has nearly 350 million subscriptions projected by 20282. For this region, and many others around the world, the stakes couldn't be higher.

As the GSMA highlights, many inefficiencies within the wider telecom industry are cell tower specific, hidden deep within the tower network infrastructure. These inefficiencies slow operations, drain power, and ultimately hinder the ability to meet rising connectivity demands efficiently. They are particularly acute in Southeast Asia and Africa, where the tower network size has expanded rapidly to support the growing coverage needs.

Harnessing these inefficiencies will help transform assets and optimise them for efficiency, performance and revenue generation. To do so, however, requires sophisticated tools. Tower networks, with their intricate web of multiple technology generations, present a complex management challenge. 

This is where network digitalisation and the application of remote AI-driven solutions like PowerX come into play, offering a route for simplified and efficient operations in a complex landscape. It’s an opportunity for towercos to make a paradigm shift - one that is essential to delivering the connectivity needed for the world’s increasingly digital lifestyles and work practices.

The triad of AI network management - visibility, insights, and action

Network operational success hinges on three interlinked components: comprehensive visibility, deep insights, and decisiveaction. 

The effectiveness of AI solutions like PowerX lies in its ability to offer a panoramic view of a network's landscape. But PowerX doesn't just offer a glimpse into the network landscape; it provides a full-blown panoramic view, uncovering hidden inefficiencies and paving the way for continuous improvement.

This enterprise-wide visibility spans various power assets, vendors, and data sources - facilitating a level of benchmarking that drives continual improvements. Hidden inefficiencies are revealed by analysing billions of data points across the network and by enabling comparisons across different dimensions — be they rectifier efficiency, data quality from RMS providers, or site performance by region.  

Such deep insights are derived from advanced data analytics, automating the extraction of actionable intelligence at every levelo f the organisation - providing operators with precise optimisation opportunities. From equipping field engineers with detailed diagnostics to highlighting energy inefficiencies and guiding operational decisions, AI transforms vast data into a roadmap for efficiency. These insights not only illuminate areas for immediate improvement, such as energy losses from underperforming rectifiers or generator load inefficiencies but also help prioritise strategic resource allocation and capital expenditures.

The culmination of this next-generation network management process is in the execution of informed actions, where AI-driven platforms blend autonomous control with manual oversight to ensure seamless issue resolution. By integrating with existing business processes, these solutions prioritise and manage improvements, dynamically adjusting site parameters for optimal performance and sustainability. This blend of automation and human intervention ensures that even when AI cannot fully automate an improvement, the pathway to resolution is streamlined and efficient.

The sustainable elephant in the room

But for towercos and MNOs, it’s not just about preparing their networks for the meteoric rise of 5G, or meeting the need to free up resources from network management and direct them toward network expansion and upgrading. Rapid growth, operational inefficiencies, and a continued reliance on diesel sit badly with the ambitious sustainability goals demanded by tower owners, tenants and their customers.

The network visibility provided by PowerX helps power managers identify inefficiencies such as unexpected diesel consumption spikes (indicating fuel theft or leaks), backup policy violations by batteries,or solar panel efficiency drops due to dust accumulation. Our experience shows that digitalising operations with AI and technologies such as data analytics, machine learning (ML), and automation can boost renewable asset utilisation by at least 10%, leading to a 20%-30% reduction in diesel use and corresponding emissions. By boosting renewable asset utilisation and reducing diesel consumption, we're not only cutting emissions but also setting new industry benchmarks for sustainability.

Remote AI network management isn't just a game-changer; it's a lifeline for thetelecommunications industry. With its capacity to drive efficiency, ensure reliability, and promote sustainability, it's the key to unlocking the future of network growth and management. The 5G juggernaut may be accelerating – but digitalising and optimising networks will keep it from running us all over.  


1 GSMA: The Mobile Economy 2023, p3

2 50 million 5G subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa by the close of 2028. GlobalComms Database, cited by Pete Bell, Research Analyst for TeleGeography GlobalComms Database

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