• 11 min read

AI for telecommunications with Azure for Operators

Recent advancements in generative AI are transforming how we interact with technology, as we embark on a new era of intelligence, working and co-reasoning with AI. This new era of AI and transformation brings enormous potential to impact every sector of the economy.

Accelerating telecommunications transformation in the new era of AI

Recent advancements in generative AI are transforming how we interact with technology, as we embark on a new era of intelligence, working and co-reasoning with AI. This new era of AI and transformation brings enormous potential to impact every sector of the economy. McKinsey, for example, predicts that generative AI could contribute a staggering 2.6 to 4.4 trillion USD annually to the global economy by 2040.1

Combined with the future cloud and the power of modern mobile networks, the telecommunications industry is no exception when it comes to bold transformation possibilities. AI-powered innovation will radically accelerate the digital transformation of network operators, improving digital customer experiences, helping to monetize 5G investments, and creating new revenue streams with more value at the edge. AI will also drive improvements to network automation and insights, enhancing both employee decision-making and service assurance simultaneously.

In many ways, the scope of AI’s influence on telecommunications will be both pervasive and profound.

Microsoft is uniquely positioned to support telco’s network transformation

Microsoft continues to be uniquely positioned to support telco network transformation and to pave the way for operators to leverage the power of AI. Our generative AI models have already been securely deployed in many scenarios across Microsoft, including helping to simplify the management of our core infrastructure, and this is just the start.

Microsoft’s Azure for Operators has a long history of supporting telcos through the process of digital transformation and cloud migration. Our hybrid cloud solutions have enabled the modernization and monetization of network infrastructure. Through programmable, open networks, we’ve automated operations with modern connected applications. Now, we’re supporting the development and adoption of AI/ML tools to increase operator efficiencies and elevate customer experiences.

And because of our spirit of collaboration, Microsoft continues to help telecom operators to evolve. Given our extensive partnerships across the industry, together with our deep in-house expertise, we offer the best way forward for telecom operators to embrace AI, advance their digital transformation, and unlock new revenue through the use of leading-edge technologies.

What is new in Azure for Operators

At MWC Barcelona, we announced the broadest of our AfO portfolio offerings for telecom operators, enterprises, and developers.

Enabling operators to realize the value of AI today with Operator Insights and Operator Service Manager

At MWC Barcelona 2023, we announced the public preview of our AIOps offers for operators—Azure Operator Insights and Azure Operator Service Manager. These products will be generally available November 1, 2023. With these offers, we are helping telecom operators to drive efficiency, speed, and accuracy in network operations with automation and AI.

Azure Operator Insights provides unified visibility from disaggregated telecom data sources for end-to-end analytical and business insights. Customers can realize business value with operations powered by AI and machine learning (ML) and built on trust with carrier-grade scalability and reliability.

We are also announcing the private preview of Copilot in Azure Operator Insights enables network engineers to interact with the insights provided by Azure Operator Insights in natural language, giving simple explanations of what the data means and offering next-step actions to take as indicated by the state of the network. Copilot in Azure Operator Insights is a game changer for network engineers, enabling them to resolve network issues more quickly and accurately while improving customer satisfaction.

Other key features added in Azure Operator Insights since the public preview include:

  • Adoption of a state-of-the-art data mesh architecture that provides extensibility through domain-specific data products that can be provided by Microsoft or partners, such as Accenture and Amdocs that are currently developing these extensions.
  • Each data product uses Smart Triage to quickly notify users about anomalies or degradations in KPIs, reducing time to identify and remediate network issues.
  • Data product integration with the Azure Purview data catalog to ensure easy discoverability of data.

Azure Operator Insights enables our partner ecosystem to develop data products with us, allowing them to bring their strengths and technologies to the AOI platform.

“Together with Microsoft, umlaut, part of Accenture, will collaborate with Three UK to troubleshoot and improve its network performance, drive cost reductions, and enrich customer experiences. Drawing on its deep industry expertise, Accenture will harness AIOps powered by Azure Operator Insights to deliver new business value to Three UK.” —Hakan Ekmen, Global Networks Lead, Communications Industry at Accenture & Global CEO umlaut Telecommunications

We are thrilled to continue working with Microsoft to accelerate the automation of network operations with our end-to-end NetOps solution,” said Anthony Goonetilleke, Group President of Technology and Head of Strategy, Amdocs.“By bringing together Azure Operator Insights (AOI) with our generative-AI enhanced Network Platform for Operations (NPO), we’ll be able to better provide service providers with the data they need to visualize, proactively manage and optimize their network operations.”

“Three UK is focused on enhancing their customer experience by gaining real time visibility on how customers are interacting with the network when consuming data intensive services such as: streaming, gaming, and social media. With Azure Operator Insights, 3UK can unlock actionable insights on network health and customer experience quality of service, a process that previously took weeks or months to assess, will now be possible to perform in minutes. Now that the product is GA, the opportunity to develop new use cases is even more exciting. Our engineering and operations team now have the tools they need to start taking proactive measures to improve network and customer quality.” —Iain Milligan, Chief Network Officer, 3UK

Check out this blog and embedded video to learn how Three UK is unlocking actionable intelligence with Azure Operator Insights.

Read more about AI’s impact on telecom networks in this whitepaper.

Azure Operator Service Manager transforms the operator service management experience into a modern cloud service. With Azure native abstractions, you can simplify complex service deployments; with Azure Safe Deployment practices, you can ensure carrier-grade service reliability. Leverage unified automation of configuration and software to accelerate operator service innovation and drive service monetization.

Key features added since public preview:

  •  Expanded Support for Azure for Operator Platforms and services—Including GA capabilities to manage end-to-end platform lifecycle for Azure Operator Nexus, Azure private MEC, Azure Private 5G Core, Azure Communications Gateway, and Azure Operator 5G Core. Ubiquitous Azure platform support allows operators to realize a reduction in operational process duration, for both deployments and updates, even in hybrid environments. Deep integration with Azure for Operators services allows operators to replace error-prone manual service management methods with carrier-grade automated and intelligent operations.
  • Improved onboarding tools and expanded the Azure Operator Nexus Ready and certification programs catalog to support industry leading partners. Operators can reduce partner self-service onboarding efforts with new Azure CLI for publisher operations, accelerating time to market for new customer experiences.

Azure Operator Insights and Azure Operator Service Manager (AOSM) are AI-enabling existing operator networks as well as Microsoft services purpose-built for operators, such as Azure Operator Nexus, Azure Voice Communications Gateway, and Azure Operator 5G Core.

“The upcoming AOSM launch marks a significant milestone for Microsoft, that will enable AT&T to deploy our 5G network functions using AOSM on Azure Operator Nexus. AOSM accelerates AT&T’s ability to embrace modern cloud native operational practices allowing us to continue our evolution towards higher levels of automation, achieve higher levels of efficiency, and deliver even better customer experiences faster.” —Igal Elbaz, Senior Vice President and Network CTO, AT&T

Modernize networks with Azure Operator Nexus

Just over a month ago, we announced the general availability of Azure Operator Nexus, as well as new enhancements. Azure Operator Nexus is a next-generation, carrier-grade, hybrid platform built to empower telecom operators to modernize and transform their networks. It enables operators to use cloud technology to modernize and monetize their network investments—lowering total cost of ownership (TCO), driving operational efficiency and resiliency with advanced AI and automation, and improving the security of highly distributed, software-based networks.

Deploy an all-G packet core with Azure Operator 5G Core

Delivering a secure, cloud-managed, scalable solution is just the beginning for early customers trialing our latest mobile core developments. Seeking to accelerate digital transformation means not only bringing the workloads to the cloud but also enabling the development of new offerings to customers. In combination with key Microsoft technologies like Operator Nexus, Operator Insights, and Operator Service Manager, along with an extensive network of partners, telco operators can create a modern mobile core that leverages the right combination of functionality and data insights for the business.

 Whether it is support for “Any G” from 2G to 5G cores deployed on the operator core, on the operator edge, or in the Azure cloud, operators are not only getting choice, but also reliability, capacity, and performance. By leveraging incorporated automation for lifecycle management (LCM) and safe deployment practices with Azure DevOps along with​​ integration with other Azure services, operators can use AI and machine learning to increase efficiencies while offering solutions for common use cases like consumer wireless, IoT, and fixed wireless.

Azure Communications Gateway evolves for use beyond Operator Connect

Earlier this year, we announced the general availability of Azure Communications Gateway, a native Azure service for telecom operators to connect their fixed and mobile networks to Microsoft Teams. Since the announcement, we have continued to enhance the service, including the following additions:

  • Mobile Control Point, an application server providing intelligent call routing for Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile, is now being made available as a feature of Communications Gateway. 
  • Support for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, enabling a single ACG deployment to be used to support the complete suite of Teams PSTN connectivity—Direct Routing to multiple enterprises, Operator Connect, and Teams Phone Mobile.
  • Support for multiple UCaaS platforms, providing operators with a single gateway to connect their networks to communications solutions such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom Phone.

To read more about these enhancements to Azure Communications Gateway, visit our Tech Community blog.

Enable modern connected applications with Azure private MEC

Azure private multi-access edge compute (MEC) combines network functions, including 4G and 5G applications, and edge-optimized Azure services to deliver high-performance, low-latency solutions that address the modern business needs of enterprise customers. The Azure global cloud platform, connectivity, and ecosystem of partners and application developers allows operators, systems integrators, and developers to offer innovative enterprise solutions across a broad range of industries.

We are committed to our mission to simplify the deployment of modern connected applications at enterprises that leverage private 4G and 5G networking on local edge compute. To that end, we have added several new capabilities to Azure private MEC and  Azure Private 5G Core. These updates include management enhancements and new platform support for deployment on Azure Stack Edge Pro 2. We have also introduced configurability enhancements to ensure that wireless operators have the flexibility to make rapid changes in the field. UE usage tracking is now available via Azure Event Hubs, Power BI, or Azure Stream Analytics to provide intuitive visibility into network performance. Further details are available here

Our partner ecosystem continues to grow! Below are some of the recent partner solutions we have added to Azure Marketplace:

  • Deutsche Telekom launched their “Campus Network Smart” solution, running on Azure private MEC. Deutsche Telekom delivers a complete campus network build-out, which includes planning, the building of the private network using Azure services with radio access network components, as well as operations offered as a packaged managed service.
  • Invia Robotics Warehouse Automation solution provides intelligent warehouse optimization systems for e-commerce and manufacturing warehouses, to increase efficiency and accuracy. NSION Core™ Platforms are an Azure Cloud Cluster, EDGE-Stack, and private MEC network compatible system that enables cross-network and organizational utilization of true real-time video and data to deliver real-time analytics.
  • Synch Push to Talk from Meep is a secure, cloud-based unified communications suite for real-time Push to Talk (voice), video, chat, and location-based services. Synch boosts efficiency, productivity, and safety by providing collaboration solutions for groups and users.
  • Syniverse Global SIM, a platform as a service (PaaS), provides coverage in over 200 countries, complete control over cellular data, and precision policy management over every device.
  • Developed by CTOne, Trend Micro™ Mobile Network Security is a turnkey solution that helps enterprises secure private mobile applications while they implement 5G new technologies for digital transformation.
  • FarmGrid from Trilogy Networks converges wireless connectivity, device data access, and AI-powered solutions on a unified platform to accelerate data-driven farming and automation.
  • Unmanned Life offers a software platform for the orchestration of robotics, leveraging AI, 5G, and MEC to deploy, control, and orchestrate hybrid robotic devices. U-Security connects and deploys fleets of drones for security surveillance and inspection rounds of enterprise facilities and public environments.

Watch this video to learn more about the Azure private MEC ISV program, and complete this form to register for the program.

Azure Programmable Connectivity is simplifying access to operator network APIs for developers

At the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona (February 2023), we announced the private preview of Azure Programmable Connectivity (APC) to accelerate the development of network-aware applications and simplify access to Network APIs. As part of the early access program for proof-of-concepts, APC has been integrated with several of the top public operators worldwide to provide a simple experience for developers. We have seen tremendous activity with our early adoption partners.

Here are some of our early adopter partners who have integrated APC into their solutions:

  • Broadpeak is leveraging APC to dynamically deploy video streaming servers where and when the demand is, allowing them to request a temporary boost of throughput when needed.
  • CloudHawk UltraSense integrates 5G technology alongside state-of-the-art localization Network APIs via APC for precise real-time tracking, even in demanding indoor and densely populated environments.
  • Colony’s CloudOne carrier and device-agnostic platform feature a self-serve dashboard for Telcos/MSPs and Enterprises, providing automated provisioning, advanced network monitoring, and Wi-Fi management capabilities.

“Colony’s implementation of the Azure Programmable Connectivity (APC) location and forthcoming QoS/QoD APIs extends our existing functionality, unlocking geofencing alerts and network slicing for fixed wireless and fleet deployments.” —Michael Kuhlman, CEO, Colony

  • Halo lets you book an electric car, remotely driven to you with ease. Halo has integrated Quality on Demand (QoD) API into their cars. Halo activates the QoD when needed, saving resources without compromising performance.

“APC allows us to use QoS to be agnostic of the network areas underneath so we can hit one API in any environment, any region, any country.” —Anand Nandakumar, Founder and CEO, Halo

  • MATSUKO’s innovative technology streams people as 3D holograms with one camera, creating the feeling of physical presence and emotional connection in remote communication. Azure APC enables access to QoD network APIs from multiple operators, for smooth and natural movement of holograms on 5G.  
  • Summit Tech’s Odience 360° delivers high-quality interactive event experiences to virtual audiences. Using APC to access QoD APIs, enterprises can stream broadcast-quality 360 Virtual Reality 8K video at sustained high bandwidth and low latencies to users. 
  • Turing Challenge’s 5G MEC Airports solution employs drones for quick and automated runway inspections. The system detects objects in real time, raising alerts instantly via a prioritized 5G communication network using APC, ensuring safety and minimizing latency.

Microsoft is excited to be a premium sponsor for CAMARA. Working together across industries is crucial to accelerate the adoption of new network capabilities by the next generation of network-aware apps.

Watch this video and go here to learn more about Azure Programmable Connectivity. Developers interested in learning more can complete this form.

Learn More

  • Contact the Azure for Operators team to learn more about solutions and products for your organization.
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  1. AI could increase corporate profits by $4.4 trillion a year, according to new research