Vodafone trials network AI in Germany, Ireland

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Vodafone is trialling artificial intelligence to optimise network performance ahead of a commercial rollout next year.

The UK-based operator has been working on the trials in Germany and Ireland with Huawei and Cisco respectively.

The German trial involves a centralised self-organising network (C-SON) to identify the optimal conditions for voice over LTE to be delivered over a random selection 450 mobile cells.

The algorithm used took four hours to complete the project, something that would have taken an engineer two and a half months.

In Ireland, the operator is working with Cisco in what Vodafone described as the first trial using machine-learning algorithms in a C-SON to determine where 3G traffic will peak in the subsequent hour through monitoring data processing and pattern recognition.

Vodafone said all predictions to date have been correct, something that allows the network to self-configure and balance traffic between a group of cells.

Mobile download speeds improved by six percent through the relevant sites and the level of interference causing dropped calls, connecting issues and battery drain was also reduced, albeit by an unspecified figure.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture, said the operator was ensuring it was adhering to customer privacy requirements and said no data is used that could identify affected customers.

He added: "Vodafone customers could experience significant benefits from the use of machine learning in our networks.

"For instance, the network could identify if there is high traffic at a mobile cell site every Thursday at 8pm – perhaps generated by weekly concerts at a popular music venue – and automatically increase the cell’s capacity before people arrive, returning to normal after they go home.

"Customers would benefit from the uninterrupted ability to call, message or share videos and photos on social media throughout the night."

Tenorio revealed further machine learning trials are planned and that the operator expects to start using the technology in its commercial networks during the 2018/19 financial year.

Telenor is just one of the other operators exploring how artifical intelligence can improve its network performance.

A poll carried out by Capgemini earlier this month found operators were leading the charge in large-scale AI deployments, but Gartner has warned its potential could be derailed by hyped up expectations.