Anomaly detection: using AI to identify, prioritise and resolve network issues

Anomaly detection: efficiently identifying and resolving issues across mobile networks is vital for the success of any CSP or MNO. With 5G network deployment ramping up, and beyond that, work towards autonomous networks, the use of AI to handle anomalies is vital. In this article, Amr Ashraf, RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer, describes how CSPs can more efficiently identify and resolve the real issues hidden amongst all the noise.

Identifying the real issues hiding in all the noise

Data volumes are only going in one direction – there are substantial increases in data volume as more people connect online, with more devices, more solutions move to the cloud, continued changes in customer behaviour and movement of people and information across society, and more and more daily interactions move online. This increased volume of data also provides far greater noise for cyber threats to hide within. Whilst networks continue to perform well, and meet demand, efficient use of resources will become ever more important.

New tools and approaches are needed to be able to identify and resolve issues in all the noise.

Data from Statista, image credit World Economic Forum.

Anomaly detection and resolution: the role of AI

AI and ML provide the vital tools to handle this ever-growing volume of data. Soon – if not already – there will simply be too much data to analyse everything – but we can use AI to identify the unusual issues and outliers, and dig deeper into these anomalies.


The AI Hierarchy of Needs, Monica Rogati 2017
“How do we use AI and machine learning to get better at what we do?”. M.Rogati placed anomaly detection as a vital transformational step in providing a solid foundation for data before being effective with AI and ML.

Digis Squared & anomaly detection

Digis Squared’s INOS AI tool is a vendor-agnostic, multi-network-technology solution delivering automated assessment, testing and optimisation of networks, across all technologies. The data collected by INOS is analysed in the cloud-based AI engine, and it is here where anomalies are detected, assessed and actioned.

INOS: Three data collection methods

“INOS collects data in the field by one of three methods – a traditional “suitcase” format for drive testing, or a highly mobile backpack which can be used in narrow streets, or walking through shopping malls for example,” explains Amr Ashraf, RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer. “And this paper focusses on the third method, the static INOS active probe, and how the data it collects is analysed and actioned.”

A background image of a green landscape is overlaid with icons and photos of equipment. INOS

INOS active probe

“The active probe is a static box which is typically deployed inside a building – maybe a corporate HQ, a high-profile area within an airport, or a new business facility. Perhaps the location is selected because the CSP wants to proactively support a new VIP client, gather KPI data, or improve SLAs. Once deployed, the probe continuously monitors the networks, and data is streamed to the INOS platform in the cloud, where it is analysed by the INOS AI engine.”

“In the first step of the analysis, the data collected by the INOS active probe is used to identify QoE – the quality of experience – problems experienced by mobile devices in the probe. INOS will assess the data and carry out root-cause investigations to identify the fault that led to the problem. This is accomplished by gathering various performance measurements from several layers – the network, hardware, link, and operating system – which are then aggregated and delivered to INOS cloud.”

“To put it more specifically, the probe regularly initiates a test scenario while recording network, hardware, link, and OS measurements. Given that QoE problems can come from a variety of locations along the path, measuring the performance of each layer enables not only the detection of QoE problems, but also the determination of the problem’s root cause. A database on the INOS cloud receives aggregated metrics as soon as they are made available.”

Why use active probes?

“One of the best ways to understand how the end-user perceives the performance from beginning to end is using probes. They offer real-time and historical end-to-end call tracing, KPIs that continuously track network health and customer experience, and proactive alarming (QoE).”

“The two basic methods—probe measurements—that can improve performance and enrich end-to-end analysis (from the user terminal to the core network) are active and passive probe measurements, Because they give detailed information that enables service operators to assess the service quality across various transport technologies, probes play a significant role in the ever-increasing complexity of modern telecom networks.”

“By defining some parameters, the INOS probe uses AI models to detect anomalies in any field KPIs. For example, parameters such as deviation parentage and time windows can be used to calculate the deviation value. The example below for RSRP in LTE takes this approach, and identifies a deviation of 20%.”

INOS report of RSRP in LTE, identifying an anomaly with 20% deviation

“Additionally, INOS is able to assess data from other channels, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter and email, and can assess behaviour of those apps for network anomalies too.”

Telegram Notification for a customer with certain Anomaly Detection

“To achieve the goal of end-to-end quality metrics, these probe measurements should be connected with numerous node-to-node performance data as well as customer data,” explains Amr.

“An integral view from the customer, network, service, or terminal perspective is provided by Digis Squared’s in-house developed INOS and RAI tools. Together these two AI-tools can proactively manage the network by continuously monitoring end-to-end KPIs, created from various perspectives in the network. They can immediately identify any deteriorating trends and anomalies, for example, dropped-call ratio and set-up times.”

“All Digis Squared’s tools are vendor agnostic – networks are such a complex mix of solutions, that our tools simply have to be able to work with and analyse data from all vendors. And, of course, they also handle data from all network technologies, legacy 2G platforms through to 5G, they’re designed for all of this.”

Prioritization: counter-intuitive approaches are sometimes best

The costs and impacts associated with low and medium-severity anomalies may be far greater than the total cost of high-severity issues – smaller issues are often harder to detect, and take longer to identify and implement a fix, so their compounded cost can be higher. AI can help ensure counter-intuitive approaches to assessing priority can be handled without bias.

“A proactive approach can save money in addition to ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction by reducing the number of trouble tickets and so optimizing resource allocation. The pre-defined INOS reports’ ability to show service quality makes root-cause investigation possible across all network layers.”

“Today, the Digis Squared AI tools are able to continuously receive data from active probes in the network, identify anomalies and negative trends. They are also able to identify root cause, and propose recommended solutions to fix the issue. Working with our clients, in some installations we enable those recommended fixes to be automatically implemented, ensuring that frequently occurring minor issues are identified and resolved automatically. Of course, all issues are included in reporting. This approach ensures that staff do not need to intervene in the mundane, predictable issues, and can instead focus on assessing the recommendations the system makes for more complex issues.”

Anomaly handling and autonomous networks

The use of AI in anomaly detection and, critically, resolution, has great value for legacy technologies, and even greater value for new technologies and transformations. It’s a vital step in network function virtualization (NFV), cloud-native computing (CNC) and software-defined networking (SDN) technologies. And provides important preparation for CSPs as they ready their organizations for operations based on autonomous networks.

“The Digis Squared INOS active probes are a vital tool in providing high-quality data on background network behaviour and performance,” shared Amr. “Using this, our AI tools are able to continuously assess the streamed data and identify anomalies, assess their root cause, and then propose and implement recommended actions. AI solutions like this will soon be the only way in which CSPs can efficiently identify and resolve the real issues hidden amongst all the vast quantities of noise.”

Find out more about INOS

INOS can be implemented as a public or private cloud, or on-premise solution, and is also available as a “Radio Testing as-a-service” model. Its extensive AI analysis and remote OTA capabilities ensure speedy and accurate assessment of all aspects of network testing: SSV, in-building and drive testing, network optimization and competitor benchmarking, across all vendors, network capabilities and technologies, including 5G, private networks and OpenRAN.

INOS is built with compute resources powered by Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors. Digis Squared is a Partner within the Intel Network Builders ecosystem program, and a member of the Intel Partner Alliance.

In conversation with Amr Ashraf, Digis Squared’s RAN and Software Solution Architect and Trainer.

If you or your team would like to discover more about our capabilities, please get in touch: use this link or email hello@DigisSquared.com

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Digis Squared ◦ Enabling smarter networks.

UK in Angola Week: 5G Private Networks

Inaugural UK in Angola week

The first UK in Angola Week will be a celebration of all British Trade & Investment in Angola, jointly hosted by UK Department for International Trade (DIT) and UK Angola Chamber of Commerce, and accompanied by His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to Angola, John Humphrey, and His Majesty’s Ambassador to Angola, Roger Stringer MBE.

As part of this activity, Digis Squared CEO Ziad Khalil, Marketing Director Gwen Edwards, and Managed Services Director Mostafa Adel, will be in Luanda supporting the “UK in Angola” events. With our partners Africell Angola, we’ll be leading an exclusive briefing on Private Networks, and the benefits this new mobile technology will bring to Angola’s businesses.

Specializing in mobile telecoms, Digis Squared have 50 staff in Angola, and a multi-year contract with Africell Angola for the full end-to-end Managed Service of their entire mobile network.

The full details of all events are listed below, and also in this pdf. Capacity at each event is limited, please RSVP to Eden Clayton, DIT Angola Country Director Eden.Clayton@fcdo.gov.uk by 25th November.

Details of the 5G Private Networks event hosted by Africell and Digis Squared,

  • Tuesday 29th November, 14:00-16:00: Africell Angola & Digis Squared
  • 5G Private Networks will deliver dedicated, high capacity, high speed, secure, campus-wide connectivity for Angolan industries, on standard 5G devices, with seamless use in/out of normal mobile networks. Join this dedicated mobile telecoms session, led by Africell and Digis Squared, to discover more.
  • Location: Hotel Tropico, Luanda
  • Please RSVP to Eden Clayton, DIT Angola Country Director: Eden.Clayton@fcdo.gov.uk by 25th November.

Monday 28th November

  • 13:00-16:00: Introductory event hosted by His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to Africa, John Humphrey, and His Majesty’s Ambassador to Angola, Roger Stringer.
  • This event is targeted at UK companies visiting Angola, and will feature an introduction to the Angolan Business Environment featuring a presentation on the Angolan Legal System by Eversheds Sutherlands and an overview of Angolan Business Culture.
  • Location: Hotel Tropico, Luanda
  • 18:00-20:00: Welcome Reception, hosted by the UK Angola Chamber of Commerce, sponsored by Sanlam Angola. All delegates are welcome to attend this event.
  • Location: To be confirmed

Tuesday 29th November

  • 10:00-12:00: Mining Roundtable Session: “Developing Angola’s Mining Capacity”.
  • The agenda for this session will include discussions on developing human capital, building the industry’s service sector, and the digitalisation of the sector.
  • Location: Hotel Tropico, Luanda
  • 14:00-16:00: Africell Angola & Digis Squared (Digis2) ◦ Enabling smarter networks Presentation on Private 5G Networks
  • 5G Private Networks will deliver dedicated, high capacity, high speed, secure, campus-wide connectivity for Angolan industries, on standard 5G devices, with seamless use in/out of normal mobile networks. Join this dedicated mobile telecoms session, led by Africell and Digis Squared, to discover more.
  • Location: Hotel Tropico, Luanda
  • 18:00-21:00: Screening of England v Wales in the Fifa Men’s World Cup at the British Embassy Luanda. Informal networking event with food and drink provided, delivered in association with Energy, Capital & Power
  • Location: British Embassy Luanda

Wednesday 30th November

  • 10:00-12:00: HMTC John Humphrey to appear as a panel member on the Renewable Energy & Hydrogen Roundtable at the Angola Oil & Gas Conference
  • Location: Intercontinental Hotel, Miramar
  • 18:00-20:00: St Andrew’s Day Evening Reception, sponsored by KCA Deutag.
  • Location: British Embassy Luanda 

How to succeed at MWC (how not to fail)

How to succeed at MWC (how not to fail)

A presentation made by Gwen Edwards, Digis Squared Marketing Director, at GSMA HQ, London, as part of an exclusive briefing on 17th November 2022.

Please find the link to a pdf of her slides, with extra notes, here.

Digis Squared will be in Hall 7 at GSMA MWC23 in Barcelona, exhibition stand 7B23, part of the UK Pavilion, managed by Tradefair.

About this exclusive briefing

The briefing, on 17th November 2022, was aimed at helping UK companies exhibiting or visiting MWC/4YFN 2023 to maximise their presence and optimise their RoI at MWC Barcelona 2023.

Making the most of MWC Barcelona 2023. Making the most of MWC Barcelona 2023. A view over the roof tops of a city (Barcelona) with some graphics over the top

The event was jointly hosted by Tradefair and XL Communications in partnership with the GSM Association and the UK Department for International Trade, at the new GSMA HQ in London, 17th November 2022.

Presentations were also made by Chris Bignell Director at XL Communications Ltd, Peter Jarich Head of GSMA Intelligence, Nick Spencer Head of Marketing & Event Content at GSMA, William Neil Director of Sales MWC & GSMA Intelligence, and Mark Birchall MD of Tradefair.

Mark Birchall, MD of Tradefair, and Gwen Edwards, Digis Squared Marketing Director, at GSMA London offices.

Transforming lives: Insights from new network launches in Angola & Yemen

Transforming lives: This blog post provides a transcript of, and images from, the presentation made in the main auditorium at MWC Africa by Gwen Edwards, Marketing Director at Digis Squared. Presented in the Network Modernisation session on Day One of the conference, 25th October 2022.

The presentation focuses on two key Digis Squared Managed Services projects.

Also available as a standalone white paper.

MWC Africa 2022 – Network Modernisation session

Main auditorium, Kigali Convention Centre, Day One of the inaugural MWC Africa.

“With the ever-evolving and rapid advancements in technology, network transformation will be key for delivering next generation services. How are communication service providers across Africa, enhancing their capabilities to offer seamless connectivity and better digital experiences to their customers? How are they utilising cloud, virtualisation and AI to address the challenges of the region, from usage gap to decarbonisation? Join us as we answer some these questions, while also exploring Open RAN ambitions and the steps needed to prepare the network for web3.”

Transforming lives: Insights from new network launches in Angola & Yemen

Thank you, I’m delighted to join you here today.

I’ll be sharing insights into some of our recent projects transforming and launching new networks in Yemen and Angola, and how these projects are transforming lives.

About us

Digis Squared is an independent UK company, focused on Managed Services, System Integration, and Consulting.

We’re 6 years old, and our senior staff have worked in the telecoms sector for decades for vendors and operators.

We develop our own vendor-agnostic AI tools in-house, have strong processes, and about 200 staff across Africa and the Middle East.

And we’re the only non-Network Equipment Manufacturer delivering end-to-end Managed Services.

Similar, very different

The projects I’m sharing today focus on two operators, covering end-to-end managed services from pre-launch through to full launch and network operations.

Angola and Yemen have geographically challenging topography, plus their own logistical and societal complexities.

The projects are similar and very different.

Both projects delivered real change and transformed connectivity for communities.

Aden, Yemen

This is Aden, in the southern tip of Yemen, looking towards the Presidential Palace over on the left with the flag. Behind the white barriers in the centre is the football pitch.

Many of the photos I’m using today have been taken by our staff. We want to share with you a sense of place and insights into our projects and what we’ve achieved.

Yemen is complex

Before the conflict in Yemen, telecoms was second only to oil and gas in generating revenue and foreign currency for the government.

After almost 8 years of conflict, over 23 million people need humanitarian assistance, and
over 5 million are displaced.

In such a disrupted society, the need for reliable communications between families and communities is vital.

But, the networks supported only legacy 2G voice and text messages – no WhatsApp, no email, no search, no apps, no interconnect, and no roaming. With incredibly limited and patchy coverage, and significant network instability there was almost no mobile data, and even person-to-person calls were unreliable, making it very difficult to keep in contact with loved ones inside the country and internationally.

Difficult terrain

As part of the country’s re-construction mega-project, the Yemeni Government in Aden assigned 4G licenses to Y-Tel.

Digis Squared won a competitive tender and was selected to deliver the entire major transformation program. The old 2G legacy systems were dramatically upgraded to best-in-class, cloud-based solutions – 4G at launch, with 5G ready elements.

I’m worried I’ve made that sound easy! The local Digis Squared team on the ground in Yemen used our processes and AI tools to assess what was needed, and working together with our remote teams, they defined the strategy and services, co-ordinated and selected vendors, and managed contracts, logistics and warehousing. They used our smart network planning tools, managed the physical network rollout and optimization, the back and front office implementation, network commissioning and dimensioning, everything through to network operations. We worked together with Y-Tel, the Ministry of Telecommunications in Aden, and the GSMA to drive delivery of the new network.

As part of this huge program, we established a NOC in our Cairo GNOC to ensure operational excellence and resilience. And we continue to carefully balance local and remote skills by investing in on-site training for a new generation of Yemeni engineers.

Re-calibrating an over-used term: digital transformation

This project is huge.

We have entirely transformed the capability, stability and capacity available, and delivered every element of the new 4G network for Y-Tel.

The Digis Squared Operations Team in Yemen have been enormously committed to the project, working in very difficult environments, 24 hours a day to achieve key targets within specific windows.

I would like to publicly thank them and acknowledge the impact their work will have on connectivity between communities in Yemen.

In June this year, we completed the on schedule first call, and the first 4G data connection, and the first ever mobile video call in country. These are massive milestones for our client Y-Tel and the local Digis Squared Team in Aden.

It is hard for us now, in this room here in Kigali, to imagine or remember life without mobile connectivity. The certainty that you can phone a loved one, and so much more: the ability to place an order via your phone, to send a photo to a friend, to make a video call and check your Dad is ok – we take all of this for granted.

The impact the project will have on the people of Yemen is hard to express. This project in Yemen re-calibrates the term ‘digital transformation’. The connectivity we are delivering for Yemen will truly transform lives, and improve the functioning of society.

Be connected. Be fast.

The “first calls” made in June mark the start of network operations and pave the way for the phased roll-out of infrastructure and portfolio of customer services.

The Y-Tel pre-launch marketing campaign is underway, and focuses on simple, straightforward commitments: be connected, be fast.

As the only non-Network Equipment Manufacturer delivering end-to-end Managed Services for mobile networks, this project in Yemen is very significant for the Digis Squared team.

If we can do this in Yemen, we can do this anywhere.

Luanda, Angola

Turning now to the second half of the presentation: Angola on the southwest coast of Africa. A very different place, but with some surprising similarities in population size and age. Civil War-ravaged Angola for 27 years until it finally ended in 2002.

Africell’s mission

In January last year, 2021, Africell won a competitive international tender for a telecoms license. Their mission was simple: to provide innovative, affordable and reliable mobile services, and lead a digital transformation in Angola – a country which has experienced decades of stasis and under investment in the mobile sector.

Fast forward to November last year: after a competitive international tender, Africell awarded Digis Squared a multi-year contract to provide end to end Managed Services to support their launch.

We moved fast. We created a local legal entity, set up an office, and in just one month mobilised and hired forty-four engineers, from Angola locally and across Africa.

Digis Squared has worked with Africell Group in other OpCos – in DRC, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, plus Uganda in the past – delivering enhancements to radio, core and VAS.

In Angola the end to end Managed Services contract covers everything from field to full NOC, all aspects of Radio, Core, BSS, VAS and field managed services, across the entire brand new network.

In April this year, the Africell Angola 4G mobile network went commercially live. Within 6 months Africell Angola had over 5 million subscribers. This is a significant success together for Africell and Digis Squared, and a significant transformation in service for subscribers.

5G boost to economy & innovation

In July, just 4 months after launch, we supported Africell in publicly demo’ing 5G for the first time in Angola, reaching speeds of 1 gigabit per second. 

Angola has one of the most advanced economies in sub-Saharan Africa, and the future rollout of 5G and private networks has the potential to boost the economy, drive innovation, security and performance even further.

Working together, we are looking forward to enabling that future 5G transformational capability.

Connecting communities

Today, network rollout is progressing and soon Africell Angola will expand to include cities and regions outside Luanda.

This project has been technically complex in scale and ambition, but the impact on people’s lives, and the ability to deliver change is very real.

Mobile services in Angola have never been faster, lower cost or more reliable.

Making change happen, together

Africell launched services in Angola in April this year with a promise to shake up the telecoms sector and lead a nationwide digital transformation.

As the first new mobile operator in almost two decades, the introduction of fresh competition has already led to improved network quality and security, reduced prices and increased consumption, and is delivering benefits for digital inclusion, education and healthcare.

Whilst Digis Squared has worked in over 25 countries in Africa and the Middle East, this project was our first in Angola, a new country and culture for us, and Africell.

Investing in the local team, using our solid existing processes and automated AI tools, balancing expertise in country, with experienced staff in our other offices when needed, we’ve been successful in setting up and delivering quickly, and delivering on schedule.

Africell Angola promised to change and make change happen, and together, we’ve done that.  

Conclusion

And what have we learnt from these projects?

  • Working in an almost war-zone is hard, but can be done.
  • Finding balance between staff in country, and a remote GNOC helps ensure stability, robustness and continuity.
  • Clear focus on aligned mission, and trust in working together is vital to success.
  • Building strong local teams, and investing in and enhancing skills, competence development and training, is really important to the way in which we work, and a clear commitment from the Digis Squared team to the project, the client, and the country we are working in.
  • In such a competitive market we are the only non-Network Equipment Manufacturer delivering end to end Managed Services, covering preventive and corrective maintenance in the field, up to full NOC including core, billing, charging and VAS.

When we are driven by the power of connecting people, together we can achieve anything.

With thanks to Africell, and Y-Tel.

As presented by Gwen Edwards, Digis Squared’s Marketing Director, at MWC Africa 2022.

If you or your team would like to discover more about our Managed Services capabilities, please get in touch: use this link or email sales@DigisSquared.com

 

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Image credits

 

References

About Digis Squared

Managed Services, System Integration & Consulting.

We transform telecom networks, deploy new technologies, and manage vendors, for network operators, service providers and regulators. Apply our vendor-agnostic expertise, automated AI-led tools and processes to transform your technical and commercial capabilities. We work with agility, deep experience, and our in-house cognitive tools to optimise and manage multi-vendor networks across all technologies.

Headquartered in the UK, Digis Squared has offices in Angola, Egypt and UAE.

Digis Squared ◦ Enabling smarter networks.