Spirent circle logo

Don’t Wait to Automate: How Networks Are Becoming Faster and Smarter on the Journey to AI


While the requirement to automate on the road to AI is generally acknowledged as a priority, the sticking point is how to get started, on what scale, and exactly where. Learn several near-term 5G automation solution opportunities that aren’t contingent on AI yet help pave the way to it.

Faster, cheaper, more agile. Serving mobile users means constantly adapting to new trends, technologies, and behaviors. This cycle is continuously evolving and always accelerating.

With modern networks ceaselessly introducing increasing complexity, traditional approaches to management and delivery cannot keep up.

More organizations recognize the solution is to intelligently automate throughout the product and service lifecycle and reduce as many burdensome process, manual labor, and time inefficiencies as possible.

The objectives? Cost reductions, operational agility, heightened productivity, better customer experiences, faster time to market, and improved revenue. But this can only be achieved with a state-of-the-art automation strategy supported by next-gen technologies.

In our work with customers, the requirement to automate is generally acknowledged as a priority. The sticking point rests around how to get started, on what scale, and exactly where.

Some stakeholders hesitate to fully embrace an encompassing automation approach due to confusion regarding the role artificial intelligence (AI) will play. This is an understandable perspective, and the day will come when AI takes automation to new heights. Yet, operators face challenges today that intelligent automation approaches can address, while laying the foundations for a future AI-enabled self-driving network.

Think of it this way: The road to AI is paved by IA (intelligent automation).

The journey to intelligent automation

Intelligent automation is a critical prerequisite on the drive to AI. Automation strategies built on this approach are already powering a move to cognitive networking with fully automated provisioning, orchestration and optimization, and proactive fault recognition, analysis, and remediation.

There are common pitfalls, however, that we see far too often. The most common one is taking an automation approach focused on operational silos that don’t align with the broader end-to-end system outcomes, nor support shared data, tools, and processes. Flexibility and rapid, comprehensive intelligence are sacrificed in the process.

Instead, success requires equipping the end-to-end system and pipeline with automated and common tooling and shared data to facilitate seamless collaboration and agility. Vodafone Group’s CTO, Scott Perry has already seen results, where savings have amounted to more than €500m euros in Capex and Opex in the past three years from “automating the way that we run the network infrastructure.”


Savings have amounted to more than €500m euros in Capex and Opex in the past three years from “automating the way that we run the network infrastructure.” –Vodafone Group CTO Scott Petty

Intelligent automation opportunities, today

Not sure where to deploy first on the intelligent automation journey? 5G is a trending catalyst. It provides several near-term automation opportunities that don’t depend on AI. 5G automation solution strategies span a number of scenarios.

Automating 5G network lifecycle processes

Multi-vendor cloud-native environments, especially the 5G core and Open RAN, stand to drive exponential growth in both the volume and velocity of software and network function (NF) updates.

Anchoring the continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) software delivery pipeline process around an automated continuous testing (CT) framework ensures releases are continuously revalidated for interoperability, performance, and security efficacy before being deployed in the live network.

Proof point: One of the world’s largest 5G service providers achieved >60% faster vendor validation-to-release cycles (from months to days) for their 5G core implementation, including a 98% decrease in core NF regression test times (from 2 weeks to 1 hour).

Automating assurance

The complexity and fluidity of a disaggregated and intent-driven 5G network requires proactive—not reactive—assurance to guarantee consumer experiences and monetize enterprise SLAs.

Automated and orchestrated active test agents generate emulated traffic and test scenarios throughout the network and its layers to proactively validate KPIs and SLAs and to rapidly isolate issues, facilitate quick remediation, and revalidate changes.

Proof point: One of the world’s largest 5G service providers achieved a >75% reduction in mean time to resolution (MTTR) for customer-impacting issues and a >80% reduction in escalations. This saved millions of dollars in revenues that would have been lost and reduced penalties and engineering escalations.

Automating private networks

Enterprises, especially small and midsize businesses (SMBs), seek low-cost and light-touch private 5G networks. To support and cost-effectively scale tens of thousands of potential enterprise customers, service providers require comprehensive automated, turnkey solutions.

Simplifying private network operations necessitates seamless automation across the lifecycle, from continuous testing (CT) to continuous monitoring (CM). This enables private networks to be self-managed and proactively assured in a closed loop.

Proof point: One of the world’s largest multi-national 5G service providers is benefiting from a 3X improvement in the time to validate a private 5G network stack throughout its operational lifecycle.

Automating and transforming labs

Some service providers have hundreds of labs and workbenches, and vendors have plenty, too. Many lab environments are siloed and have duplicated equipment and minimal automation. Absent agility, release cycles can take months or years. Worse, Spirent studies have shown that lab utilization can be as low as 30 percent, despite being powered on 100 percent of the time. It’s not enough to automate the processes, the lab environments that execute the processes must be optimized and automated as well.

Enabling Lab to Live Lifecycle automation

Turning lab silos into shared virtual collaboration environments with automated test campaign processes accelerates innovation and time-to-market and lowers costs. Common testbeds and federated or consolidated labs across the supply chain speed release process automation, make efficient use of equipment, optimize global test team collaboration and productivity, and reduce power consumption.

Proof point: Some of the world’s largest service providers and vendors have achieved:

  • 100s of consolidated labs and workbenches

  • 300X acceleration in lab configuration setup times (from weeks or months to minutes)

  • >50% reduction in required equipment, from virtualization and optimized utilization

  • >40% reduction in energy consumption, from lab power management

  • >80% resource utilization (compared to <30% in most labs today)

Getting to intelligent automation and unlocking incredible financial, operational, and efficiency benefits

Spirent has successfully enabled service providers and vendors to navigate the intelligent automation journey, with a special emphasis on the journey to 5G Core Standalone (SA). Whether it’s creating an automation roadmap, getting up and running quickly, or supplementing missing skill sets or tools, Spirent is ready to help.

As an industry-leading neutral test partner, Spirent provides the proven expertise, or transfer of skills if needed, to enable an immediate return on investment. Our leading-edge automation experts, tools, and test methodologies have been involved in over 2,600 5G engagements worldwide. Service providers, vendors, regulators, industry bodies, and enterprise customers depend on us.

Don’t wait. Create an automation framework that fosters the emergence and evolution of future capabilities such as AI and start getting value from intelligent automation now.

Learn more about the value and importance of continuous testRight arrow icon

Like our content?

Subscribe to our blogs here.

Blog Newsletter Subscription

Stephen Douglas
Stephen Douglas

Head of Market Strategy

Spirent is a global leader in automated test and assurance for the ICT industry and Stephen heads Spirents market strategy organization developing Spirents strategy, helping to define market positioning, future growth opportunities, and new innovative solutions. Stephen also leads Spirent’s strategic initiatives for 5G and future networks and represents Spirent on a number of Industry and Government advisory boards. With over 25 years’ experience in telecommunications Stephen has been at the cutting edge of next generation technologies and has worked across the industry with service providers, network equipment manufacturers and start-ups, helping them drive innovation and transformation.