Intelligence, security and cost efficiency: Industry executives highlight priorities for the 5G era

Innovation to achieve ‘self-driving’ IMT-2020/5G networks, collaboration in the interests of 5G security and the value of ‘open’ network concepts were among the key topics discussed at an invitation-only meeting of ICT industry executives (‘CxOs’) held last week in Dubai, UAE, in conjunction with the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit.

CxOs shared insights gained from early 5G deployments and trials of 5G-enabled industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications. They also discussed the importance of building public trust in autonomous driving and the safety-critical radiocommunications supporting Intelligent Transport Systems.

With a view to discussing industry needs and associated standardization priorities, the meeting brought together representatives of companies including du, Etisalat, Facebook, Fujitsu, Korek Telecom, Krypton Security, Nokia, Orange, Roborace, Rohde & Schwarz, SES Networks and TELUS.

The trends discussed at the CxO meeting reflect the evolution of ITU membership, in particular that of ITU’s standardization arm (ITU-T).

ITU-T has welcomed 51 new members in 2019, following 45 new members in 2018.

New ITU-T members include companies in energy and utilities, shipping and logistics, mobile payments, over-the-top applications, automotive, IoT connectivity, blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, quantum communications, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The meeting issued a communiqué summarizing ICT trends of growing relevance to ITU standardization.

< Download the CxO meeting communiqué >

Self-driving networks

The optimization of network management and orchestration – capitalizing on real-time network performance data, machine learning for prediction and self-learning, and the automated build and configuration of virtual network functions – will improve ICT services and introduce new cost efficiencies, said CxOs.

This optimization is becoming increasingly challenging, and increasingly important, as networks gain in complexity to support the coexistence of a diverse range of ICT services.

CxOs encouraged ITU to study the evolution of network operation and maintenance in view of increasing network complexity and the resulting importance of automation informed by machine learning.


CxOs discussed the progress achieved in responding to the ‘Ottawa Accord’ considered by ITU’s annual Chief Technology Officer (CTO) meeting in Budapest, Hungary, 8 September 2019.

The Ottawa Accord is a set of security priorities developed in June 2019 by network operators, standards bodies and industry associations.

The Budapest CTO meeting endorsed the findings of the Ottawa Accord in relation to three security priorities:

  • Global threat exchange: Common understanding of security threats and common terminology to enable the sharing of threat intelligence.
  • Best practices for operational security: Best practices for 5G security and widespread commitment to infrastructure protection.
  • Security incentives: Measurement schemes based on agreed metrics could bring attention to prevailing levels of security and create incentives for investment in security. 

CxOs echoed the sentiment of the Budapest CTO meeting that a holistic approach to 5G security could receive valuable support from a global centre for the development of security solutions and their testing and assurance. Such a ‘living lab’ open to multiple vendors, said CTOs in Budapest, could bring cohesion to 5G security efforts as well as reduce the costs of testing security solutions.

Lessons learnt

CxOs with experience in the early commercial deployment of 5G reiterated the importance of investment in fibre. Fibre-optic networks form the ‘backbone’ of the ICT ecosystem. Investment in fibre continues to rise, recognizing the importance of this investment to the 5G vision.

Experience with industrial IoT applications as part of the development of 5G-enabled smart sea ports and smart factories, said CxOs, has highlighted the importance of network slicing and shown edge computing to be capable of supporting low latencies. CxOs’ experience with 5G-enabled smart factories, in particular, has shown such factories to be capable of highly efficient production and quality control.

Network infrastructure sharing

Infrastructure sharing has the potential to assist network operators in reducing time-to-market for new solutions, gaining cost efficiencies and increasing coverage in certain network deployment scenarios.

RELATED: Sharing networks, driving growth

CxOs illustrated possible scenarios for the sharing of infrastructure such as core networks, central offices, backhaul infrastructure, towers, and RANs.

The meeting considered an example of ‘Multi-Core Operator Networks’, networks said to be capable of reducing an operator’s infrastructure investments through sharing, while improving network performance.

Open RAN

General-purpose ‘white box’ hardware, standardized interfaces and virtualized network elements are the foundations of the ‘open RAN’ concept, said CxOs.

Open RAN could support industry in avoiding the challenges that may result from proprietary RAN interfaces, challenges such as RAN equipment vendor lock-in, limited interoperability between different vendors’ RAN equipment, and limited scope for active RAN sharing.

CxOs offered the view that the standardization of open, interoperable RAN interfaces and RAN functional architecture could support a diverse business ecosystem in deploying and operating RANs with considerable cost efficiency.

AI on the road

ITU has established a new Focus Group on ‘Artificial intelligence for autonomous and assisted driving’ to work towards the establishment of international standards to monitor and assess the performance of the AI ‘Drivers’ in control of automated vehicles.

CxOs discussed the ITU Focus Group’s aim to devise a ‘Driving Test’ for AI ‘Drivers’. The proposed test could become the basis for an International Driving Permit for AI. The right to hold this permit would be assessed continuously, based on the AI Driver’s behavioural performance on the road.

RELATED: ITU devising ‘Driving Test’ for the AI ‘Drivers’ in control of automated vehicles

CxOs highlighted their support for the Focus Group’s expected contribution to public trust in automated vehicles as well as the value of ITU collaboration with UNECE in this regard.

Safety-critical radiocommunications

Recognizing the importance of new radio technology and applications to Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), CxOs highlighted the importance of conformance assessment based on harmonized test requirements.

Compliance, conformance and quality testing, said CxOs, will make a key contribution to industry and consumer confidence in safety-critical radiocommunications in the ITS context. Conformance assessment would also support ITS interoperability and cost efficiency, said CxOs.

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