The UK has a growing number of organisations in this space, which is characterised by being composed of relatively recent start-ups such as Aliniant and the slightly longer-established Zeetta Networks
Aliniant focuses on automation of Open RAN architecture 4G and 5G networks. It produces performance and configuration management software that is focused on a set of use cases that optimise coverage and capacity while minimising interference between sites. They enable the prediction of faults that are likely to appear on sites, and provide a person-friendly way of dealing with this data. This means that engineers and other technical staff have a level playing field on which they can view data and communicate with each other.
Zeetta Networks offers another example of how the UK’s further education sector is stimulating development of 5G networks. The company was a spin-off from the high-performance networks group of the University of Bristol. Its aim was to commercialise the group’s network virtualisation and slicing technology. Led by Chief Executive Vassilis Seferidis, Zeetta is a software company. Zeetta’s network automation tools help its customers – business and managed service providers – to control, operate and monitor their networks so they can optimise the utilisation of their network infrastructure. The suite monitors usage across the network, and the capabilities of technologies - both the radio and the devices - used, from Wifi to 3G and 4G.
Three products – Zeetta Visualise, Optimise and Automate – make up the portfolio.
Visualise provides a real view of the network, showing how it is currently configured and ways in which it can be reconfigured to achieve maximum efficiency. Optimise offers a framework that makes creation and consumption of network services easy and efficient. Through service orchestration, Optimise delivers both control and data plane services automatically. Automate enables IT teams and managed service providers to schedule configuration changes at specific times and dates. It helps to identify and remove expired or stranded services and configurations.
Zeetta is the lead company for the 5G ENCODE project, for which the company is responsible for getting the infrastructure working so that it is ready to support the use cases. Zeetta is providing an advanced network control capability. It has a proof-of-concept multidomain orchestrator that will be developed as part of the project. In the early days, though, the network will be built using its single-domain, NETOS Rapide to manage the baseline, private LTE network. The project managers expect to deliver improvements by reducing downtime during configuration and making best use of the machinery and components.
The second use case is around asset tracking. Composites manufacture involves many time-critical steps and assets are often moved between sites and manufacturing locations. When something like an Airbus wing – also manufactured in Bristol – is being made, it has to be moved between parts of the production facility, so the ability to hop between network technologies with network splicing is the key to being able to track these assets in real-time.