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AWS, Microsoft, Ericsson, Nvidia and more form new alliance to integrate AI in cellular technology

At MWC 2024 in Barcelona, a number of companies joined forces to form the AI-RAN (AI-radio access network) alliance, a new initiative to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into cellular technology.

The founding members include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Arm, DeepSig, Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, Northeastern University, Nvidia, Samsung, SoftBank and T-Mobile.

The group says that its mission is to “enhance mobile network efficiency, reduce power consumption, and retrofit existing infrastructure, setting the stage for unlocking new economic opportunities for telecommunications companies with AI, facilitated by 5G and 6G.”

Specifically, the alliance will focus on three main areas of research:

  1. AI for RAN – advancing RAN capabilities through AI to improve spectral efficiency.
  2. AI and RAN integrating AI and RAN processes to utilize infrastructure more effectively and generate new AI-driven revenue opportunities.
  3. AI on RAN deploying AI services at the network edge through RAN to increase operational efficiency and offer new services to mobile users.

Alliance members said they will test and implement these technologies, developed through collective research efforts of member companies and universities.

“With the software transformation of RAN using cloud computing, there is a tremendous opportunity for mobile operators to collect all kinds of data at various layers of the stack,” explained Jan Hofmeyr, vice president at AWS.

This data, he added, acts as fuel for AI, offering the telecom industry the ability to not only optimize operations of RAN deployments but revolutionize how consumers, enterprises, and industries interact with mobile networks.

Microsoft, for instance, has announced the following updates to its Azure for Operators portfolio, in a bid to accelerate telco transformation in the era of AI:

  1. Public preview of Azure Operator Call Protection, a new service that uses AI to help protect consumers from scam calls.
  2. Public preview of Azure Programmable Connectivity (APC), which provides a unified, standard interface across operators’ networks.
  3. Limited preview of Copilot in Azure Operator Insights, a generative AI capability enabling engineers to interact with network insights using natural language, and resolve network issues quickly to improve customer satisfaction

AI continues to be a big focus for Microsoft this week, having announced an investment of US$16 million in Mistral AI, US$5.6 billion in AI data centre infrastructure in Spain and Germany, as well as AI skilling programs. 

Further, Microsoft published ‘AI Access Principles’, designed to foster innovation and competition, create a self-regulatory initiative, and continue to advance a broad array of partnerships.

However, the company says that the principles are, “in no way meant to suggest a lack of respect for the rule of law or the role of regulators,” who have been investigating the partnerships made between tech goliaths and AI startups, notably between Microsoft and OpenAI.

As part of the fifth principle, Microsoft said, “We understand that Microsoft must respond fully and cooperatively to regulatory inquiries so that we can have an informed discussion with regulators about the virtues of various approaches. We need to be good listeners and constructive problem solvers in sorting through issues of concern and identifying practical steps and solutions before a new product is completed and launched.”

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