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Interesting Research Problem for Mobile Networks

October 24, 2010

Mobile network operations are very resource-intensive, and with a growing number of network elements and technologies, the cost will escalate unless a higher level of process automation is introduced.

Network operators and system providers have been talking self-configuration, self-optimization, self-healing, and self-protection for more than a decade (see e.g. IBMs “Autonomic Vision & Manifesto” from 2001). Progress has been made, but the inherent uncertainty of a mobile network has been a huge obstacle in moving from research to practical applications. It often turns out that only the human brain is able to handle the complexity which comes from the size of the network as well as from uncertainty in e.g. aggregated data (details are removed to keep the amount of data manageable), randomness (e.g. a football match causes a sudden amount of network traffic), missing data (for various reasons data is not always available for all network elements), and conflicting data (data indicating multiple problems).

The solution for automated troubleshooting by 2operate released in 2009 was a breakthrough and a major step towards self-healing. By utilizing technology originally developed for automation of medical diagnostic problems, 2operate was able to provide a level of automation in the mobile network troubleshooting processes which was higher than any competing solution in the market. The key was a technology which was sufficiently strong to cope with the complexity and mentioned sources of uncertainty. The key technology used by 2operate is Bayesian network (or more generally, Probabilistic Graphical Models = PGMs).

This can be further exploited for self-healing and self-protection. Troubleshooting is becoming increasingly complex with increased network complexity from new communications technology (e.g. LTE) which must co-exist and interact with old technology (e.g. GSM and UMTS). Partly overlapping with troubleshooting is network security (some problems may be due to intruders with a desire to prevent or steal communication in the network). Security is becoming increasingly important in the network management community. With more automated operations (self-healing, self-optimization, self-configuration), the network will be more vulnerable to intruders, and automated detection and healing is necessary to keep costs down and to reduce downtime.

  • Investigate the problem domain: Which types of technical and security problems are foreseen? How are these prevented today?
  • Research and Development in self-healing/self-protection solution: What are the entities to monitor in an LTE network? What can be observed for an entity (indicators)? What can be concluded (root causes)?

Extract from a PHD Call for Application.

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