UofG plays key role in development of autonomous network standards

Published: 17 January 2024

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have played a key role in the development of newly-agreed international standards for autonomous networks.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have played a key role in the development of newly-agreed international standards for autonomous networks.

The University’s Dr Paul Harvey is a working group co-chair of one of the United Nations focus groups which has developed a suite of new recommendations for standards.

The focus group’s work studies the technical enablers, use cases, inter-operable architecture, trustworthiness, and proof-of-concepts necessary to create telecoms networks which can operate with minimal human intervention.

The Autonomous Networks - Architecture Framework (Y.3061) received official consent at the ITU-T SG13 meeting in Geneva in November 2023. It has now passed through a further consultation process and the framework has been officially adopted as an international standard.

Widespread adoption of the standard could enable a new generation of networks which use emergent and generative AI-driven approaches to monitor their own operations and adapt to solve technical problems, on-demand and beyond pre-defined design bounds.

These faster, more resilient networks could support a wide range of more advanced communications technologies beyond the current capabilities of 5G devices and systems. Those improved networks could underpin advances in technologies including self-driving cars, remote medicine, and industrial automation.

The recommendations were developed at the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, which works to develop technical recommendations (standards) that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect and to improve underserved communities’ access to computing technologies worldwide.

For the last three years, Dr Harvey has been a working group co-chair at the ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks, which brings together experts from around the world to consult on autonomous networks. Earlier this year, the University of Glasgow was confirmed as a full member of the ITU-T and will provide ongoing support to the group’s work.

The recommendation outlines the key architecture concepts that will enable the development of autonomous networks, including:

  • Exploratory Evolution (Create) - A system which generates and evolves new and existing control systems to deal with changes in the network as required.
  • Online Experimentation (Validate) – A system to design and perform validation experiments using a range of different testing methods for control systems, before they are deployed in real-world situations to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Dynamic Adaptation (Apply) – Fully-validated control systems are seamlessly selected and integrated into the live network in real-time as needed, helping to ensure that network services are free from interruptions.

Dr Harvey said: “As our world becomes ever more dependent on data communication, it’s vital that our networks are up to the challenge. Building autonomous networks which are capable of intelligently adapting to problems and integrating new technologies - with minimal human oversight - will be critically important to meeting those challenges and opening the door to major leaps forward in a wide range of transformative technologies.

“In order to make that happen, it’s vital to develop new standards which will help systems developed by one part of the telecoms ecosystem integrate with other systems built independently elsewhere. The work of the ITU-T, and other standards bodies, will help pave the way for an open and inter-operable ecosystem.

“I’m proud to have played a role in the development of these standards and recommendations as workgroup co-chair of the ITU-T Focus Group. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with FGAN and other focus groups to develop new use cases and encourage adoption of the standards across the communications industry.”

First published: 17 January 2024

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