Managing today’s mobile networks is complex, and most mobile network operators (MNOs) need to manage several network layers using different access technologies and almost always different bands.
In the US, the CBRS auction which we discussed in a recent blog post has introduced a new spectrum that can be used by MNOs for both coverage and capacity.
Many operators will start to face a capacity crunch when mobile internet, video streaming and gaming take off, and the solution is often to roll out additional network equipment in the form of new sites or introduce new technologies. Most have publicly announced their commitment to 5G to accommodate the tremendous capacity growth they are seeing. But operational efficiency is also of paramount importance as operators struggle to contain costs as the network is growing alongside the capacity.
In this blog post, we expand on this topic by looking at:
- The benefits of automation for CBRS and 5G;
- Automation and planning radio networks; and
- Automation and testing radio networks.
The CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PAL) will provide immediate benefits, especially when used with the GAA frequencies that are generally available to all. However, to achieve better operational efficiency, operators must streamline processes and consolidate their OSS/BSS software ecosystem, and they need systems that provide better integration and levels of automation compared to today’s solutions.
In the network planning arena, Infovista has led the way to address this issue. Now many MNOs rely on automated processes from Infovista for most large-scale calculations or reporting tasks, such as producing marketing coverage maps and statistics. But forward-thinking providers should be looking into how automating network operations throughout the network lifecycle could help MNOs, especially for users on Band 48 (CBRS).
The benefits of automation for CBRS and 5G
The impact of automation for CBRS and 5G in network planning is twofold.
Firstly, many labor-intensive tasks are performed only rarely, which reduces their inherent benefits; coverage maps might be updated semi-annually rather than monthly, for example.
Secondly, without automation, the level of effort and risk of errors remain high.
With a solution such as Infovista’s Planet 7.4, which was released earlier this month, key repetitive network planning and engineering processes can be automated, effectively reducing the level of effort needed while increasing speed and efficiency. This results in engineers focusing on their most important task, deploying better networks, rather than taking on routine work.
This benefits the operator in many ways:
- Radio engineers can focus on complex tasks and what they’re good at rather than routine tasks;
- Important but routine tasks can be fully automated, resulting in a significant increase in the timeliness of the work carried out and eliminating human errors; and
- With streamlined processes, automated routine tasks will not increase operational costs, meaning that when the network grows, costs don’t rise proportionately.
In this age of accelerating technology, we shouldn’t underestimate the rising importance of automation for strategic planning. Let’s review the basics.
Helping operators to take the best network deployment decisions by leveraging automated and business-orientated “what if?” scenario analysis, this methodology is becoming increasingly key in rolling out any new technology like 5G more efficiently, leading to significant time and CAPEX savings.
Automation is also enabling consolidation of many operational silos within the network operations activities, such as unified performance, and fault and configuration management, as well as improvements in mobile customer experience. This leads to improved QoE and massive reductions in OPEX.
The easiest way of detecting hidden issues in complex networks is through the use of selective automated testing. Hence, Infovista has adapted the TEMS drive-testing portfolio to pinpoint attention on specific areas of interest.
Our TEMS Sense offering enables advanced MNOs and verticals to automatically monitor the underlying performance of specific network features and detect problems that would affect customers. Look out for future content that documents the specific issues found when TEMS Sense is used in earnest.
Ultimately, the wireless world can benefit hugely from automation throughout the network lifecycle, taking in planning, deployment, optimisation and testing. However, the challenge is that many of the processes increasingly require huge amounts of data to function correctly. Thus, access to accurate data and the full digitization of the network has become much more important.
Infovista is actively involved in developing solutions that embrace fundamental industry trends around automation, AI and virtualization. We are committed to offering innovative solutions that wireless operators need to tackle complex challenges and remain competitive. This is especially true with our new network lifecycle automation offerings, which dovetail with Planet 7.4.