HomeMobile EuropeNetwork optimisation - Facing the future

    Network optimisation – Facing the future


    Network operators can use optimisation tools to save costs, and even increase revenues.  Indeed, they're going to have to

    When it comes to Self-Optimising Networks (SON), vendors are looking to integrate intelligent functionality within the radio network, to address two key areas in managing infrastructure – initial functionality and set-up and ongoing performance improvements

    The first is relatively self explanatory – at power up, a base station retrieves its operating system and immediately becomes aware of the environment it is functioning in, ie: whether it's in-door or, part of the macro network; its coverage area; and its frequency and scrambling code plan.

    This is important if the base station is equipped with software designed radio (SDR) technology and so can configure itself according to the most effective type of connective technology. Whether GSM, WCDMA or LTE , the base station will be self-aware enough to set up the connecting IP and physical paths automatically straight to its core infrastructure.

    The whole exercise will include self-calibration of transmission output and also, where appropriate, reception sensitivity, together with neighbour and parameter planning. This all is done automatically – reducing cost, and optimising the sites in order to start taking traffic.

    With this process in place, the base station can not only monitor and calculate its own traffic-handling performance, but also determine the relative performance and characteristics of its neighbour sites, increasing data throughput, reducing data latency:  and improved coverage for voice and data services.
    In terms of who is leading the field all the major manufacturers now claim to support SON within the LTE environment. Older versions of 2G and 3G do not have SONS built in, however: to do so requires a network add-on, which uses network and probe-based data solutions.

    There is also an industry body working on a set of standards for SON. However, this is a complex and delicate process to deal with in a multi-vendor environment. How do you share the complex algorithms to ensure accuracy in such an environment?

    As a result, independent third party solutions will still have an important play to play in the market for the next ten years – until all standards are implemented and an agreed global solution is in place. SON's solutions are incredible complex by their nature, and it's very likely that each infrastructure vendor will be fiercely protective of its own progress in this area. Each will look to offer SON capability as an expensive add-on to its product proposition in future years. However, this is a risky strategy and fails to address the vendor interoperability issues addressed through standards bodies such as the 3GPP.

    That said, SON is an integral part of the mobile industry's future – without it, current op-ex cost models are simply not sustainable. The industry needs to learn its lessons from the fixed IP router world when it comes to "self-aware" networks.  This will in the short-term be difficult for an operator, and so independent third parties may well be needed to manage the move to SONs in order to keep pricing levels down.

    Actix says it will deliver the world's first commercial Self-Optimizing Network (SON) system for LTE networks during 2009.

    SON virtually eliminates human involvement for network planning and optimization and is a central element of the vision advocated by both the 3GPP and the Next Generation Mobile Networks Group, enabling a new way of managing the performance and maintenance of 4G radio access networks. Managing the radio access network already accounts for a large part of operators' total operational costs and LTE networks are set to inflate these costs further as operators strive to meet the enormous capacity demands, which users are expected to inflict on mobile networks through high bandwidth data services. The introduction of LTE will mean operators have to learn about very new and very different ways to manage the RAN more efficiently, more intelligently and at a lower cost.

    "Actix' SON solutions will save mobile network operators more than 60% of their operational engineering costs because an enterprise-scale SON system can harvest massive amounts of live network data, collate it in real time, accurately diagnose and prioritize huge numbers of problems and then fix them, automatically, live, online," said Chris Larmour, Actix CMO. "SON is one of the main reasons we have been pushing so hard to build a reliable, enterprise grade platform over the last three years. It's only when you combine this kind of scalable operational platform with RF optimization know-how that you get a true SON solution. Actix will be delivering SON nodes to advanced LTE customers later this year" he continued.

    SONs are intelligent networks where base stations self-optimize their operational algorithms and parameters in response to changes in network, traffic and environmental conditions. If a cell or site should fail, self-healing methods are also implemented to resolve any resulting coverage/capacity gaps. As operators expand their networks with the addition of new base stations they will be self-configured in a 'plug-and-play' fashion.

    Actix' SON solution builds on the company's existing capabilities to enable fast, accurate and reliable engineering fixes to be generated and applied automatically to the radio access network in real time. In a new departure for the company, Actix will also be providing SON as a packaged network node, running on reliable, scalable hardware platforms.

    "Actix is uniquely positioned to deliver true SON solutions because we have 20 year's automatic RF optimization experience, and this application combines many of our existing capabilities," said Richard Kateley, Actix CTO. "We already have the largest library of vendor-neutral data interfaces in the industry, some of the best radio network optimization know-how encapsulated in pluggable software modules, the world's only real-time RF diagnostic solution, and Actix One – our enterprise-grade network status management platform – is routinely processing terabytes of network data every day in live deployments. This combination of components is unique to Actix, enabling us to deliver the world's first live, online SON system for operational LTE networks during 2009."

    ariesoGEO uses data transmitted by mobiles in the normal course of conducting a call and requires no additional hardware, such as GPS in handsets, to operate in real time or historical analysis mode. By geo-locating tens of millions of calls per minute, ariesoGEO creates a true-to-life picture of network performance as witnessed by subscribers, whether they are indoors or outdoors, in business or residential areas, any time of the day, any day of the week.

    The operator will use ariesoGEO Enterprise across its network to accurately pinpoint network problems such as dropped calls, poor signal strength or low data speed wherever these may occur, even inside buildings. Through this network-wide deployment, the operator will be able to enhance the customer experience and reduce expenditure substantially. As a result, the operator expects to save up to 60% of network problem resolution costs, comparable to the savings demonstrated in previous uses of ariesoGEO by other operators.

    "Information about customer location is very important in understanding how to save money and improve customer care. Knowing what the subscriber is experiencing, and being able to rectify issues quickly and efficiently, will give this operator a huge competitive advantage," said Paul Turner, VP Global Operations, Arieso. "ariesoGEO will help the operator accurately geo-locate network problems in order to reduce customer churn as well as network maintenance and deployment costs."