Adaora Okeleke, Senior Analyst, Telecoms Operations and IT
Maximizing value from 5G through effective network planning and optimization
Network planning and optimization are critical to the efficient use of communications service provider (CSP) networks. These functions will ensure that CSPs obtain maximum ROI, manage the cost of operations, and deliver optimal quality of experience to customers. However, the migration to a new network technology brings new challenges to these functions. This will be the case with the current migration of networks to 5G.
The arrival of 5G promises to provide new opportunities for CSPs to increase service revenue and achieve cost efficiencies. By using advanced capabilities such as massive MIMO, network slicing, edge computing, and network function virtualization, CSPs can offer new services including smart home, autonomous driving, drone operations, and remote healthcare services. CSPs can also see the costs of operating networks fall in the long term. However, implementing these features and technologies will present challenges to CSPs' planning and optimization operations. These challenges will include fulfilling the diverse set of network requirements needed for each service, limitations associated with spectrum bands supporting 5G, the coexistence of 4G and 5G cells, and the complexities that come with implementing massive MIMO.
Lessons from existing 5G deployments provide insight into ways CSPs can address these 5G network planning and optimization challenges. These include taking a service-oriented approach to planning 5G networks, using 3D modeling to plan and optimize 5G networks, and prioritizing 4G network optimization.
To implement these approaches successfully, operators must be ready to adopt best practices that will enable effective 5G network planning and optimization. These include standardizing processes involved in optimizing networks and keeping site plans updated.
Investing in big data and artificial intelligence (AI) and in the accompanying infrastructure to support the increased computation workloads for these technologies will be required. For example, the use of machine learning can support the analysis of current and future consumption patterns of AR/VR-based services. These technologies can also support the forecasting of 5G network coverage and capacity and identify the optimal parameter combinations required to achieve high spectral efficiency and optimal network performance in massive MIMO antenna systems.
Finally, CSPs should invest in the skills that align with the relevant technologies and practices discussed. How a CSP decides to build up these skills will vary depending on their level of maturity when it comes to deploying 5G networks and implementing technologies such as AI and big data. CSPs can consider working with peers already running 5G networks or work with vendor partners that have built experience in planning and operating 5G networks using the methodologies discussed.