James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Intelligent Networks and Automation, Heavy Reading
With the advent of 5G, operators are entering a new capex cycle and must make careful decisions about where to invest in network capacity. Yet, many operators lack the tools to optimise these decisions.
For many operators, network construction and operations are still performed offline and manually. This leads to long network construction times and low operational efficiency. Various tools are required to manually collect data from different departments and teams. This data is analysed manually, and an offline network evaluation and planning exercise is undertaken. The proposed network plan must then be approved by the marketing, network optimisation and network construction departments.
The approval process is typically conducted through emails and offline reports, and the process is iterative due to changing business priorities. After the plan’s approval, the procurement process begins and ultimately the infrastructure is delivered, installed and commissioned. Throughout this long, complex process, there is a lack of transparency and visibility.
One of the key problems that operators face during network construction and operations is trying to match information from disparate operations and business support systems (OSSs and BSSs). What is needed is a converged or holistic view to enable accurate traffic prediction and a network plan that is focused on user experience. By moving from an uncoordinated set of processes to a more joined-up approach, an operator could substantially reduce the time to market for a new network. Such an approach could also enable the operator to make more focused investments in its network that deliver the strongest return on investment.
China Unicom selected Huawei as a partner to help with the digital transformation of its network planning, construction, and operations. Together they developed a system called TianShu, based on Huawei’s Collaboration Workspace Realisation (CWR) solution. TianShu enables stronger collaboration between marketing, sales, planning, network planning, procurement, network construction and ongoing operations.
The TianShu system taps into the operator’s OSS and BSS data as well as detailed information from network management systems. It incorporates several new capabilities, such as precise planning and performance management, and combines these with existing systems to provide comprehensive data that facilitates current network construction and operations and maintenance (O&M) processes. By introducing the valued site selection, precise planning, and digitised delivery capabilities, TianShu has improved the productivity and cost savings of network planning and construction at China Unicom.
As a result of its process streamlining and use of the TianShu system, China Unicom was able to reduce its network building time by 50 per cent. The company also used the TianShu system to conduct a market segmentation analysis to identify which users it should focus on retaining and which it should focus on upselling new packages. It then organised an outbound sales call campaign supported by in-store selling. This enabled the operator to accelerate growth among its high value users.
To date, China Unicom’s TianShu system has been rolled out across all 31 provinces in China. The company has found that, on average, areas where it has deployed have seen a 7 per cent increase in high value users.
Liu Hongbo, general manager of China Unicom's Intelligence Network Centre, explained the benefits of the TianShu system: "TianShu helps China Unicom greatly shorten the 5G network construction period, improve planning accuracy, and support integrated and collaborative operation of 4G network planning, deployment, maintenance and optimisation. In the future, we hope that the TianShu system can develop end-to-end capabilities for customers and continuously improve government and enterprise customers' ease of ordering and service experience.”
He added that AI enables the development of intelligent operational capabilities, noting “TianShu integrates and streamlines data sources from various dimensions, builds an intelligent support platform integrating planning, construction, maintenance and optimisation, and implements value-based digital sandbox operational capabilities".