Following the Crowd: How Crowdsourced Data is Being Used to Improve 5G Radio Network Planning and Design
Designing 5G radio access networks is not for the faint of heart. It requires the planning of a new and complex technology and there is a lot on the line. Billions are being invested in infrastructure build outs in support of the promise of new 5G services, but where should these investments go? How can spend be deployed to address a 5G market that consists of millions of connected ‘things’ along with network slices and service SLAs? Will demand be high one day and low the next? How will street furniture and foliage impact the network, and what investments should be prioritized? Unlike 2G, 3G and 4G, which were birds of the same feather, 5G is a whole other species, so getting answers to these questions and others is especially challenging.
5G introduces uncertainty because so much is yet unknown. When it comes to successful network design, getting access to the right information at the right time, and analyzing it in the right way, is critical. Everything from end user location, device information, and data volume – to issues like signal strength, quality, and throughput, all play a critical role in determining where, when and what investments should be made. But short of relying on a crystal ball, getting access to the right data sets has always been a challenge.
The shift to work-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic shows how quickly subscriber usage patterns can change. In the span of a week, most of the world changed where and how they work – moving from dedicated office space to the kitchen table. And as the world re-opens, what will be the impact on people’s work and travel patterns? This uncertainty is what keeps network design engineers up at night.
Crowdsourced data is becoming an important resource for operators when planning and building their networks. When it comes to deploying 5G, it can be used to:
- Identify capacity demand via accurate subscriber locations and usage – allowing engineers to decide where it will be most beneficial to deploy 5G.
- Benchmark end-user experience against internal KPI’s and even competitor networks – providing understanding where the network needs improving.
- Validate coverage and quality of experience of in a much more cost-effective way than rolling out a drive testing team every time you want to test an affected area.
Crowdsourced data is typically collected passively and anonymously from real-life activities through embedded mobile apps – wherever and whenever subscribers use their smartphones. This ensures the information is current and timely, which is critical given the dynamic nature of today’s mobile market.
So, where does an operator get this information? There is a growing list of crowdsourced data providers, including well-known names like Facebook and Twitter. They deliver social media-driven insights on the user experience, while companies like Ookla, Opensignal and Mybroadband provide more general customer experience insights. Even TEOCO has its own crowdsource data application called SmartCX.
But just having this data won’t do you any good if you can’t gain insights from it. TEOCO’s ASSET is an industry-leading 5G radio planning tool that can ingest crowdsourced network performance, coverage, and quality data and display it as maps. This data can then be used by design engineers to prioritize infrastructure development – or make improvements to an existing network. ASSET makes it easier than ever for network engineers to use these data insights to deliver fit-for-purpose 5G network designs quickly and seamlessly.
ASSET delivers all the radio planning capabilities you need to design the best 5G network possible. 5G NR modeling with advanced propagation models, complex antenna arrays and full multi-technology 3D coverage and capacity simulations are all supported. The addition of crowdsourced data support helps drive greater value and insights for ASSET users around the globe by providing a more precise method of identifying capacity demand, benchmarking end-user experience, and validating coverage.
For more information on the latest release of ASSET, view this recent announcement.