By Gavin Hayhurst, Head of Product Marketing 

Deploying a new technology, such as 5G, is a very expensive exercise. To deliver a high-performing network, at a cost which ensures it will generate profits, requires an operator to use all the tools and data at its disposal.

Geo-intelligence – that is the insights gained from analyzing geolocated data, is a critical component of ensuring a successful 5G network deployment.

What is geolocated data?

Geolocation is the estimation of the real-world geographic location of an object. When it comes to mobile networks, this relates to a handset, or more generically, to a subscriber.

By applying advanced algorithms and enriched geographical data to event data being sent between a handset and a network, it is possible to accurately estimate the location of a subscriber.

Geolocating subscriber events provides engineers with a map-based visual representation of subscriber experience, network usage and network performance. This data can be used to investigate individual calls made by subscribers for troubleshooting and it can also be aggregated into heatmaps to show usage and performance metrics.

In this blog we will focus on leveraging network-based geo data for 5G network deployment use cases. In a future blog we will investigate more complex use cases such as how we can analyze the performance of specific 5G use cases with geo data, as well as looking at other potential sources of geo data such as crowd-sourcing.

How can geolocated data help when deploying a 5G network?

Geolocated data can provide valuable insights at each stage of deploying a 5G network. During planning it can help prioritize 5G investments, during the validation stage it can be used to validate the performance of new 5G clusters. Finally, as the traffic on the network increases, it can be used to analyze and optimize performance.

Prioritizing 5G investment

One of the first decisions to make when deploying a 5G network is where to build 5G cell sites for maximum return on investment, and more specifically where to build the very first sites.

By analyzing geolocated data from the existing 4G network, initial 5G sites can be planned to offload the biggest 4G data hotspots, to cover concentrations of VIPs, or to cover areas where many 5G capable devices are already in use. Of course, these factors are not mutually independent, and by applying weightings, all 3 factors can contribute to a rollout plan that most closely aligns with the operator’s business objectives.

Geo maps can be analyzed in a geolocation tool, but for a more automated approach, 4G geolocated traffic and performance heatmaps can be imported into a planning tool, such as ASSET Radio, and displayed as a map layer. This makes it significantly easier for an engineer to plan the required 5G sites.

Validating 5G clusters after launch

Typically, when a new cluster of sites is launched, a large amount of drive testing is undertaken, and engineers keep a close eye on network performance statistics to confirm performance and subscriber experience is as expected. Drive testing is costly and time consuming, and when cell statistics show performance problems it can often be difficult to isolate the reason and rectify it.

By using geolocated data, engineers can validate sites, confirming the actual coverage matches what was planned, and that there have been no site build issues such as swapped sectors or incorrect azimuths. The initial performance of the cluster can be assessed though analysis of traffic and performance heatmaps and early problems can be investigated via Virtual Drive Test capabilities.

Optimizing 5G networks

As traffic on a new 5G network increases, analysis and optimization of network performance will be required. Four key areas where geo-intelligence can help are outlined below:

  • Initial tuning – Monitor the initial uptake of 5G within a cluster, investigate problem calls via virtual drive testing and assess the pre/post tuning performance of optimization changes.
  • Continuous optimization – Analyze and optimize the performance of RF features such as MIMO and carrier aggregation. Maintain excellent mobility by optimizing the complex and rapidly changing neighbor requirements as 5G traffic grows.
  • Load balancing – Focus on steering traffic from 4G to 5G to maximize spectral efficiency and minimize the cost per bit delivered.
  • Virtual Drive Testing – Reduce costly physical drive testing by analyzing subscriber calls made on roads to confirm road coverage and performance. Investigate and troubleshoot the actual calls where subscribers experienced problems and eliminate the need to try and reproduce issues outlined in customer complaints.

Post-launch monetization

In this blog we have focused on leveraging geo-intelligence to successfully deploy a 5G network, but there are many other areas where geo-intelligence can deliver value. One of these is to generate new sales by encouraging subscribers to upgrade their tariff plan or device. Geo-intelligence can be used to identify subscribers with 5G devices that are located in areas of 5G coverage but are using the 4G network due to a subscription limitation. It can also be used to identify high data usage subscribers, including fixed wireless access (FWA) customers, with 4G devices located in areas where 5G coverage is available. These subscribers can then be approached with relevant offers to upgrade.

In Closing

At TEOCO, we have been leveraging geolocated measurement to help operators plan, validate, optimize and monetize networks for over 20 years. You can learn more about our solutions by visiting the dedicated geolocation page on our website. If you would like someone to contact you about how geo-intelligence can improve your 5G network deployment, please contact us.