How Automation in Network Design is Driving CAPEX and OPEX Savings
By Gavin Hayhurst, Head of Product Marketing, TEOCO
Operators are increasingly focused on using automation to reduce total cost of ownership and increase service agility as they roll out 5G. Analysys Mason states that more than 50% of operators surveyed consider network automation as a top three initiative. Meanwhile, a mobile operator’s radio access network (RAN) is responsible for 29% of all network OPEX. That’s a lot of money on the line and automation can deliver significant savings.
Below we consider how three different aspects of network design automation can all help to deliver on the benefits promised by automation:
- Automation of network design
Network design has never been more complex. 5G networks are increasingly coming online and expanding, but network operators still have to manage their 2G, 3G, and 4G networks too. The complexity of 4 network technologies all needing to work seamlessly together means network design optimization is difficult and time consuming, if not impossible. However, by leveraging today’s sophisticated algorithms, network designers can now rely on automation to plan and manage their future network infrastructure requirements with greater accuracy, ensuring they deliver a high-performance network with no wasted spend. For example, imagine if your 5G traffic has grown 200% over the past year and you expect it to increase by another 100% in the next 12 months. With the benefits and capabilities of automation, you can determine what sites need to be upgraded, what sites require reconfiguration, where new sites should be built, and where small cells need to be added.
The benefits of automation also extend to mitigating performance issues. For example, if there is an area of poor performance in the network, automation gives network designers the opportunity to run through a series of configuration scenarios to arrive at an optimal solution. Automation in network design provides the ability to ask questions such as: “If I change the azimuth five degrees this way, how does that impact the network? If I change it five degrees the other way, what happens then? And what are the cascading effects of this change?” Not only does optimizing network design through automation help avoid months of manual effort and truck rolls, it also delivers tangible CAPEX and OPEX savings. That’s because network designers gain the ability to determine the best ROI for their budgets and better prioritize investments.
- Automated demand-based network design
IDC estimates that global 5G expenditures will hit $26 Billion by 2022. All eyes, therefore, are on ensuring the ROI is recouped as quickly as possible. Thankfully, network designers have a treasure trove of data available that can help them prioritize where to expand their 5G networks to attract new customers, minimize churn, increase existing network utilization, and maximize new site effectiveness. Information from geo-located traffic data and crowdsourced data, along with coverage, capacity, performance, and risk cost targets, can provide a cross-section of intelligence to help network planners to test several different scenarios. Overlaying existing 4G network data, for example, gives network designers an option to design a 5G network based on existing 4G usage – or the ability to identify the 4G sites where 5G should be added. With automation to aid demand-based network design, engineers can easily answer questions, such as:
- Which ten cities should we expand our 5G coverage to as part of the Phase One budget?
- Where will I get the best ROI from 5G if I spend $100 Million?
- Where are our competitors’ 5G coverage ‘not-spots’?
- Where do we need to improve our 5G service coverage?
Automation across network design not only reduces manual effort, it also minimizes human error, inconsistency, and the variability in network design that may occur due to the preferences and experience of different planning engineers. By using automated algorithms to meet specific coverage and capacity criteria, network planning decisions are standardized across the network. This will become increasingly important as network planning decisions shift from being based on an engineer’s knowledge of local demographics, network coverage, and usage patterns to decisions that are based on real network data about demand, coverage, and capacity.
- Automation of business processes
Aside from automating actual network design, automation can also streamline routine business processes and tasks that support network design. APIs can be successfully utilized to interface with upstream and downstream systems to further improve overall business efficiency. Automating data feeds to downstream systems, such as online coverage checkers, is one example of where APIs can be used to take a routine human task and transform it into a ‘zero-manual effort’ business process. Automating tasks like these is critical because it delivers a competitive edge. It not only frees up resources, but it also ensures that network operators have a real-time, accurate view of coverage as competition for 5G subscribers heats up.
In closing, these are not just theoretical examples. Network operators across the world are experiencing the benefits of automation in network design today. Here are three examples of how TEOCO’s is helping lead the way:
- A leading European operator reduced manual network design optimization efforts by 40% using the automation capabilities of ASSET Design.
- A US Tier 1 Operator is currently updating its online coverage checker in near-real-time with zero manual effort using TEOCO’s ASSET APIs.
- A South American Operator reduced ‘poor’ bins by 19% in their network by using the automated design optimization capabilities of ASSET Design.