Today’s service providers are under increasing pressure to do more with less, even when demand for mobile data is soaring. Growth of IoT is expected to cause the number of newly connected ‘things’ to soar by the tens of billions over the next few years.  In fact, according to a recent article in Forbes, “Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices are expected to exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018, growing at a 23% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2021.”

The Cost of Going 5G
Unfortunately, the cost of supporting all these new ‘things’ on the network, as we transition from LTE to 5G, is staggering.  Analyst firm iGR forecasts that the building and deploying of 5G networks will cost $56 billion between 2017 and 2025. With margins shrinking, service providers are looking for every way possible to conserve costs, while still providing the latest, most technologically advanced network to support the latest data-intensive services.

“Increasing capacity has certainly become a top priority for carriers as mobile data consumption continues to soar,” a recent MoffettNathanson report stated, according to Fierce Wireless. “And that trend will only grow as operators begin to roll out 5G services and provide connectivity for an ever-increasing variety of devices.”  Spectrum reuse techniques will be required to manage the explosion of sensors, modules and chipsets that will be part of the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, 5G networks will need to make far more efficient use of spectrum than wireless networks do today.

Prepare, Protect and Enable
The ability to plan for the mobile network of tomorrow is no longer just about learning lessons from the past.  While this may have worked before, the IoT creates unchartered waters, requiring that service providers rethink their approach to capacity management.

Service providers practically need to be able to predict the future, by monitoring and managing the constantly changing behavior patterns of both human customers, and our new machine counterparts. How will these new devices and ‘things’ impact the network in a world that has moved beyond smartphones and tablets? For example, an article in Telematics Wire predicts the connected car of the future will send 25 Gigabytes of data across the network every hour. That’s 130 Terabytes of data per car, per year.

To plan for this level of demand, network engineers should consider the benefits of long-term RAN initiatives like spectrum reuse, network densification and small cells. They need to consider how new technologies and architectures, like c-RAN, fog computing, swarm layers, and even network sharing, can be used to improve availability, enhance performance, and stretch out investment dollars. IoT connectivity is often driven by SLAs and performance metrics that need to be strictly adhered to.  This is certainly the case with connected cars. Being able to instantly understand the impact of network misconfigurations and monitor mean-time-to-resolution of critical revenue impacting problems will grow increasingly important over the coming years.

Taking the SMART Path Towards Capacity Management
IoT represents a significant commercial opportunity for mobile operators around the world, and each service provider will have its own path, depending on their existing infrastructure and competitive pressures. Both licensed and unlicensed IoT technologies have a valuable role to play in helping operators monetize their networks of the future, but, to realize this, service providers must be able to model the costs and benefits of each option.

With the level of CAPEX investment that 5G will require, the large network equipment manufacturers see this transformation as a huge sales opportunity. But service providers need to be smart about their investments. Spectrum is a valuable and finite commodity – let’s work together to make sure you’re getting the most out of your CAPEX dollars.

How We Help
TEOCO’s SMART Capacity Management is an end-to-end network capacity management solution that provides network visualization, capacity management and scenario planning. It lets you model and visualize your entire multi-vendor and multi-layer network topology in one place, from RAN to Core and Transmission. Using rich data inputs, advanced forecasting algorithms, network optimization expertise and automated ‘what-if’ analysis provides highly precise capacity dimensioning capabilities. This helps identify network bottlenecks and resolve them, optimize network resource utilization and expand your network intelligently to cater for growth. Actual deployments with customers demonstrate the potential of reducing upgrade spend by 10% or more. Some of the world’s largest operators, like Telefonica Global are using TEOCO’s solutions to help build their next-gen networks.