By Dr Dimitris Dernikas, Head of RAN Solutions, Support and Center of Innovation
Part 1/3 of our 5G network design blog series

Automation is not a new pursuit. Since the beginning of time, humans have been seeking better ways to maximize productivity and minimize labor, but when it comes to telecom companies automating their tools and processes, many still have a long way to go. The GSMA highlights that more 56% of operators are using little or no automation at all.  While this may have worked well enough for previous mobile generations, 5G is entirely different.

5G is a lot more than just speed and capacity.  

One of the key tenants of 5G is that the technology can tailor services to the needs of the customer. These networks can be designed to support different combinations of bandwidth, latency, throughput, power requirements, reliability, security, dependability, and so on. It’s no surprise that a farmer has different connectivity requirements than a factory, a logistics company, or a hospital. All of them benefit from 5G, just in different ways – yet the same network needs to deliver it all. Designing a network that can meet such a lofty goal requires special skills and tools that are up to the task, and automation is a big component.  I’d like to share three reasons why.

3 Reasons 5G Network Design Requires Automation:

Faster Design Decisions are Needed:  The ability to quickly design a network that can cope with complex KPIs, multiple technologies and use cases that are constantly shifting – all within a single network – is a leap beyond what is required for 4G. And when you look at adoption rates and the number of sites being deployed, 5G is emerging much faster than any previous network technology. Every dollar invested is being closely watched at the highest levels. This puts designers under tremendous pressure to get the everything right – from day one. Automation is absolutely vital to achieve the level of speed and accuracy that is required.

More Deployment Options to Consider:  With 5G, there are no cookie-cutter deployments. Each case is unique and has its own set of KPIs and requirements that must be carefully considered. Part of this equation is that there are a multitude of devices and device types to account for, including new IoT chips and sensors, with widely different capabilities and requirements. In addition, it all needs to work seamlessly with existing technologies.

Designers can’t just focus on one use case at the detriment of others.  They must establish the right balance so that everything works holistically. This requires juggling the demands of various devices and services with the complexity of multiple network technologies, each with their own parameters and settings of internal subsystems required to ensure that a mix of network reliability, transmission, and latency KPIs are met.

Network Modeling Becomes Far More Complex: The level of network modeling that is needed with 5G is unprecedented, making network design teams far more critical than ever before. KPIs expand beyond throughput and network coverage, and now include dimensions like latency and reliability. Designers must be able to answer a barrage of questions from across the organization, such as, ‘Do we want to deploy specialized gaming servers? What will it cost? Will customers have to pay for it? And how will it impact the network?’  The ability to create what-if scenarios and cost-benefit analyses on the fly becomes critical with 5G due to the plethora of new services it can support, and the level of investment required.

In addition, the complexity associated with modeling 5G’s additional spectrum bands – starting from low bands all the way to millimeter wave – goes far beyond what was required for previous technologies.  And the ability to model and predict performance in different indoor environments – from warehouses and underground mining facilities to the top floor of high-rise office buildings – must also be added to the list.

5G Network Design is a Never-Ending Process

There is no ‘one-and-done’ when it comes to 5G network design. It’s an ongoing process because the environment is constantly changing. New automated, AI-powered techniques, like continuous tuning, help capture a real-time view of performance that is not only based on individual measurements, but across the network. This provides a more holistic view.

And of course, any design decision has financial impacts as well. Board members, investors, and executive teams want to know that their network buildout dollars are being wisely spent.

Intelligent, automated tools enhanced with machine learning and AI are becoming a critical part of every 5G designer’s toolkit. Automating the 5G design process is the only way to overcome all this complexity and provide the insights needed to help telecom executives sleep at night.

How We Help

Automation drives engineering efficiency. TEOCO’s ASSET Radio has automated planners for site placement, PCI planning, RACH planning, neighbor planning, network design optimization and more.

ASSET has been designed to meet your needs as 5G grows and matures; coping with the inevitable uncertainties and evolving to support new technologies as they are developed. It provides all the radio planning capabilities needed to design the best 5G network possible, including 5G NR modeling with advanced propagation models, complex antenna arrays, and full multi-technology 3D coverage and capacity simulations.

Over the past 20 years, TEOCO has delivered the best network planning tools for every major mobile technology. We understand what it takes. ASSET isn’t just for 5G. It is one tool that does many things, including the simultaneous planning of wireless networks across GSM, UMTS, LTE and all other supported technologies.

For more information, download our ASSET 5G brochure.

You can learn more about ASSET’s capabilities across all technologies here, and be sure to check out the rest of TEOCO’s three-part series on 5G network design:

Part Two:
Seeing Double: How Digital Twins Are Being Used to Improve 5G Network Design
Author: Dr Nishita Hathi, Product Director, 5G Network Planning & Design Solutions

Part Three:
Intelligent Automation for 5G Network Design
Author: Dr. Konstantinos Stavropoulos, Product Management