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SON Isn’t Just Network KPI Improvements (Part 2)

In the first part of this blog series (SON Isn’t Just Network KPI Improvements-Part 1), we discussed the need for automation and simplification to address growing challenges in network complexity. This part will discuss 3 areas that are good starting points for any MNO considering a SON deployment and why RF engineers eagerly embrace this new solution.

1. Parameter Auditing

Today, cell configuration auditing is extremely difficult, time intensive, and subject to human error.  Engineers go through an exhaustive process of defining and updating audit profiles then matching cells with the profiles. Many MNOs use one “golden” profile to audit all cells against, with the focus on general consistency and identifying the easiest problems to fix. A typical audit takes two-to-four hours per audit and is performed every two-to-three weeks. The RF engineer simply has no time to perform an in-depth analysis to determine if anything other than the standard parameters are incorrectly set.

RF engineers immediately see the benefit of a SON solution that enables the creation and enforcement of RF parameter profiles. It removes configuration errors in the network, reduces deployment timeline by automating the configuration of new cells, and audits against an unlimited number of “golden profiles” for cells in different RF environments (for example, urban, suburban, rural) areas.

2. Load Balancing

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SON Isn’t Just Network KPI Improvements (Part 1)

Learn how Cisco SON helps MNO lower CAPEX and increase network efficiency

The Challenge:
In discussions with Mobile Network Operator (MNO) CTOs, the need for automation and simplification is a recurring theme.

Legacy manual optimization methods are not keeping up with the network complexity and growth. RF engineers only have time for a minimum or “maintenance” level of activities and are unable to perform detailed, wide-scale network optimization. Solutions intended to improve network performance go unused by field technicians due to their complexity and the time required for proper operation:

• For instance, we have found numerous examples where Remote Electric Tilt (RET) antennas have not had tilt changes since their initial deployment optimization. The process to tilt RET antennas is extremely time intensive and therefore only the most egregious sites are tilted. This results in less than optimal user experiences.

• Another example is the limited use of a RAN vendor’s dSON (distributed SON) functionality. We have seen several instances where field engineers have disabled dSON tools meant to improve neighbor-relation lists. They have found the tool can create more problems than it solves, such as “ping-ponging” of neighbor relations or creating distant neighbors. This also results in a poor experience for customers.

To remedy this, many RF engineers manually create and maintain their own neighbor relation lists. They spend over 30 minutes per day, every day, performing basic maintenance activities on neighbor lists.

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As a result of these complex operating environments, RF engineers maintain high network performance levels through the easiest, but less than optimum, practice of capacity expansions. The time and effort required to highly optimize the network becomes so challenging that engineers add macro sites, small cells, or carrier additions to address problem areas earlier than required. This results in accelerated CAPEX and inefficient use of network capacity.

The increasing network complexity driven by VoLTE, small cells, continued carrier adds, and site additions will only accelerate the trend described above. MNOs will either need to add more field engineers or come up with a solution that automates and simplifies their network operation, enabling their current workforce to manage a greater number of cells.

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Cisco Assurance Services for IP NGN: Improve Network Performance and Agility

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