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

- January 5, 2016 - 0 Comments

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.

The Solution:

Cisco SON is a game changer for engineers, enabling them to automate manual optimization tasks, manage a greater number of cells, improve capacity utilization and ultimately delay or defer capacity additions. The MNO’s engineers manage Cisco SON and Cisco SON manages the optimization of the network.

Where to start with optimization automation and simplification

There is a natural reluctance of RF engineers to embrace a new tool meant to help them perform their job more efficiently. And there’s a good reason for this.

They have seen too many solutions end up creating more problems or adding to their workload, so they become skeptical with any new “tool de jour”. Cisco’s experience with deploying SON throughout 20+ operators across the globe has shown that getting buy-in from RF engineers is critical to the success of a SON deployment. For a MNO looking to deploy SON, we suggest focusing on three key areas for the fastest ROI and uptake by the RF engineering organization: parameter auditing, cell load-balancing and RET antenna optimization.

In the second part of this blog series, we’ll look at these three areas and show how SON quickly automates and simplifies these three complex areas:
– Parameter auditing
– Cell load-balancing
– RET antenna optimization

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