Operators around the world are making significant strides towards deploying 5G. As the telecoms industry becomes increasingly excited about the new services that will be enabled by the next generation of wireless communications, one thing that continues to be top priority for operators is how they ensure Quality of Service (QoS) for their subscribers. Monetizing new 5G services will not just be a case of rolling them out, it will also be a case of managing these services with the right tools.
5G is adding to the size and complexity of the network, and for operators, that means they’ll need to do more to keep things running smoothly. This presents several challenges, particularly from an efficiency point of view, as delivering the quality of service – while keeping cost down – will be critical to their 5G success. One capability which will play an important part of operators’ 5G strategy is geo-intelligence. So what do these capabilities look like and how will they help operators during each stage of their 5G deployment?
Putting geo in 5G
Geo-intelligence is the insight gained from analysing geo-located data – for operators, this often relates to a handset, or more generically, to a subscriber. Geo-intelligence isn’t a new concept in the telecoms world. In fact, operators have used it for several years to better understand subscriber experience and to optimize network assets. Geo-intelligence is critical in helping network engineers create map-based visual representations of subscriber experience, network usage and network performance. This granular insight can then be used to isolate subscriber events and outages, or build out heatmaps that show performance and usage metrics.
Geolocated data can play an important role at each stage of deploying a 5G network. During planning it can help prioritize 5G investments, during the validation stage it can be used to validate the performance of new 5G clusters. And as the traffic on the network increases, it can be used to analyze and optimize performance.
Easing deployment with geo-intelligence
The first stage of 5G network build outs concerns deployment. In these initial stages, decisions must be made by network engineers about where to build the first 5G cell sites for maximum ROI. By analysing geo-located data from the existing 4G network, initial 5G sites can be planned to offload the biggest 4G data hotspots are, or to cover areas where there is a high concentration of 5G-capable devices already in use. This level of insight, coupled with an operators’ business objectives, can help to ensure that the first sites are deployed in an area which makes most financial sense and where the operator will see the biggest ROI.
The second stage of 5G network build concerns validation and testing. When a new cluster of cell sites is launched and deployed, a lot of time is spent drive testing these sites to ensure they are delivering on the performance and subscriber experience, as expected. While this is a necessary part of the network build-out process, drive testing is costly and time consuming, and with so many more cell sites required for 5G network build-outs, geo-intelligence will play an important role in reducing the time and cost associated with validating 5G networks. By using geolocated data, engineers can validate sites, confirming the actual coverage matches what was planned, and that there have been no site build issues such as swapped sectors or incorrect azimuths. The initial performance of the cluster can be assessed though analysis of traffic and performance heatmaps and early problems can be investigated via Virtual Drive Test capabilities.
The third stage concerns fine-tuning and network optimization. As operators see 5G network traffic increase, they’ll need to work hard to continuously optimize it to ensure network performance and subscriber experience levels are met. Geo-intelligence can help with this by enabling load balancing – steering traffic from 4G to 5G to maximise spectral and cost efficiency; virtual drive testing to reduce cost of physical cell site visits; and continuous optimization by enabling operators to meet the complex and rapidly changing neighbor requirements as 5G traffic grows.
Making 5G ROI
As operators around the world vie to make a return on their 5G investments, they’re facing a lot of pressure on how to monetise the new 5G services they’re about to launch. The reality is that today, there are still a lot of questions around 5G monetisation. But if operators can use geo-intelligence to their advantage, to increase operational efficiency and reduce some of the cost associated with 5G deployment, they’ll soon be on their way to meet their ROI ambitions.