With every new mobile generation comes network construction. New radios, antennas, and base band units must be installed. This requires site survey, network design, construction, and eventual operator acceptance. Digital solutions can help streamline the construction process, making construction more efficient so mobile operators can deploy 5G quicker and start to recoup their investment sooner.
Deploying a new mobile network is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Just as mobile operators are working on their 5G service strategies, they should also be working on 5G deployment strategies. Time and cost of construction need to be minimized. Fortunately for mobile operators, there are digital solutions available to help them achieve network deployment efficiencies and move toward digital operations to better compete and generate a return on their 5G network investments. Photogrammetry, building information modeling or network site twinning, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools can help improve the overall mobile network construction experience.
5G deployments and legacy LTE network refreshes are a time for operators to think about new ways to build those networks. The tools and process behind building LTE networks last decade have drastically changed.
Vendor partners play a major role in network design and construction. Mobile operators need to take into consideration the vendor partner's network design and construction capabilities when selecting their mobile radio access supplier.
Minimizing the cost and time of network construction shortens the time the operator has to wait to start generating revenue with the network to get their return on investment.
The 5G build will not be simple
5G radio introduces new complexities to the network construction
The introduction of a new mobile network generation brings along with it a new wave of radio network construction. From one generation to the next, there have always been new complexities introduced with each new generation. The additions of new radios, new base station form factors, creation of new sites, and increased antenna complexity have all contributed to these new challenges. 5G will be no different.
5G brings new spectrum bands to the mobile network. Those bands include 3.5GHz and other adjacent mid-bands, along with mmWave bands above 6GHz. Using those bands will require new sites as their propagation characteristics are different than the mobile bands in use. At this early stage it is difficult to say how many new sites an operator will need to support, but factoring in small cells, itis not unreasonable to estimate a fully built out 5G network using both macro and small cells could have an increase of 50% of new sites versus today's LTE network.
Digital deployment solutions will have a positive impact on 5G construction and service enablement
Faster to market, faster to profit
The faster an operator can deploy a 5G network the sooner it can start getting a return on its investment in that 5G network. However, that rush to deploy should not be done haphazardly. It needs to be planned as an efficient build that will minimize build costs and keep the construction crews safe. Just as 5G is an end-to-end network transformation, the construction of 5G should be an end-to-end process using modern tools from the initial site survey all the way to live network verification. The 5G network construction process plays an important role in the future success of 5G services. Deployment is only the start of the 5G story. Operators of course want to generate revenue from new services running across their new mobile network. In the modern digital age, this means creating a fast and flexible network that allows operators to compete on par with cloud service providers. Proper network construction using digital deployment tools will make it easier for operators to achieve this goal with their 5G investments.
Figure 1: Network construction impact on 5G service
Digital solutions help operators improve the network construction process
The world of mobility has changed significantly since the introduction of LTE. Data traffic has grown exponentially with LTE. People walk around with computers in their pockets in the form of smartphones. Countless applications have been created to harness the compute power of those devices.
Just as the end-user experience has changed thanks to LTE, so too have the tools mobile operators now have available to deploy their networks. The following are just some of these digital tools that mobile operators should be looking into when planning and building their 5G networks:
Photogrammetry to capture the dimensions of the base station site. With photogrammetry, construction crews can capture the dimensions of different possible deployment sites to be used in the network planning phase. This will help in picking the optimal sites that have space needed to deploy network gear.
Building information modeling (BIM)/twinning gives the operator a digital replica of the network gear at the deployment site. This helps operators make sure the gear will fit and figure out – in advance of sending the construction crews – how and where to install the apparatus. This helps save time by reducing the possibility of construction crews going to a site only to find out they lack the proper equipment and having to make multiple trips to install the base station.
Virtual network design and engineering to ensure optimal network coverage and electromagnetic field (EMF) safety. Using digital tools, the network can be designed for optimal coverage and capacity, and to measure EMF to ensure the safety of workers and the population as a whole.
AI for pre-deployment verification. After the network has been designed and planned, but before actual deployment using AI tools, an operator can test network performance for different applications such as VR and online gaming. They can measure throughput, latency, and even stress test the network to make sure the design plans mean their service requirements.
Quick network commissioning with software. Different software tools both in the field and at a central network location can quickly commission the network and reduce human error.
Use of AI for quicker network verification and acceptance. Modern using AI allows operators to accept network from vendor without having to send workers to each site. This greatly decreases the time involved in the network verification process. Using these tools and others is an important part of installing a 5G network efficiently, reducing time to build, eliminating errors, ensuring performance, and increasing the safety of the construction crews. Mobile should maximize the use of digital tools to improve then network build experience.
This content is sponsored by Huawei.
— Daryl Schoolar, Practice Leader, Service Provider Technology, Ovum