When you stop to think about it, the objectives of mobile network operators’ (MNOs) are quite universal – increase profitability, improve the customer experience, and beat the competition. Yet with today’s complicated heterogeneous network (HetNet) environment, success does not come easy.
Like any good football manager, a mobile network operator (MNO) might have its own network management “playbook" with detailed policies and instructions for handling network issues that came their way.
When is the right time to let go of the reins and allow your self-optimizing network (SON) system to run without human intervention? At the end of the day, it really comes down to three considerations: business readiness, technical readiness and cultural readiness.
The customer experience of a mobile user has many aspects: how they react to their monthly bill, does customer care fix their problems the first time, and do they have the latest handsets before anyone else. But when we get down to the network, the subscriber experience boils down to a few simple questions: How good is my coverage? How often do I suffer a dropped call? Is my data fast enough?
Managing HetNets with their different access technologies, different network vendors, different cell sizes, is a major headache. Pulling these different elements together and synchronizing them is like trying to conduct an orchestra where each section has music for a different symphony. In our experience, most operators now believe that centralized network software is the answer for managing the entire operation, especially after adding LTE into the equation.
The phrase and belief "if you build it, they will come" has been widely disparaged over the years. Yet that’s exactly what happened with LTE networks. Operators built them and, yes, subscribers came. In droves. The simple lure of faster data on a mobile device was enough to draw in millions of subscribers worldwide. Then the inevitable happened. People were actually using the networks. A lot.
There’s no doubt about it; as service providers move towards optimizing their networks through automation, the adoption of self-optimizing networks (SONs) is growing. The last year couple of years have seen double digit growth for the network optimization and SON software market, particularly for existing 3G networks.
Self-optimizing networks (SON) have the potential to massively improve the running of an operator’s network and business. It can dramatically cut OPEX and CAPEX associated with running a network and make life simpler for network managers and engineers. But before leaping into implementing SON, there are key considerations that mobile operators need to think through. Awareness of potential challenges can serve as a guide, helping to maximize the technology’s potential and prevent problems down the line.
This year marks the 30th anniversary when cinema goers were introduced to one of the most successful science fiction franchises of all time. In 1984 James Cameron launched the first Terminator film. As well as helping cement Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of Hollywood’s greatest action heroes, it also introduced the idea of an intelligent self-managing network. Skynet, was a fully automated system that did not require human management of its technology.
With the widespread introduction of self-optimizing network (SON) features within the radio access network (RAN), customer experience measurements are rapidly shifting toward the more relevant metric of active customer experience improvement.