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A Stratecast Executive Industry Positioning Paper Tim McElligott
Senior Consulting Analyst – Global OSS/BSS Strategy February 2014
network device configuration. One such technology available today is the self-organizing network (SON). repair. which will likely become prevalent in mobile networks over the coming years. These concerns are well founded. highly dynamic mobile data traffic. it has left them with few options for responding to the incredible growth of network traffic. This automation could include applications for any or all of these categories: data collection and analysis. often called the self-optimizing network. This whitepaper provides an overview of the current iteration of SON as defined by 3GPP and others. SON: THE IDEAL AND THE REAL The concept of the Self-Organizing Network (SON) was first described in Release 8 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) technical specifications for UTRAN-based LTE systems. Before exploring this expanded scope. The paper highlights current use cases for SON. The definition of SON by 3GPP was in response to calls by CSPs to increase automation and avoid the operational issues in 2G and 3G networks. traffic management. It also looks at work being done to extend the application of SON beyond 4G and beyond the radio access network (RAN). It also addresses some of the concerns CSPs have over automation in their network domain. Lack of automation increases costs and prevents effective responses to rapid changes in network load and customer experience. provided technologies like SON can render these HetNets cost effective and manageable. and capacity management. 2 . but in the current business and competitive environment. service assurance. This paper shows some of the ways that might be done. the need to define an expanded scope for SON has steadily grown more urgent. optimization. The basic concepts of this specification’s early release still hold. While the concepts behind SON are applicable to any network type.4 million Projected Outdoor Drive Test Equipment Market by 2019 WILL SON CURTAIL IT’S GROWTH? Source: Frost & Sullivan © 2014 Stratecast. this paper will review the current state of SON. this whitepaper focuses primarily on radio access networks (RAN). these concerns must be addressed and overcome. the paper covers the challenges to managing heterogeneous networks (HetNets). particularly. with manual processes and human labor. in December 2008. Their best option is automation. All Rights Reserved. However. software $467. Finally. was a necessity that brought the cost of doing business down to a level that allowed CSPs to compete and remain profitable. CSPs must leverage technologies that support automation. which communication service providers (CSPs) spent more than a decade doing. and the breadth of requirements and capabilities has grown in parallel. Whereas Release 8 of the 3GPP standard focused primarily on specifications and use cases for automated inventory. and looks at what features may be added to make SON a more comprehensive solution that goes beyond a focus on network performance. However.Self-Optimizing Networks: Removing Risk and Adding Value EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Getting lean. No business could hope to respond to dynamic growth the way CSPs need to respond. To whatever extent possible.
small cells and other RAN elements. . This category of SON leverages auto-discovery and ANR to allow network elements to discover their place in the network. the features and capabilities described above can be segmented into three categories of the Self-Organizing Network: self-configuring. CSPs worry about a lack of control over the troubleshooting process when they lose their frame of reference for the configuration at the time a particular event occurred. radios. automated deployments of base station. these responses increasingly need to include parameter changes related to customer experience and end-user usage patterns. self-optimizing and self-healing. and the health of other network elements. but trepidation-inducing automations in networking: the self-healing network. SON began to take on new dimensions in later releases. Energy savings management allows mobile operators to design networks that consume less power by automatically and temporarily shutting down unused capacity when not needed. It concentrates on automatically responding to a growing body of parameters that need to be set and reset in response to changing requirements in traffic. across the RAN and between neighboring nodes. coverage. This self-healing function will change the dynamics of troubleshooting networks. capacity. It also lets them adjust an element’s configuration and relationship to its neighbors. but also support ongoing work for developing one of the more coveted. namely. SON allows mobile operators to design networks that consume less power by automatically and temporarily shutting down unused capacity when not needed. configurations. inconsistency and lack of responsiveness to dynamic changes in network conditions. SON also focused on reducing costs associated with manual drive testing. These concerns are being overcome and will be discussed later in this whitepaper. The goal of these use cases was to address problems in manual optimization processes. ▪ Self-healing networks respond to service degradation or system failures by automatically adjusting parameters. and load balancing. This will become increasingly important as small cells and heterogeneous networks proliferate. emergency coverage. environmental conditions. as well as energy costs within wireless networks—a significant contributor to overall operational expenses. ▪ Self-optimizing networks improve coverage by maximizing the utilization of network elements. power consumption or physical antenna tilt. Early optimization efforts focused on mobility.Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan downloads and physical Cell ID assignment. and improve mean-time-to-repair and service quality. All Rights Reserved. as well as the configurations of their neighbor and adjacent cells. “ ” ▪ Self-configuring networks typically focus on pre-service. However. These efforts stand on their own. based on factors such as time-of-day demand. particularly regarding optimization. It could also reduce the severity and duration of 3 © 2014 Stratecast. A self-healing network mandates stricter data integrity and real-time visibility in a network that is changing dynamically. and conserving the power required to run them. Thus.
Likewise. defined by 3GPP. Capabilities such as traffic steering will become more important as heterogeneous networks that include small-cell and offload technologies become more widespread and require better integration with core networks. In recent work— such as that from the SEMAFOUR project. and at network authentication. automated network configuration changes will react to customerbased parameters. which is a consortium created to develop a unified self-management system—use cases for future networks have been identified. These include resource management for supporting dual connectivity. This implies a certain degree of localization of functionality. At the same time. functions are more typically concentrated closer to higher-order network nodes or the network OSS. functions are distributed among the network elements at the edge of the network—typically the ENodeB elements. CSPs began to ask how the benefits they envisioned for LTE SON could be applied to their existing 2G and 3G networks. ▪ Distributed SON: In this type of SON (D-SON). © 2014 Stratecast. optimization and healing. for example. none included data. USE CASES EVOLVE Initial use cases for SON. C-SON systems are more typically supplied by third parties. dynamic spectrum allocation and interference management. Ultimately. load across a wide geographic area. in order to allow a broader overview of more edge elements and coordination of. All Rights Reserved. due to the need to inter-work with cells supplied by different equipment vendors. Distributed. were LTE-centric and focused on three main functional areas: configuration. SON configuration use cases looked at hardware installation and testing. ▪ Hybrid SON: Hybrid SON is a mix of centralized and distributed SON. in which a user can be connected to multiple base stations. and reconfigurable antenna systems. 4 . ▪ Centralized SON: In centralized SON (C-SON). automatic traffic steering. combining elements of each in a hybrid solution. This also cries out for better resource management. actions or processes external to the network. thus increasing the breadth of SON to new technologies. Understandably. centralized or hybrid. SON can be implemented in any or all of three different configurations.Self-Optimizing Networks: Removing Risk and Adding Value service-affecting outages. other groups seek to extend the depth of SON’s capabilities. optimization use cases were limited to using network data to adjust network parameters in radio and transport networks. Traffic steering can be impacted by another 3GPP enhancement known as dual connectivity. at set-up parameters for radios and transport technology performance. and is normally supplied by the network equipment vendor manufacturing the radio cell. C-SON systems provide increased scope for the use of input data from beyond the network.
All Rights Reserved. Extending SON also means going beyond the network. It also created pressures for SON to cover more. but will design dynamic networks that include small cell technologies and support Wi-Fi handoffs.5G—there was drive testing. self-configuring networks completely change the dynamics of network planning. Network planners must prepare for the domino effects of autonomous network elements reconfiguring themselves at will. before 3G transformed both the network and customer usage by introducing highspeed mobile data. although there is no reason these technologies cannot be included in the process today. even before 2. as well as what parameters will be used to trigger them. That is why geo-location and customer experience analytics will play an important role in future iterations of SON. An algorithm created for automatically fine-tuning the network to maximize the customer experience cannot achieve its goal without including data sets born of that experience. Outside of the industry standards. Engineers are also considering what role policy managers will play in the network. “ ” SUBSCRIBER GEO-LOCATION Before there was 4G LTE. They must take neighbor relations to a new level. This delay stresses equipment providers’ ability to respond. but it also flies in the face of proclamations by CSPs that they are customer focused and working to deliver the best customer experience. to necessary change. For example. An algorithm created for automatically fine-tuning the network to maximize the customer experience cannot achieve its goal without including data sets born of that experience. Not incorporating these technologies is unnecessarily leaving valuable information and business-affecting capabilities on the table. SON should and does continue to evolve. and opens the door to opportunity for independent third party software supplier to establish offerings that go beyond the standards definition of SON. and how to incorporate the rule sets of policy managers into the automation process.Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan BEYOND DEFINITIONS AND THE FUTURE OF SON The initial buzz around SON gave the industry a name and a validated approach for increasing automation in wireless networks. Engineers will no longer design cell sites based almost exclusively on coverage and capacity projections. both technically and commercially. they bring to light many areas beyond the network that impact or could be impacted by SON. Most of the triggers currently defined are based on network performance parameters. Drive testing involves the costly practice of 5 © 2014 Stratecast. albeit based on parameters and rules set by network engineers. This is very important. As suppliers in the mobile industry identify their strengths and unique approaches to managing RANs. . and learn to master the real-time analytics of data from many additional sources. Leaving SON purely to industry specification groups results in slower progress towards increased automation. These areas include efforts to both extending SON capabilities and the long established processes within CSP organizations. Using only network data means decisions will be made based on the tweaking of technology.
UTILIZING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE The proof of a CSP’s commitment to customer centricity may lie in its willingness to move SON beyond its current role as a network performance tool. business decisions regarding the re-allocation of resources. Much of the granularity allowed by customer-centric SONs relies on the deployment of small-cell technology. for a more direct impact on the customer experience. to a tool that takes full advantage of customer experience data by leveraging that data in its automation and optimization processes. It was the best option available in the early days of mobile for evaluating coverage. geo-location allows them to be much more efficient in the process by providing the data that allows a SON to apply only the necessary resources to solve a problem. and it has held that distinction to the present day. or revenue-based. Coupled with input from O&M systems. making connections and measuring performance. subscriber location. Geo-location technologies. Part of the mission of SON is to eliminate or significantly reduce the need for drive testing. which presents challenges of its own. in conjunction with the proliferation of small cells. All Rights Reserved. affect the customer experience. More centralized test systems and smarter devices have helped lessen the need. The proof of a CSP’s commitment to customer centricity may lie in its willingness to move SON beyond its current role as a network performance tool. but a more strategic use of geo-location technologies and analysis can help further reduce drive testing. This deeper dimension is one that enables decisioning systems to incorporate precise data on which customers may be affected by a problem in the network. This type of SON would focus primarily on corporate business users. SON inherently delivers benefits in the way of improved network performance. The value portion of such a customer experience view would also require a tight integration with O&M. 6 . “ A full SON that includes geo-location and customer data also changes the dynamic for the customer care organization. Customer care representatives will be able to better characterize a service-effecting event when interfacing with a customer. and actual customer experience. These improvements indirectly. The customer experience aspects of SON should include subscriber usage patterns. but positively. since it would be couched in service and/or business terms rather than technology terms.Self-Optimizing Networks: Removing Risk and Adding Value loading a vehicle or vehicles with devices and test gear to travel through the coverage areas of a given network. When CSPs are ready to automatically shift resources in reaction to poorly performing network segments. capacity management and network utilization. are allowing CSPs to get much more granular in identifying trouble spots in a network. However. it also helps CSPs understand the value of those customers. functionality and systems designed specifically for the ” © 2014 Stratecast. subscriber value. CSPs can therefore make value-based. to one that takes full advantage of SON by incorporating customer experience data into its automation and optimization processes. Geo-location also works hand-in-hand with customer experience data analytics to add a deeper dimension to self -optimization.
which is beginning to happen in other parts of the business LEVERAGING CUSTOM ALGORITHMS AS A SOURCE OF DIFFERENTIATION All that has been said so far points to SON use cases.76 billion Projected Market Size for Small Cell Technology in 2016 SON COULD ACCELERATE THIS GROWTH Source: Frost & Sullivan THE CHALLENGE OF MANAGING HETNETS The term HetNet indicates the use of multiple types of access nodes in a radio access network. The overall small cell market is forecasted by Frost & Sullivan to experience a 61 percent compound annual 7 © 2014 Stratecast. CRM. an algorithm or set of algorithms that drive hand-off optimization between cells. working in conjunction to deliver increased coverage and capacity. for example. So. it follows that algorithms cannot come from a cookiecutter design. versus what the network thinks it needs for optimal performance Provide access and context for SON to customer service departments Force the interworking of network and IT. SON suppliers must offer customization services. As stated above. solutions suppliers will be able to differentiate themselves based on who writes the best algorithms. as well as provide CSPs the option of customizing their own algorithms for SON. as part of a CSP’s SON solution. and the algorithms that support them can become an area of differentiation. No two algorithms are created equal or are likely to generate different results regarding handoff success rates. nor are any two business models. Customer-facing systems such as billing. order management. $7. and lead to the best performing networks. along with SON’s core network function. These small cells can be any combination of femtocells for indoor coverage and picocells for outdoor traffic hot spots. most accurate and insightful conclusions. which incorporate key data from pertinent IT and operations and monetization (O&M. or even productized. All Rights Reserved. And. HetNets refer to the combination of macro cells (traditional cell towers) with small cells. CSPs should look for algorithms with the broadest scope.Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan customer experience could stand to be more tightly integrated. And. . So. algorithms designed primarily for network performance will fail to have the full effect on the customer experience and the business. compared with just the macro networks alone. could be used to: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Proactively manage service level agreements Target optimization at the most valuable coverage areas Target optimization at the most valuable customers Base policies and parameters on what the customer wants and does. also known as OSS BSS) functions. They will also be those algorithms that can incorporate unique CSP requirements. The winners will be the algorithms that deliver the fastest. service delivery and service fulfillment could be part of a SON solution. Take. much like developments in the burgeoning Big Data market. No two networks are exactly the same.
and grow to approximately $7. And. ACKNOWLEDGING AND ADDRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT AUTOMATION IN NETWORKING The concerns CSPs hold about automating critical aspects of their networks—such as planning and engineering.76 billion.1 The drivers for deploying small cell technology include: a potential lower total cost of ownership. and with good cause. However. improved data traffic management—despite the amount of data traffic growing to 6. Nor will all networks or even segments of networks be on the same generation of technology. as mentioned above. See Frost & Sullivan Report: Small Cells: A Big Component in Future Mobile Networks. which Frost & Sullivan analysts have said they must. if network costs are not better managed. configuration. many new suppliers of small cell technology are expected to enter the market. increased coverage. From a cost perspective. optimization and maintenance—are strongly held. Small cells must therefore meet the requirements for being part of a SON. All Rights Reserved. Wireless is inherently more prone to eavesdropping and jamming. 1 2 See Frost & Sullivan research report: Analysis of the Small Cell Market: Small is Big. They are all a part of the overall concern. which is losing control over the management of their infrastructure. CSPs cannot afford to deploy technologies that require return visits for maintenance or for eventual upgrades. Part of the reason SON is a priority is that it is estimated to achieve a 55 percent savings in capital and operational expenses when deployed. SON itself is seen by some as a short. But also. and managing the associations between them. is complex enough. and faster new service introduction. complexity can be managed. and CSPs do not want to delay its introduction by including difficult-to-manage heterogeneous networks in the rollout. Automated configuration and self-healing in particular require a higher level of consistency in the parameters used to evaluate performance and commands that control changes in multiple vendors’ equipment. December 2012. This is because SON is seen as a priority and a competitive advantage.2 Security and privacy are of concern on two fronts regarding small cells. Not all networks will be LTE. While more than 60 percent of the small cell market share is divided among three leading companies.Self-Optimizing Networks: Removing Risk and Adding Value growth rate through 2016. as well as device tracking. Adding small-cell technologies to this already complex environment magnifies the complexity. Extending the 3GPP concepts for SON to all generations and makes of equipment can be expedited by a platform that supports true multi-vendor capabilities. making centralized management increasingly difficult.to mid-term restraint on small cell deployment. little else matters. Management will get even more difficult when open-source technologies become more prevalent in small cell environments. and allow for remote and automated configuration. A truly independent management layer also can aide in evaluating the efficacy of applied policies and changes on both a real-time and long-term basis. 8 . and the neighbor lists within them. and some to a certain extent are. there will be little room for exceptions when it comes to managing SONs. However. February 2013. multi-technology RANs. © 2014 Stratecast. MULTIVENDOR SUPPORT MUST BE REAL AND COMPLETE Although many equipment suppliers claim to be multi-vendor in their management support of like technologies. Managing current multi-vendor. self-optimization and self-healing. small cell technology provides many more access points—often less secure access points—to the network.3 Exabytes of data per month by 2015.
Others call for better back-out plans or ways to override the system. CSPs also have to consider the unknown. . “ ” 9 © 2014 Stratecast. not just algorithms. CSPs lack an accurate baseline from which to begin troubleshooting problems when things go wrong. CSPs won’t be able to hold back the equally large and sophisticated Internet companies that will grow impatient waiting for CSPs to build networks to support their innovative services. All Rights Reserved. and would require re-evaluation. the current CSP business model will begin to break down. services and devices the market is likely to see in the coming years. CSPs also recognize that their network management processes were not designed for a fully autonomous system. if necessary.Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan multi-vendor integration is still a concern. that they have a reliable real-time view of the network. This causes CSPs to seek granular control and supervision of their algorithms. CSPs lack an accurate baseline from which to begin troubleshooting problems when things go wrong. still. CSPs cannot afford to continue manually supporting a network that will comprise hundreds of thousands of HetNet devices. Some CSPs are calling for options within the automated flow that allow for manual confirmation of certain changes in configuration. Data integrity is also a long-standing and ongoing concern. coupled with concerns over SONs’ impact on manageability. All of this points to a need for mature SON solutions. which encompasses all the new applications. Most important. Nor can they support the kind of data volume growth the industry expects. This combination of the need to move quickly. CSPs are uncomfortable allowing the automation of certain network functions and processes when they do not feel. will cause CSPs to seek out third parties that have a track record of supporting both their business and network objectives. Without more automation and better self-optimization.
SON now represents a strategic shift that can positively impact not only network performance. Tim McElligott Senior Consulting Analyst – Global OSS/BSS Strategy Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org © 2014 Stratecast. And. one day. 10 . but also profitability and the customer experience. and considered on par with network utilization. customer value. Therefore. which can be managed cost-effectively and achieve the expected boost in coverage and capacity. turning small cells into true HetNets. CSPs also should consider finding a partner with the services experience to help transform management and optimization practices and procedures in tandem with new SON technology introduction. CSPs should give serious consideration to evaluating SON solutions from an independent third-party supplier. The small cell market is projected to be huge. and programmable radios. However. It will require a SON that incorporates all the other business and customer aspects discussed in this paper. and. by any standard. All Rights Reserved. multi-technology management and optimization capabilities that will ultimately be required. should all be part of a comprehensive SON solution. Geo-location. business assurance. customer experience. they will begin to see SON increasingly as a business solution. incorporating more IT functionality and resources into SON would entail true integration into a comprehensive SON solution. SON has grown into one of the critical technologies that CSPs have at their disposal to manage the on-going growth of highly dynamic mobile data traffic. Given the broad potential scope of SON. transforming HetNets into a more broadly effective next-generation RAN will take more than automation. ANR. Conceived as a network technology for optimizing performance. will take automation. Ideally. Big Data. A closer proximity of IT and network functions will drive the CSP transition to higher automation.Self-Optimizing Networks: Removing Risk and Adding Value THE LAST WORD From its emergence in 2008. as CSPs look beyond the limited use cases and network technologies of standards-based SON. and not treating IT and OSS as mere data feeds into a networking process. and the multi-vendor. Frost & Sullivan expects a 61 percent CAGR through 2016.
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