VoLTE driving SON projects as much as densification
While self-optimizing network (SON) technology is an essential enabler of the much-heralded move to densification, it has not been widely deployed by many carriers as yet. That is set to change as operators switch from coverage to capacity priorities in LTE and start to envisage the roll-out of more cells than can be comfortably managed by traditional methods. It is also being driven by the stringent quality demands of VoLTE, which is now being deployed at scale by large numbers of MNOs.
The deals are mounting up along with the small cell HetNet plans. SON specialist Cellwize has been selected by Telefonica to supply its SON solution for seven of the Spanish giant’s operating companies in Latin America, covering 70m subscribers (the countries are Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).
This follows previous deployments of Cellwize SON at Telefonica’s Brazilian unit, Vivo, and at its O2 subsidiaries in the UK and Germany. The South American project is being handled on the ground by region system integrator Bwtech. Cellwize works across multivendor RANs and “orchestrates with precision across all vendors and technologies to enhance the customer mobile journey”, as CEO Ofir Zemer put it.
Juan Carlos Garcia Lopez, global RAN director at Telefonica’s global CTO unit, said in a statement: “To enable our end-to-end digitalization, we are collaborating with innovative partners such as Cellwize. Cellwize proved to us that their solution offers the intelligence and insight required to continuously optimize the subscriber’s journey in a fully automated and closed loop manner”.
Meanwhile, Vodafone has gone live with SON technology from Cisco in London and the southern region of the UK. This is part of the operator’s push to use novel hardware form factors to add capacity in urban areas without disrupting the main network and so to improve quality of experience. This goes beyond conventional small cells and into developments like Vodafone’s recently demonstrated ‘network in a briefcase’.
While SON will really come into its own with the deployment of huge numbers of small cells for urban and enterprise capacity, many current projects are related to VoLTE, which many operators now feel they need to roll out at scale, despite the tough challenges this involves in terms of guaranteeing coverage and consistent QoS – a task which requires end-to-end optimization of the RAN, but also an automated approach to continue to monitor this once the service is live.
Vodafone UK CTO Jorge Fernandes focused heavily on voice in his comments, saying: “We continue to innovate to help ensure that our customers never miss calls and have the best possible network experiences. Using Cisco SON is another important step toward that goal and we have already seen improvements not only in call set-up failure, but also in dropped call reduction.”
Around 72m voice calls are made on Vodafone’s network per day, with more than 44bn voice minutes carried across its network during the past financial year.
Cisco showed its hand in SON when it acquired Israeli start-up Intucell, which was supplying its ‘network breathing’ technology to AT&T, in 2013.