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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Self-Organizing Networks (SON): Managing Disruption -- Towards a bigger scope

Keywords: LTE, small cell, SON, ARPU, 4G, NGN, HETNET
The complexity of ‘operations & management’ and urge for ‘efficiency & optimization’, of next generation networks are compelling factors for the imperative need of SON technologies in next generation wireless systems. As the SON is imminent in 4G networks but it still is in nascent stage of implementation and standardization.
The adamant threat of data outburst and related challenges over capacity enhancements with an eye on ARPU is like a nightmare as of today for the telecom operators. And the efforts are being there to come up with technologies and solutions, which combat the demands and having strong business cases and models. This is altogether, along with radical scalability and flexibility to cope with the upcoming situation and to move forward.
Just to gaze on the situation emphasized through the given table below (Src: maravedis rethink), provides tussle between capacity requirements and technological solutions.
New technology
% required capacity increase Y1
% required TCO decrease Y1
% required capacity increase Y4
% required TCO decrease Y4
LTE upgrade
17%
14%
4%
4%
Wi-Fi offload
16%
20%
9%
13%
Public access small cells
14%
18%
24%
23%
C-RAN
11%
17%
13%
17%
re-farmed spectrum and carrier aggregation
17%
9%
16%
12%
LTE-A eg MIMO, CoMP
14%
10%
18%
15%
SDN/NFV/CLOUD
11%
12%
16%
16%
Src: Maravedis rethink
Small-cells, Wi-Fi-offload, distributed antenna systems (DAS), centralized RAN (C-RAN) and LTE-Advances are some of the technological solutions in the list of next generation heterogeneous networks (HETNET) evolution at access and Fiber optical, microwave, millimeter wave, cable and even access radio at backhaul network with hetnet approaches..
On the other side of story, bigger bite of the Value additions are being taken by OTT services who are becoming arch rival for TSPs and pulling out their business and revenue terrain. On the top of that there is hard competition on customer retention rather on customer acquisition for the operators. This is due to the emerging demand of customer experience and related Quality of services. These are the challenges which directly impact the operational efficiency of network, in terms of cost and service delivery.
The growth in wireless technology is rapid and fast, specifically in area of spectral efficiency and data rate. But the actual realization of the network’s build to provide a cost effective solution is contingent upon the existing disruption, in terms of the evolving solutions and also considering the other factors like --existing and required infrastructures, backhauls – front-haul requirements (technologies like fiber and microwaves), and the interoperability .
This disruption is taking its own time to settle the things in order, as what could be foresighted about the upcoming network builds based on industry research could be listed as below.
  • Efficient resource distribution – Towards cloud and virtualization, emerging concepts like C-RAN, where all processing is virtualized in the cloud and stripped-down radio/antenna units remain at the cell sites.
  • Small cells - Towards capacity improvements and densification of macro by combining with more and more antennas in the macro layer (Massive MIMO).
  • Wi-Fi offloads – Much sought and debated area with innovative approaches and also with contentions and competition between Wi-Fi and LTE evangelist for their dominance.
  • Back & Front Haul – Existing capability and upcoming technology & techniques, which provide flexibility and scalability.
  • New Spectrum - sometimes unconventional spectrum bands and carrier aggregation.
  • SDN & NFV – from adaptive networking tools to fully fledged SDN (software defined networking) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization).
This disruption in terms of technological advance and innovation is deliberating the networks builds and also propelling the need for self-organization, which comprises automation on multiple levels like self-configuration, self-healing, self-optimization etc.

SON is going to be there at all level, i.e. at the system level and at network level. At system level it is going to be an ingredient of the system level architecture and have the visibility and control over the system and at network level it is going to take positions closed to analytics, managements and controls.
The solution for SON would be taking holistic approaches, though in current stage OEMs are giving SON as specifics or in piecemeal, and solution for the network levels are not standardized rather proprietary.
SON is pervading across, to address the challenges of upcoming eco systems and related network builds. SON is taking up prominent stage to provide tools to manage what seems to be chaos, “otherwise”, of interrelated multiplicity of demands, capacity, cost, technology, management, operations, efficiency and optimization.