Self organising networks referred to by the industry as SON will be a key feature in LTE networks. T-Mobile has been the operator pushing for this the hardest, stating that they will not deploy LTE if it s not self organising.
A self organising network would mean that the network is plug-n-play, zero touch and automatically configured. SON is a very useful feature that will allow for the automation of several tasks lowering the OPEX and CAPEX costs. Plug-n-play would mean that expensive site set up costs could be eliminated and automatic neighbour recognition would mean lower optimisation costs. The ultimate goal of SON would be to bring drive testing to an end.
17% of wireless operator’s CAPEX is spent on engineering and installation services. SON’s self-configuring functions are expected to eliminate many on-site operations for the basic settings and subsequent updating of network equipments, and thus reduce CAPEX
It is also known that about 24% of a typical wireless operator’s revenue goes to network OPEX, which are the cost of network operation and maintenance, training and support, power, transmission, and site rental. SON’s self-optimizing functions will reduce a workload for site survey and analysis of network performances, and thus reduce OPEX. Moreover, SON’s energy-saving functions reduce the costs of power consumed by the equipment.
3GPP has introduced SON items in its standardization path as required features for LTE deployments. Release 8 includes the first specifications on requirements, integration with operators’ processes, and identification of main use cases. Release 9 is expected to define advanced features, which will introduce self-healing and self-optimization capabilities into LTE.
However, it does seem like some operators are happy to just go with LTE because it is a bigger pipe. I asked a panel of operators at MWC in February, how important was SON going to be for their LTE deployments. Kris Rinne, VP Architecture & Planning at AT&T as well as Bill Huang, General Manager at China Mobile Research Institute both said that they had no plans for SON!
It is possible that LTE is being sought after because operators need more capacity, are trying to keep up with their competitors and the costs savings that deploying LTE brings with SON is secondary and just makes it easier to justify building a new network.
Kris Rinne will be giving a keynote speech at the LTE Americas conference which takes place on the 4th and 5th of November in Dallas. See www.lteconference.com/americas