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Mobile Network Transformation: A Modern Infrastructure for the Digital Age

By: Ulrich Schalling, FNT Software

Significant market forces are disrupting the telecommunications industry and impacting all areas of business. To keep pace with competitors, IoT, and the rise of edge computing, network transformation is mission critical. However, as modern networks are highly complex, this transformation has the potential to be a time-consuming and costly process. From FTTA and C-RAN architecture upgrades to laying fiber and connecting BBU pool resources to the core network, there are countless steps that must be taken to ensure data is properly transported over mobile networks to geographically dispersed users. 

Perhaps the single most important thing that mobile operators can do to ensure a successful network transformation is to adopt a unified resource management approach. This means recognizing the synergy and dependency that exists between IT, data center and telecommunications resources and managing them accordingly. As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The ideal solution for managing modern networks and hybrid resources must include an integrated data model to keep an accurate track of all resources—physical, logical and virtual—and must integrate with key systems in order for the information to be available to all users throughout the organization. Since a primary concern for mobile operators today is the planning of mobile rollouts due to capacity and coverage issues, a comprehensive management solution must also ensure there is enough bandwidth to enable the flow of data and reach users wherever they are located.

Managing Infrastructure Resources

Today’s huge enhancements in mobile broadband services will support a vast diversity of new devices, services, and a broad range of use cases in the 5G future. Each of these needs require many additional sites to be brought online, configured and operated. Proper documentation is essential to let network planners know exactly what resources are available and to provide detailed information about them.

The physical resources—including passive infrastructure components such as fibers and antennas and the active components such as mobile equipment and transport equipment—are used throughout the network but also in both core and edge data center sites to host virtualized applications. The logical resources are the connectivity resources in fronthaul, backhaul, and core network based on transport network equipment. The virtual resources are the VNF and the underlying virtual machines based on commodity hardware. As all of these resources work in unison and span the telecommunications network, data center, and IT network; and they must be managed in unison for the network to function properly.

Utilizing structured processes and automation will make it easy to plan and document new sites, extend networks, and modify existing sites, all while reducing errors and increasing efficiency. The same is true for managing the rollout process. By automatically creating work orders, sending them to the field for execution, checking inventory, and integrating with ERP systems to manage the purchasing process with suppliers, rollout processes are streamlined, resulting in substantial cost savings. Those cost savings are amplified when you consider the increasing number of base stations operators will need.  

With 4G and especially 5G, there will be many new base station sites with thousands of configuration parameters to process the massive amounts of information that is flowing. These sites must ultimately link the end-user device to the core network, which will require thousands of configuration parameters. In addition, these new sites need radio units, antennas, towers, poles, rooftop sites, BBU equipment including space, power and cooling, fiber infrastructure and connectivity. Think hundreds, if not thousands, of configuration parameters per site, per technology. 

Networks will be a complex mix of traditional network technologies, passive fiber infrastructure, mobile technologies using C-RAN architecture and a virtualized mobile core and increasing virtualization of BBU functions in mobile RAN. The configuration data must be in combination with physical, logical and virtual resource information to efficiently operate the mobile network. This way, if there is a network or service issue, the operator will be able to easily access all of the necessary information available to analyze and remedy the situation quickly. As network issues typically cause a series of events and subsequent alarms, relationship and dependency information are critical. This information is very useful to identify the root cause of the issue and also enables the operator to immediately analyze the impact of the network outage and the services affected. 



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