“Global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013. Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.
Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2013 mobile networks carried nearly 18 exabytes of traffic.”
Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update.
As the numbers stated above describe, mobile data traffic is growing at a rapid rate, with mobile networks struggling to keep up the world over, despite major CAPEX investments.
Operators and technology vendors have teamed up to drive efficiencies from the existing topologies, so are now turning to heterogeneous networks (hetnets) and Self Organising Networks (SON) to squeeze further efficiencies from their networks.
Hetnets use multiple different network styles like macrocells, picocells, femtocells and/or WiFi to provide network nodes that best suit the local coverage requirements, which could include office areas, residential areas, rural areas, outdoor areas like sporting arenas, underground coverage like rail corridors and beyond.
SON is a concept of allowing automated optimisation of mobile networks to make the following functions simpler and easier for operators:- planning, configuration, management, billing, load balancing and self-healing. LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile technology is the first to have SON built into its specification.
One of the interesting aspects of hetnets is that while cells get smaller to cope with increasing data demand, this means there is likely to be a rapid increase in the number of nodes managed per operator / engineer, all whilst covering a broader set of configurations. This implies that automation will be required.
This sounds like the typical modern-day OSS challenge – doing more, with less across a more complex and variable network.
The challenges are also consistent:
- Self configuring (plug and play) – irrespective of which variant of cell is inserted into a landscape
- Self optimising – auto-tuning of network parameters to adapt to a changing environment of adjacent cells, network usage, equipment failure and others including RF characteristics
- Self healing – fast convergence from component failure
- Real time discovery of assets / resources to know current resource availability
- Real time monitoring, feedback and refinement of parameters
- Cross-domain (and cross-vendor) federation and optimisation
- End-to-end service performance management
I for one, will be watching on as SON evolves to see whether any innovation there solve problems experienced by traditional OSS. Similarly, I’ll be watching for innovation in management and orchestration (MANO) in virtualised environments to see whether abstraction models resolve problems experienced on modern mobile network management.