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SON is the way forward for telcos in Africa

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Self Organising Networks (SON) is emerging as a technology-of-choice to resolve network pain points faced by the service providers across the mature and maturing markets such as South Africa and other regions across Africa.

The recent LTE deployments have highlighted the need and value of self-organising capabilities within the network that lead to significant reduction in operational expenses. Nokia Networks believes that service providers should leverage Self Organising Networks (SON) for other technologies, besides LTE, since it leads to better network quality and better network availability for the end user. This is where Nokia Eden-NET SON open framework, which is based on both Nokia iSON and Eden Rock innovative solutions, helps operators to achieve agile responses to rapidly changing multi-technology and multi-vendor network deployment, optimisation and operation.

New and emerging mobile devices are fostering explosive growth of wireless data, which is leading to growth of higher bandwidth data applications and services. Besides, multi-technology (2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi) networks coupled with increased deployment of small cells means that the network complexity is ever increasing. Telcos must deal with this increase in network complexity at one end and flattish or falling wireless revenue on the other end. In this scenario it is no surprise that service providers continue to focus on reducing opex.

Telcos are fast realising that the traditional methods of optimising and operating the network are no longer enough. As the networks evolve, newer and innovative methods are required to cater to the changing requirements of the network. Increasingly complex heterogeneous networks demand SON for workflow automation, network performance improvements and additional reliability.

“In this scenario, SON is emerging as a technology to not just reduce the operational expenses but to also increase network efficiency,” says Joachim Ebinger, head of sales for advanced customer solutions in Middle East and Africa region for Nokia Networks.

The company recently acquired Eden Rock Communications, pioneer of SON and creator of Eden-NET, a multi-vendor centralised SON solution. As a result of this acquisition, Nokia now offers a combined solution called Nokia Eden-NET, bringing together the best functionalities and features of both Eden-NET and Nokia iSON manager.

Eden-NET’s capabilities are complimentary to those of Nokia’s hybrid iSON solution. While Nokia as a radio provider perfectly understands the multi-layered complexity in implementing SON, both as a de-centralised network feature as well as the need for centralized algorithms and control, Eden-NET’s multi-vendor and multi-technology approach makes it flexible and agile to meet the needs of service providers.

“Most of the major radio vendors’ initial focus was on SON for LTE and small cells for their own radio technology. Eden Rock took a different approach. Since they were coming from an optimisation background they looked at the capability of SON as a tool for the entire network and all the layers of technology,” says Ebinger. “Its Eden-NET SON framework has an excellent multi-vendor capability and a very strong features set also for 2G and 3G, which gives it unmatched capability for the entire network, irrespective of technology or equipment provider,” adds Ebinger.

Possibly, the biggest strength of the product is its Open framework, which allows telcos to customise as well as create new SON modules to resolve a particular challenge.

“The framework addresses potential conflicts and priorities in autonomous network operation and optimization. This unique approach allows Eden-NET to run with minimum intervention,” explains Ebinger.

While earlier SON was being deployed for limited functionality, this is no longer the case. The service providers are realising the increasing relevance of SON in resolving other pain-points in network management.

“Initially telcos would mainly go for self configuration capability of SON, usually for LTE base station or Small Cell deployment. Now, service providers are adopting SON for much wider use cases such as autonomous network optimization or resolution of network issues like compensating cell outages,” says Ebinger.

 

Why it works for southern Africa

This key acquisition equips Nokia to address the unique challenges of telcos in the Southern Africa region, which has an increasing number of service providers who are yet to deploy LTE and small cells. At the same time the regional service providers face operational expenditure pressure and are exploring options to enhance both network efficiency and network quality.

Nokia Eden-NET SON substantially brings down the lifecycle cost of running a wireless carrier network by doing away with manual configuration of equipment at the time of deployment. Further, it optimises performance during operation, which leads to enhanced quality of experience and lower operational expenditure.

“The service providers don’t need to wait to deploy LTE to start leveraging the advantages of SON. They can start using SON now to optimize their current networks, for example 2G and 3G technologies for example, and add relevant SON module for LTE once they are ready to deploy LTE,” says Ebinger.

Offering multi-vendor and multi-technology support, the product is an effective solution to reduce the cost and at the same time increase the network efficiency.

Wireless carriers in the Southern Africa region are keen to capitalize on SON to minimise rollout delays and operational expenditures and to increase network quality. Testimony to this is that Nokia has a number of successfully completed trials in the African region, which just take two weeks to be set up.

 

Nokia Eden-NET SON toward CEM

While earlier SON was considered a tool to support radio network deployment and optimisation, Nokia is now exploring options to combine it with other elements of its Telco analytics and Big Data portfolio.

“We are looking at ways and means to combining it with our Customer Experience Management (CEM) and transforming it from pure network centric optimization tool to customer-centric optimisation tool. With the emergence of cloud there is an increased need for optimising the end-to-end capability of the network. That’s the next step we have to take with SON,” says Ebinger. This is in line with the general thinking at Nokia of coming out with solutions and strategies that benefit the end user.

There is little doubt that the relevance of Nokia Eden-NET SON will rise as the network complexity increases. The telcos in the MEA region would benefit by adding automation to their network for offering enhanced quality of service to their customers.