A quick look at the Ookla 5G Map reveals the incredible pace of 5G deployments. In South Korea, according to the country’s telecoms regulator, as much as 21% of all mobile traffic is running on a 5G network.
A critical aspect to the success of 5G is the quality of the front and backhaul networks that are needed, which must provide high bandwidth combined with low latency. Since 5G cells are smaller than 4G cells, this means that the cell density is increased, in turn, requiring more extensive front and backhaul networks (as shown below).
South Korea has benefited from an extensive fiber network that supports an FTTH\B penetration of over 75%, which provides a network capable of supporting 5G’s needs. However, for many other parts of the world, such extensive networks do not exist. This means that the demand for reliable x-haul links will continue to grow. And this is an area where fiber makes a lot of sense. (For more details on this, see this white paper from Telecoms Tracker).
For many Competitive Service Providers (CSPs) looking to meet the needs of 5G with fiber, there will be a blend of new build and leasing of networks from other fiber providers. Indeed, many tower providers are also constructing extensive fiber networks and competing with traditional dark fiber providers.
In today’s highly competitive market, this means that the fiber providers must be able to respond to requests for backhaul links to support multiple cell locations as quickly as possible — while ensuring that the proposed networks are accurately costed and economical to operate. Any delays in the RFI process can lead to a lack of competitiveness and lost revenues; so speed, repeatability and accuracy are paramount.
Market consolidation and the transition toward fully converged CSPs, who own and operate both fixed and wireless networks, also offer these CSPs significant opportunities for cost savings — if they can consider the deployment of 5G x-haul alongside current or planned FTTx deployments. By considering the fiber demands from the locations for FTTx and 5G cell sites together, savings from shared infrastructure are possible. In some test scenarios, we have seen capital savings of up to 10% may be possible.
The need to quickly and accurately design fiber networks will become increasingly important as 5G deployments gather pace.
In both scenarios, GE’s GIS-based automated and optimized fiber network design solutions enable these savings to be created. Taking demand locations (cell sites and customer premises) and combining this with street centerline data and any existing network infrastructure, it is possible to create a low-level network design for a given area in a matter of minutes, with virtually no user input needed.
The advanced algorithms used create a design which reflects the lowest cost to construct the network, considering both equipment and labor, while at the same time ensuring that the design meets the relevant design constraints for level of service, spare capacity, etc. This is all enabled by a very flexible rules-base which can be tailored to meet regional variations for designs, e.g., rural vs. urban. The use of a consistent ruleset across design teams is also vitally important to guarantee designs that have less variation in construction, and so makes for a more efficient construction process that enables costs to be better managed.
In addition to using a least-cost automated design solution, CSPs should also consider how high-quality image data can assist in designing the fiber network. Providing the desktop planner with access to high-resolution panoramic imagery that has been ortho-rectified (think Google® Street View but to another level of accuracy), which enables accurate measurements to be taken from the imagery, can dramatically reduce the time that the designer needs to spend in the field. This can result in significant efficiency and cost savings, avoiding lost time due to travel and re-work due to a better understanding of the real-world situation.
Regardless of how useful image data is, at some point, the designer will likely need to visit the field and verify the design before construction is initiated. At this stage, it can be incredibly helpful to be able to take the design from the office out into the field electronically and make changes and modifications directly in the field. Then once back in the office, these changes can be reviewed and accepted, and the design seamlessly updated.
Again, such an approach can deliver productivity savings in the design process. Further savings can also be realized in the construction phase, since providing the construction teams with the means to update the design to reflect the as-built reality directly in the field can save significant time and additional truck rolls.
As the demand for 5G ramps up, CSPs are recognizing the need for more fiber to meet the bandwidth and latency requirements and are looking for the most cost-effective ways to design and deploy fiber. In many cases, that will mean process automation and digitization to increase user productivity. GE’s Smallworld ecosystem of solutions for CSPs can help across the plan-design-build-and-operate lifecycle.
Adoption of physical network inventory best practices must start now, before the next great cycle of infrastructure investment begins.
Declining profit growth from traditional telecoms services over the last decade has seen Communications service providers (CSPs) becoming much more focused on operational efficiency, driving cost out of operations to improve their bottom line. One proven method of boosting operational efficiency is to use modern telecoms-specific software inventory and management solutions to account for and monitor network assets.
Read this insight paper from Telecoms Tracker Research and Consulting.
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