5G is here, and it is making its debut in providing fixed wireless broadband or augmenting customer experiences at marquee destinations such as stadiums and red-carpet events like the Academy Awards.
But beyond those high-profile locations and the much-hyped marketing launches, mobile network operators face the formidable challenge of scaling up their 5G deployments in a way that is cost-effective and makes the most efficient use of their spectrum resources and capital in both indoor and outdoor environments. How do you decide when and where to deploy 5G, which bands to use, and how to evolve current and future network investments to maximize revenue as traffic shifts among 3G, 4G LTE and 5G New Radio networks?
That complex task calls for flexible new planning tools that allow MNOs to explore various deployment scenarios with their available capex. Infovista has built just such tools, working with a number of service providers around the world in a co-development model to understand their 5G roll-out needs according to factors such as customer consumption characteristics and differences across geographies, as well as how to automate the planning process as much as possible.
While 5G networks are still in their early days, demand can ramp up quickly as word spreads that a freshly launched 5G network provides superior service. That presents both an opportunity and a risk, when upfront scenario planning and investments can make or break the relationship with newly gained customers.
“What you don’t want to do, once people start buying, is to run out of capacity really quickly,” said Steve Bowker, SVP of Global Networks at Infovista. “This is where the rubber hits the road, getting great speedtest results is simple when no one is using the network, but as 5G capable phone numbers increase designs have to evolve very quickly and automated scenario planning is the key. . It’s very easy for an operator to get a bad reputation at that point in the growth cycle.”
Given the diversity of indoor and outdoor 5G use cases, network planning tools also have to be well-suited to either scenario—or, as in high-profile large venues, capable of handling environments where the line blurs between “indoor” and “outdoor”. Infovista has partnered with market-leading network planning company iBwave to provide a new, integrated solution for indoor/outdoor network planning, which not only supports 5G network planning, but private networks utilizing LTE and/or CBRS. Those networks, too, face the possibility of rapid shifts in local demand—say, a port network that must be able to handle incoming cruise or container ships as they dock and unload passengers or goods.
Meeting the needs of 5G customers goes far beyond just getting a “5G” icon active in a given market, and as 5G smartphones and demand proliferate during 2020, fledgling networks will be put to the test. The ones which are smartly planned and cost-efficiently built will rise to the occasion.
For more information on Infovista’s suite of network planning tools, check out (https://www.infovista.com/planet/rf-planning-optimization ).
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