Japan’s KDDI rolls out 3G and 4G SON

Japanese operator KDDI has deployed what it claims to be the “world’s first self operating 3G and 4G mobile network,” deployed by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). The operator has deployed an intelligent Self Organising Network (iSON) solution which uses NSN’s advanced NetAct Operations Support System (OSS).

LTE SON makes use of network intelligence and management features in order to automate the configuration and optimisation of networks, lowering costs and improving network performance and flexibility. A key element is its ability to support multi-vendor network environments, reducing time-consuming and error-prone manual processes, and increasing the efficiency of the network.

The iSON approach from Nokia Siemens Networks operates country-wide, across networks built with equipment from multiple vendors and provides KDDI with a unified and flexible platform as well as an integration layer for multivendor operations.

Steven Hartley, practice Leader of Ovum’s Telco Strategy Practice, explained that the key draw for using SONs is the fact that operators no longer have to send out a field engineer whenever you want they want to tweak the network to optimise its performance.

“That is a significant reason why operators are getting excited about it. In most developed markets, revenues aren’t growing significantly, so this puts a huge amount of pressure on the cost base,” he said.

“You’re trying to return a decent return to shareholders, you’ve got to keep the costs down somehow to keep the margins at the right level. The network operations costs are an enormous part of any MNO’s cost base, so anything you can do to make those networks run more efficiently, operators will be interested in that.”

Julian Bright, senior analyst at Informa, added that in his discussions with operators, they tend to like the idea of SONs because they save on engineers’ time, ongoing maintenance costs, but they’re not convinced that all of the capabilities are fully there, in terms of the SONs.

“I spoke to operators that say this ANR process, whereby the cells registers with neighbouring cells and automatically slots in to the radio environment – some say it works so far but at some points in the process, they’re finding that an engineer has to go in and do a few tweaks to get it to work properly,” he said.

“So they’re saying it needs a bit more development to get the potential fully realised.”

He added that if operators want to optimise the cell’s performance, they have to monitor it over a period of time, and derive a set of KPIs and understand how it’s working and where the tweaks need to be made. Then they have to implement changes based on the feedback.

“What SONs are intended to do is make that a more dynamic process so monitor and adjust – they want it to be a real-time process where the network is being adjusted constantly to give optimum performance.  That’s another area where there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

“There are other operators that are implementing elements of SON. I’ve heard Middle Eastern operators who have already rolled out LTE and they have elements of SON operating in their networks, and these may be to a fairly limited degree. The significance of this network is that it’s covering 3G and 4G – covering both radio networks.”

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