What it takes to deliver on the 5G promise
5G networks have many promises to deliver not only for the end customer, but also for the enterprise, the government, and the telecom industry.
The networks must be deployed at a large scale for 5G network to reach the masses. 5G networks primarily run on the millimeter waves, which have a greater capacity to take data over the network, but at the same time, these waves lack coverage. In such scenarios, telcos must deploy thousands of new small cells to cover target locations fully for which, they will have to make massive site acquisitions. Deploying such a high infrastructure at these locations comes with high cost, deployment time, and operational expenditure. A lot of investment would be needed to build the infrastructure. Various factors further impact the deployment, such as network planning, site selection, installation, integration, testing, and making the site on air.
The main cost drivers of 5G infrastructure densification
These include training engineers, the physical hardware used in deployment, and testing and integration of the network.
Such a significant investment will impact the ROI in case of delays or underutilization of equipment inventories at warehouses or sites. Due to the multitenancy, the whole process will involve multiple stakeholders working toward a common goal. Here it will include the network infrastructure provider, the equipment provider, subcontractors, managed services providers, and the telco. Hence, speed and transparency will matter throughout the network site engineering and deployment process. This will require strict progress governance, end-to-end process visibility, and clearly defined timelines. This mandates finding a framework that maintains a fine equilibrium between speed, security, and transparency. The framework should have these three guiding factors:
Figure 1:Three guiding factors for the framework
Through the site engineering process, the fluidity of information should be maintained. This is so that the data can be accessed, analyzed, or automated for processing at any stage or time.
Deployed sites, which play a crucial role in infrastructure development, should be a part of an open framework. Different applications or utility ecosystems can utilize this openness. For example, using open APIs from site engineering systems for smart city development or green energy initiatives through optimization of energy usage on these sites.
While maintaining fluidity and openness, the framework must support and sustain a high level of trust and certainty among all the entities. These entities can supply equipment, help construct the site and integrate or run the network.
The need for a digitally immune site engineering framework
5G is a significantly advanced technology that offers many promises to users and providers.
Due to the need for densification, 5G networks bring many complexities, one of which include deploying small cell sites.
Figure 2: Site engineering process
More sites bring higher probability of service interruptions, further adding dependency on the field force and equipment providers. Being a highly digital, virtual, and scalable network, 5G also needs more frequent updates and real-time monitoring, where following elements can mitigate such challenges.
Intelligent data fabric
The involvement of many entities in the site engineering process brings together multiple databases, data lakes, cloud data stores, apps, and document repositories. An intelligent data fabric can weave the data assets and underlying technologies in a unified way. It also enables automation over data to complete the AI lifecycle.
The intelligent data fabric enables data and information management from nominal selection to site operation. It connects traditionally siloed entities like telecom infrastructure service providers, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), and MSPs (managed service partners) in a single place, offering clear visibility and improved reliability. The site deployment lifecycle ensures an integrated view of all these entities.