Operators (and vendors) face a very challenging and interesting situation related to the emerged technology of millimeter wave (mmWave) wireless networks.
The high capacity connections that can be created with mmWave wireless links can fully satisfy the bandwidth demands of residential customers. But as residential access networks are highly dynamic, the effort and cost required to manage and optimize mmWave wireless networks needs to be optimized in order operators to decide to deploy them.
At the same time, the same mmWave radio links can successfully cover the mobile backhaul needs of small cells, used by mobile operators in urban (high density) city areas. But as these backhaul networks are very operator-specific and heterogeneous, mmWave must compete with other backhaul technologies including point-to-point microwave, copper and optical fiber in terms of cost and deployment efficiency.
In this article, I describe a possible solution to these challenges that vendors and operators are facing. The solution is automating the Wireless Network Planning & Design tools to improve efficiency and lower cost, as well as unifying them with Network Management and Monitoring.
Automating the Network Planning function
Operators typically use a waterfall approach when deploying networks, that involves multiple autonomous tools used in different phases of deployment. One of the first phases in the deployment is Network Planning.
During this phase, operators identify the sites (physical locations) where mmWave links will be installed. This information is recorded using a great variety of tools including Geographical Information Systems (GIS), customized simple mapping software like Google Maps or Google Earth, some times proprietary databases, or even simple excel files. Note that:
- in residential access networks, these are the houses of the customers
- in mobile networks these are locations where the operator has rented space or see it financial feasible to rent space
Once (or some times while) the list of sites is created, planning engineers create blueprints that map wireless links on the selected sites. This is required in order to define equipment configuration and commissioning parameters.
These parameters typically include:
- the Data Communication Network (DCN) setup including the IP addressing scheme,
- Network Management (NMS) settings including the management VLANs,
- defined administration / geographical domains,
but most importantly the required link capacities and availability to match the contracts of residential customers or the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
These blueprints are created typically using proprietary databases, diagramming software like VISIO or just simple excel files.
Once sites are defined and capacities and availability requirements are documented, Radio Frequencies (bands and sub-bands) need also to be defined – remember this is a wireless network!
Radio frequencies selection require interference analysis and Line of Sight calculations, therefore commercial autonomous RF Planning tools are used.
Based on the output of the previous steps, the operator can now select the right mmWave equipment that can fulfill the defined plan for capacity, frequency and availability. Typically lists of required equipment are created at this stage using proprietary databases or just simple excel files.
For each equipment, a file (or some times multiple files) containing the commissioning parameters is created to be given to installers (or subcontractors) to start deployment.
Once commissioning plan is ready, engineers proceed to prepare the detailed configuration and service provisioning plan.
End-to-end network services are planned, that realize connections across multiple links (chains, rings), ensuring via Quality of Service settings that the contracted capacity and availability will be delivered
It is obvious that this manual procedure is not efficient, is error-prone and therefore requires optimization if mmWave technology is to succeed in the applications of residential access and mobile backhaul.
Here is a list of challenges that can become unmanageable especially in large networks, where a great number of equipment is used, sometimes reaching thousands.
- How do you maintain this equipment plan as network evolves, or even grows?
- How do you efficiently create commissioning files for thousands of equipment?
- How do you efficiently create configuration & provisioning files for thousands of equipment?
- How do you ensure that network services provisioning cover the End-to-End capacity and availability requirements?
- How do you efficiently propagate changes in the plans across multiple tools?
- How do you efficiently adapt your plans when deployment is not 100% according to plan (and believe me, in real life it is…)
The solution is software-based automation that will replace all proprietary or commercial tools with a single unified software that performs both Network Planning and Network Monitoring.
Vendors need to develop this unified software, that accepts flat files (e.g. comma delimited files) containing lists of sites with coordinates, capacity and availability requirements and is able to:
- Present all links with their requirements on maps for easy visualization of planned network
- Maintain the list of planned “Virtual” Network Elements in a single place, eliminating the challenge of propagating changes of the plan across multiple tools
- Create automatically commissioning files for installers and subcontractors as well as configuration and provisioning files for thousands of equipment
- Manage the communication of files with external parties (installers, subcontractors)
- Update the list of Network Elements to reflect the as-build network status, through the network monitoring capability to ensure that changes in the plan can be done efficiently.
Only through the above proposed functions, mmWave technology can become a cost-efficient technology for Residential Access and Mobile Backhaul applications and will be widely adapted.
mmWave Equipment Vendors
Here is a (partial) list of millimeter Wave equipment vendors for your reference
- BridgeWave Communications
- E-Band Communications Corp.
- Siklu Inc.
- Sub10 Systems Ltd.
- Agilent Technologies Inc.
- Aviat Networks Inc.
- ECI Telecom Ltd.
- Farran Technology Ltd.
- GigaBeam Corp.
- Hittite Microwave Corp.
- Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
- Intracom Telecom
Millimeter Wave is a promising technology that can be used by operators to provide very competitive and reliable residential access and mobile backhaul services.
To do successfully, vendors need to focus more on Network Planning automation through the use of smart unified software that will manage the network planning efficiently.
(In following articles, automation of other deployment phases will be described, so stay tuned!)
Do you agree with the above? Please leave your comment below!