Operator Capex pressure drives exchange to automation of radio frequency measurements

Operator CAPEX pressure drives exchange to exchange automation of radio frequency measurements
Operator CAPEX pressure drives exchange to exchange automation of radio frequency measurements.

Starting with the deployment of LTE networks and now with 5G on the verge of becoming reality, wireless network testing has quickly evolved significantly from being data collection centric and post-processing centric to being focused on automated solution performing End-to-End processes from data collection to remote management to post-processing – all in a single process flow. Increasing urgency, complexity, Capex/Opex, competition, etc. are just a few of the drivers behind this evolution. For example, DAS installations and deployments typically require special permissions & limited time to access venues making it critical to ensure the turnaround time for the system verification is quick and without glitches. On the macro cell segment with pre-post launch optimisation, site verifications etc., traditionally an engineer was required to monitor the drive test gear with another ‘coordinator’ controlling when and what type of test measurements need to be made.

Minimising errors, saving Opex – towards automation

Typically, tasks revolve around coordinators sending the different files to the drive test engineers, ensuring version compatibility, communicating start/stop times pertinent to maintenance windows; checking in real-time over phone or text on the progress, managing measurement data etc. Again, typically, at this point the coordinator transitions to interface with a ‘post-processing’ team informing about measurement data availability for post-processing and tracking progress to ensure report is received by pertinent personnel. In all this, there is significant human intervention needed which primarily is Opex heavy but also just by virtue human intervention introduces the possibility of user errors along the way. This could very easily become a big problem when project deliveries are extremely time critical- which is always the case.

Operator Capex pressure drives exchange to automation of radio frequency measurements
Operator Capex pressure drives exchange to automation of radio frequency measurements.

4 steps to successfully move towards e2e measurements
To successful take into use an automated radio frequency (RF) measurement solution, there are 4 basic issues resolved, resulting in Quality of End-User Experience (QoE) offering possibilities for direct OPEX savings:

  • Automation: remove and restrict human intervention in all possible areas of the process. Nemo Cloud, a centralised, web-based service to enable remote control and management of measurement fleets seamlessly – integrated with measurement and analytics products. A single user can control nationwide measurement campaigns reducing and eliminating the need for dedicated drive test engineers, coordinators and manual post-processing.
  • Integrity: identify potential failures as and when they happen. In a complex system that involves hardware and software, failures are bound to happen and should be expected. Key here is to be able to identify these problems when they happen and alert so they can be quickly fixed. A system that provides automated processes to address such failures is needed. Nemo cloud with advanced customisable alerting mechanisms provides exactly this ability thus allowing for failures to be addressed before they affect the project.
  • Real-time Analytics: Access network measurement data, make changes and validate results in real-time. With Nemo Cloud’s enhanced dashboards for monitoring and real-time reporting user can in real-time visualize the performance of the network, make changes and validate them. Customised alerts make this process easy by identifying scenarios automatically. For example, a user can configure custom alerts to identify areas with good RSRP but poor SNR and troubleshoot with real-time parameter changes and validation. Add to it the ability of an analytics system (like Nemo Xynergy) to pipe in core network data, correlate with drive test data and provide customisable Dashboards that have correlated data from both RAN and Core network.
  • Integration: Consolidated view of processed information from multiple sources. It’s typical to run into situations where RAN optimisation is gated by core network issues that don’t show up in RAN measurement data. At the same time the root cause detection in these cases can be a cumbersome process. Seamless integration of any type of core network data with RAN measurement data along with customisable analytics is enabled by Nemo Xynergy.

The constant cost pressure and evolving measurement needs have changed the nature of RF measurements, from being data collection & post-processing centric to being focused on automated single process flow solutions performing exchange to exchange (e2e) processes from data collection to remote management to post-processing. The nature of such full-scale solution is complex and requires integration between various measurement and analytics products – instead of starting integration efforts from scratch, it is more effective to search for a single vendor solution, hence ensuring smoother setup and faster time to benefits.

The error-proneness of the old approach is not to be underestimated. There can be a variety of problems when companies perform drive testing and optimisation: errors in file naming, connecting to projects, selecting files manually, sending files to wrong folders etc. Keysight’s Nemo Cloud combined with its Nemo branded RF measurement and analytics products give a solid base for automated e2e measurements for drive testing, benchmarking as well as in-building measurements, minimising errors, making possible both process (time & quality) improvements as well as OPEX savings.

By Aditya Kasaraneni, Sales Engineer- Data collection and analytics products, at Keysight Network Testing.