5G is expected to transform more than just internet service. From improved personalized advertising and retail experiences to monitoring agriculture and its equipment to making commuter journeys safer and more efficient, 5G will change the way individuals and companies experience everyday life.
In the post-pandemic era, businesses will accelerate efforts to automate, digitize and enhance their capability to operate remotely. Modern network technologies such as 5G & MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) are expected to play a major role in this recovery.
For a long time, location intelligence has played a mostly peripheral role in enterprise decision-making and application development. Recently, it has exploded with contextual richness, fueled by affordable, low-powered sensors, big data analytics and artificial intelligence.
The combination of 5G guaranteed high-speed connectivity & MEC processing & storage capabilities will need to be deployed close to the consumers, workers, cars, robots and industrial compounds of tomorrow. To commercially deploy this vast amount of automation and digitalization use cases, there is one fundamental capability that will be required: location technology.
Building out Efficient 5G Infrastructure to Unlock a Wealth of Opportunities:
Building, operating and leveraging this new infrastructure opens users up to a wealth of opportunities. According to Arthur D. Little, an international management consulting firm, some $1.5 trillion of 5G-enabled revenue is up for grabs between now and 2030. Traditional mobile network operators (MNOs) will be vying for a slice of that, along with smaller scale ‘micro–operators’, tower companies, network equipment vendors, system integrators, cloud providers and application developers from various industries.
MNOs need to understand where and how to deploy network infrastructure while minimizing operational expenditure (OPEX) and capital expenditure (CAPEX). All of this must be taken into consideration while bringing new service offerings to market faster. Rolling out 5G networks with legacy tools designed for 4G/LTE networks does not work. These legacy tools do not provide the granularity and precision required to build out highly efficient 5G networks. What MNOs need is precise, rich location data and technology to deploy these 5G cells in the optimal locations to ensure budget constraints, deployment deadlines, and Quality of Service (QoS) requirements are met.
Challenges of Traditional Network Planning:
Identifying and evaluating potential sites for placing 5G radio frequency (RF) equipment begins with assessing the optimal location of large numbers of cell sites. This traditionally requires rigorous planning and numerous site surveys by several functional groups (site acquisition, RF planning, backhaul planning etc.) that physically visit and inspect these areas of interest, which is time consuming and expensive.
5G Network Planning Considerations:
MNOs and tower companies need to identify, evaluate and prioritize key neighbourhoods, business districts, and subdivisions for service rollouts, based on their return-on-investment (ROI) potential. Network analysts planning a 5G rollout start by evaluating current mobile operations, competitive services and areas for network improvement. The first step involves identifying clusters of high cellular use among premium customers and early adopters, as well as, large B2B enterprises, who are ready to embrace 5G innovative services.
Choosing where to invest is often a complex set of trade-offs between total site amounts and deployment costs to be minimized, while device connections, coverage, and QoS are to be maximized. The process involves solving several questions with a geospatial dimension. Considerations to take into account are:
- The optimal location and distribution of infrastructure in relation to the expected number of users, commercial centers, enterprises, the road network and administrative boundaries.
- The physical distances between current and planned cell sites, street cabinets and edge servers that affect the QoS.
- The predicted RF signal level at any given location based on surrounding geographic features, poles, trees, terrain and buildings.
- The expected workloads and computational capacities of edge servers that would affect server density required in different areas
This “Smart Capex” analysis provides as output a prioritized list of 5G site locations based on ROI. Typically, it will be a mix of existing site locations that will need to be retrofitted in combination with entirely new 5G sites.
Solving traditional RF network planning Challenges & Achieving an Effective 5G Deployment
Combining rich 3D datasets of metropolitan areas with GIS software tools allows us to assess thousands of cell site options in a fraction of the time from a desktop, at lower cost and with fewer potential errors when compared to physical on-site visits.
HERE Geodata Models enables the creation of a 3D digital twin with submeter geospatial and geometric precision for each area of interest. The digital twin includes its buildings, land elevation, trees and street pole objects to help identify the optimal location of new 5G cell sites.
HERE Geodata Models also enables the simulation of RF signal propagation (both MNO in-house developed or 3rd party RF planning tools) to determine the best x, y and z parameters of a given cell location to maximize network coverage and throughput. This high precision ensures minimal churn in design iteration, compared to peer ground clutter and clutter height datasets derived from satellite imagery. It also substantially improves predictability in signal gain and signal-to-noise ratios resulting in considerable overall 5G network CAPEX savings, since less 5G sites will be required overall.
Maximizing 5G’s potential with HERE Geodata Models
HERE Geodata Models can be a valuable tool in planning and deploying wireless broadband solutions, such as:
- Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), a wireless broadband internet service delivered using 5G for homes or SMEs, with the potential to deliver speeds of up to 10 Gbps, can be planned leveraging 3D geodata models.
- Wireless Fronthaul, which is a network topology to aggregate data or internet traffic from multiple remote radio heads (antennas) to the baseband controller harnessing point-to-point microwave links. This technology is an alternative in areas where optical fiber is either inaccessible or cost prohibitive.
In addition, MNOs can use HERE Geodata Models to support the planning and optimization of a wide range of services such as ultra-high mobile broadband speed content streaming, low-latency gaming, smart home concepts and 4K video chatting.
5G technology and location intelligence are natural partners. As the telecom sector begins exploring ways to be more data-driven and efficient – from network planning to market outreach – the importance of location and its potential for transforming and monetizing networks is undeniable. Think of augmented & virtual reality, Industry 4.0, and enterprise and manufacturing use cases, are all candidates to be explored. MNOs need to carefully consider which use cases to monetize taking into account the local market dynamics, their own competitive capabilities, and the profile and needs of their subscriber base.
The future of a hyper-precise world will need to leverage location data to achieve the next level of productivity and efficiency in a post-pandemic world. Creating digital twins leveraging HERE Geodata Models will be one of the cornerstones to realize this next leap in telecommunications and in our societies at large.