How to bridge collaboration gaps in the 5G telecom space?
For service providers, ensuring seamless, always-on services and being ahead of the shifting communication services’ needs in the age of 5G and the 6G era at the door is imperative. How can situational awareness help you stay on top of the game? A hint: your kids already know the basic principles. Learn more in this blog.
Some years ago, I participated in a project which involved the concept of situational awareness, meaning – having a tool that helps you get a good overview of where you are and what is around you.
That was the foundational moment that later on made me think about what needs to be understood about the spatial situation when building a network or when there is a need to make conclusions in the network's operations.
The key is to find the easy way to pull intelligence from any given environment and at any given time make the right moves and the best business decisions.
The concept, which starts with building virtual images of specific environments and continues with performing real-time surveys, building digital workflows, and, ultimately, teams all the way, leads to an end-to-end digitalization vision. And the final aim is – 3D telecom virtual world.
From gaming technology to 3D telecom virtual world
Talking about a 3D virtual world where you can collaborate with other stakeholders, build your world, and make decisions based on the actual situation – does it ring the bell about something already well-known even to the kids?
Right – I’m talking about the video game Minecraft.
Let me tell you about another personal experience.
All my kids played Minecraft and developed relationships with other players. When we moved overseas, my youngest son, who was 13 then, maintained relationships with his friends through gaming and the ability to have a multiplayer environment. They kept creating and hanging out in the virtual world. What an extraordinary way to collaborate!
Minecraft is only a game, but it’s also a great example of how all the elements come together in the environment and time. Transferring the “Minecraft experience” into our industry, let’s talk about why entering this virtual interactive world is important when planning, building, and operating networks.
And here, we enter the sphere of situational awareness.
Situational awareness in the telecom industry – why and how?
When talking about situational awareness, we talk about the perception of a specific environment and events in this environment with respect to space and time, about the understanding of their meaning, and the projection of their future evolvement.
To put this concept in the context of the telecom industry, it comes down to this: digital location analysis leads to a better way of site leasing, designing the network, and intelligent site engineering, and, looking further into the future – intelligent network management, all of which is fundamental for the long-term business success.
But where are we now in the situational awareness development journey?
Existing solutions are characterized by limited situational awareness and disconnected design from information needed through network deployment.
Bridging the collaboration gaps – your kids know how!
In practice, when we develop networks, we still make construction drawings, perform structural analysis and requests for proposals as separate unities, and then forward them to deployment teams who must go to physical sites. As we jump between site engineering to deployment services and, further on, to performing network operations we get the notion that all these things are interconnected.
Then we come to the next important aspect – collaboration. The communication flow between network designers, construction managers, operations technicians, and all stakeholders involved in the network development and operations is performed via legacy channels like email. We still miss the framework where we have a common environment.
And here again, Minecraft and my son collaborating with his co-players worldwide to build new worlds come to my mind. As opposed to that example, the current ways of working, from planning, designing, installing, optimizing, and operating the network, are still very much disconnected.
It needs to be multiplayer, multipoint, and – fast
Imagine a Way of Working where everybody has an overview of what’s happening at the moment and can have a projection of what will happen in the future, and all the perspectives are brought together.
So, if you’re a radio frequency engineer designing how radios will perform in a given geography, and I’m a site design engineer deciding how to put these radios on the infrastructure – we are working on the same site, but our perspectives are different. How about instead of working through emails, excels, drawings, etc., and instead of traveling to the physical site, we have a virtual 3D multiplayer and multipoint view of the ecosystem?
However, there is more to consider here. It’s not enough to be able to collaborate and create in this virtual 3D world. We also have to be able to toggle between the virtual environment and what's actually there in the physical environment.
Here is a straightforward example. In a 3D projection of the building, a construction engineer sees a roof and a parapet wall, and this information may be enough for him to decide where to place the antenna. But a radio frequency engineer needs a different set of information. For him, it makes a huge difference to know that this antenna is one foot from the ground while the parapet wall looks two feet high. We’re talking about the need for a truly detailed and precise twin of the real-life environment.
Processing all the information, getting the right perspective, and matching real-life situations – it all takes time. And we’re all very impatient nowadays, especially when sitting in front of our screens. So, the following requirement for this 3D virtual world is that it’s got to be fast.
Design for the future
A 3D virtual environment is an unprecedented tool for saving time, resources, and money when developing networks. But we don’t design only for today – we design for the future!
Every one of our customers has the same challenge. They need to get their radios and antennas deployed and optimized perfectly so that when I'm driving down the road, sitting in a hotel, or working in a crowded place, my connection has the best possible coverage and capacity. And the appetite for data and speed are increasing rapidly. This all implies planning for the future because every communications service provider wants to make their users happy.
Zooming out for the broader picture
Due to the increase in complexity, it’s necessary to highlight that when discussing a 3D virtual world, we don’t discuss sites individually. We talk about the entire network, with all the sites interconnected. Consequently, we digitize and connect them in the ecosystem to create the big picture.
From a forward-looking perspective, previously created digital assets can help in figuring out mass deployments of radio technology for the future. Instead of physical visits to every site around the world, we can use existing databases with the visualized sites and launch them into the visualization environment for planning. This is the way to create a future-proof network.
Predicting the future? Why not!
Once we have the analytical data of how the network has been performing, we can also run simulations for the future.
Let’s say there was a problem in a network in a certain area, and nobody knows why it happened. We can collect the data and run the simulation through the twin network, supported by AI apps (intelligent algorithms created in five functional categories: insights, performance, assurance, self-healing, and energy efficiency to prevent network issue escalations). As AI apps resolve the issue, we can deploy them into the live network, thus preventing the recurrence of the problem.
This is partly due to the capability digitization, allowing us to elaborate and orchestrate and will lead us to a point called Decision Intelligence which will place results at the forefront of business objectives. By virtualizing the network, we are putting software more in control of the hardware, but not in all cases.
When it comes to virtualizing the network as a digital twin by using network traffic data, we can activate the Ericsson AI app suite to run simulations to fine-tune network performance, solve unresolved outages, preempt the resolution of anomalies in the network, and preserve end-user experience.
The implementations of the Ericsson AI app suite in real-life networks have already shown positive results. It has led to a 35 percent reduction in critical incidents and up to 60 percent reduction in network performance issues boosting network resilience.
Communication networks will have to keep up with the rapid advancement of technology by enabling a wide range of applications. As more and more data is processed within the network as a whole rather than only at the endpoints, these networks will grow smarter.
Human augmentation and digital-physical fusion are two developments that are anticipated to influence connectivity in the future. Digital-physical fusion is the process of combining digital and physical systems to produce new goods and services, whereas human augmentation entails using technology to improve our abilities.
Communication network architecture will need to change to keep up with these advances. It will require an adaptable architecture that is simple to develop and configure. The role of network operators will alter dramatically as computing and AI are more thoroughly incorporated into networks.
How can you provide situational awareness to your customers?
Our goal is a highly interactive Way of Working, developed to visualize a visible site, its components, trees, buildings, and the invisible radio and microwave frequencies. This will enable our customers to drive both operational and capital spending efficiencies.
The key benefits of using the situational awareness concept
The list of the key benefits of using the situational awareness concept is long and extensive, starting with the overall benefit: reducing the cost to identify, acquire, and roll out radios to new and existing site locations.
To be more detailed in sorting out the benefits one by one, here they are:
- simplifying site identification and modeling of business ROI for the CSP
- reducing time to market
- reducing Truck Rolls, counted in cost savings
- virtual, multi-skilled visits and virtual design improve accuracy and enable physical site cost savings
- simplified future equipment moving/adding/changes
Get ready now to be ahead of the game in the future
Application of situational awareness will become a necessity for communications service providers, aiming at running their networks in an operational- and cost-efficient way, providing the users with seamless, always-on services, and staying ahead of the shifting communications services’ needs in the age of 5G and with 6G era onwards.
Check out how Ericsson can support you already now with Intelligent network services designed for deployment speed and always-on network operations.
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