The study findings are based on a clearly defined cost model created by AIRCOM and independently validated and endorsed by Analysys Mason. The calculations explore the advantages that hybrid SON could deliver to mobile operators over three years. Through upgrades to existing UMTS infrastructure, and by also applying them to modest LTE deployments (across 20% of cell sites), hybrid SON could:
- On average, reduce total cost of network deployments and operations (CAPEX and OPEX) by more than 25% for large operators in Europe, this figure could be as large as 50% as economies of scale dominate in dense subscriber regions
- Over a three year period, the cumulative net benefit savings could be worth:
- More than US$3bn to a large US operator
- More than US$1 billion to a large European operator
- More than US$200 million to a large APAC-based operator
- Lead to EBITDA 5% larger than if SON features were not implemented
The concept of SON and network automation has been discussed for some time with no clear sense of the commercial advantages it could deliver to mobile operators, says Steve Bowker, CTO, AIRCOM International. This study provides a clear justification for SON and emphatically underlines why operators should roll out SON functionality across existing UMTS infrastructure and then apply it through a measured LTE migration.
The study contains clear recommendations on how mobile operators should implement SON features in their 3G and 4G networks to decrease OPEX and minimise CAPEX through data capacity enhancement projects. Surprisingly, the benefits that can be realised in a 3G environment are several times larger than those with LTE. So while adding data capacity to networks, operators should convert their 3G networks to SON operations and then add them to emerging LTE infrastructure unifying SON functionality across UMTS and LTE.
LTE network migration is an inevitable capacity generator for mobile operators around the world, continues Bowker. It remains however, a potentially complex and disruptive process that requires careful planning both in terms of safeguarding customer experience and maximising existing network assets.
Mobile operators must determine their own LTE migration strategies taking into account their own marketing needs, the spectrum available, congestion in the cell sites and the benefits that SON can apply to UMTS, HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE. Our white paper clearly shows that in most cases, more is to be gained by operators undertaking a controlled and measured approach to LTE, harnessing SON capabilities across these multiple technologies, in a timeframe that suits them.
Network planning systems will have a profound impact on network performance and profitability over the next five years, says Mark Mortensen, Principal Analyst, Analysys Mason. SON will be instrumental in removing manually driven processes, replacing them with fully automated systems that incorporate performance, planning, policy and real-time control. Our study clearly demonstrates that operators need not wait for LTE to realise these significant efficiency benefits.