Caroline Gabriel, Research Director & Co-Founder, Rethink Research
Jose Manuel Alvarez, Radio Optimization Manager, Telefόnica
Rémi Thomas, Director of Radio Strategy, Orange
Joe Barrett, President, GSA
Maria de la Rosa, Technical Authority Manager, Professional Services, Astellia
The network optimization working group ranged far and wide across an increasingly broad topic, and benefited from four panellists with very different perspectives on the issues.
This reflected the reality of operators’ thinking about optimization. Rethink’s research shows that MNOs’ plans are very diverse, prioritizing different areas of the network and different use cases, according to business model. This creates challenges, but also opportunities, for vendors, because there is no ‘one size fits all’ blueprint for optimizing the 4G RAN, and the same will be even more true in 5G with its wide range of applications.
Maria de la Rosa, technical authority manager at optimization specialist Astellia, kicked off the workgroup by focusing on geolocation. As networks get denser, this is becoming an important tool for understanding traffic patterns on a very localized basis, and adjusting network resources accordingly. In addition to optimizing user experience, some operators also use the location awareness to support personalized value-added services.
Representatives from two of Europe’s largest operator groups then shared their thoughts and perspectives – and again, had contrasting standpoints. Jose Manuel Alvarez, radio optimization manager at Telefonica, raised important issues of automation versus manual processes. All the panellists agreed that optimization would never be completely automated, but were interested in the potential of machine learning to enhance decisions. While current networks are fairly predictable, 5G networks will be more dynamic and diverse, so ML will start to be important.
Remi Thomas, director of radio strategy at Orange, highlighted issues of customer experience and how a more granular understanding of the network could support personalized response to users. And Joe Barrett, president of the GSA, highlighted a specific aspect of the topic – optimizing the use of spectrum, which could include more sharing to get the maximum usage out of current airwaves, but which would raise optimization issues of its own by reducing an operator’s control of its own network.
Overall, panellists and audience agreed that investment in optimization was now far easier to justify as it becomes essential for an operator to get the most out of its resources and differentiate itself. But there was also consensus that, because the network and its applications are changing so quickly, there are still more questions than answers about how the 5G network will be optimized.