Caroline Gabriel, Research Director & Co-Founder, Rethink Research
Jarno Niemelä, Head of Automation, Elisa
Anthony Wong, Head of EdenNet Architecture, Nokia
The working group on SON (self-optimizing networks) was a lively one with plenty of audience interaction with the two speakers – Jarno Neimela, head of automation at Finnish operator Elisa, and Anthony Wong, head of Nokia’s SON platform, EdenNet.
Both speakers agreed that SON had changed almost beyond recognition since the early days. It has become a critical enabler of dense networks, small cells and 5G migration – all of which are starting to move up operators’ priority lists.
Two changes are particularly significant in making SON a tool for transforming the mobile operator’s business case. One is programmability. SON used to be hampered by over-rigid prescription of 3GPP use cases, which were not relevant to all operators. Now, Elisa works with partners and inhouse experts to devise its own SON use cases and applications to suit its particular requirements, and to help it differentiate its network performance.
For Nokia, too, one of the attractions of EdenNet, when it acquired the company, was that it had taken an early move into programmability. In future, this could go further, with open APIs (application programming interfaces) that could be shared among operators.
The second important change is that SON is extending its reach beyond just the RAN and into transport, core and wireline resources, to support optimization, load balancing and flexible resource allocation from end to end. In 5G, in particular, the speakers believe this will be important for operators to maximize the cost efficiency of their networks and also deliver the best quality of experience.
For Elisa, this is very important because the company is a challenger operator, and needs to be agile and well differentiated to compete with larger players in Finland. But the wide range of questions and comments from the audience, some of them from representatives of far larger mobile operators, showed that the issues under discussion are important ones for MNOs of all sizes as they start to plan for 5G.