LTE: We need help with running these networks, claim operators

As LTE vendors push ahead with LTE developments and "commercial" trials, the mobile operator community is struggling to get the message across to these equipment suppliers that there is an urgent need for automated network management tools.

Operators are keen to see self-configuring and self-optimising LTE networks--better known as Self-Organising Networks (SONs)--because of their potential to reduce network Opex. According to Unstrung, who spoke to Tarek Salem, head of automation and tools at T-Mobile International, deploying LTE will significantly increase operators' workload because of the requirement to configure and optimise at least three different networks: 2G, 3G and LTE. "The starting point is nothing," he said. "No effort in planning, no effort in optimisation. This is something a machine can do for us and something it can do much better than us."

However, it appears likely initial SON applications will only appear with limited features, with the equipment vendors developing the requested add-ons at a later date. But, two of the early features operators seem likely to benefit from include base station auto-configuration and automatic neighbour relations, which detects nearby cell sites and makes the required adjustments to suit the network topology.

Salem's concluding viewpoint on SON was that an LTE macro base station should be as easy to install as a femtocell. "There should be no pre-planning sites. Once installed, an [eNodeB] automatically connects to the network... The site is auto-configured."

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