As the saying goes, “It takes a good blacksmith to make steel". The communication network construction and O&M, especially those of 5G networks, are also facing the difficulty of digital transformation. It is expected that we can replace the traditional way of manual statistics, judgement and maintenance, which relies on offline tables, as well as the time-consuming and laborious construction and O&M mode by use of traditional deployment tools, and promote automatic, intelligent, and agile deployment. ZTE, positioned as the “Road builder of digital economy”, focuses on launching the concept of digital network deployment to simplify the complicated network deployment in proactive, agile, insightful, and foreseeable way.
What is Digital Network Deployment?
To solve this problem, ZTE’s Senior Vice President (SVP) Sun Fangping explained that digital network deployment is to present the flows, processes, documents and other data of network deployment in digital forms, and to support the automation and intelligence of delivery operations with digital tools, thus achieving the efficient and accurate decision-making of network construction and maintenance management. Based on its advantages of visibility, real-time, collaboration, and accuracy, digital network deployment can rapidly respond to changes in customer requirements and external environments, and provide high-quality products and services.
Take site survey as an example. Under the traditional mode, survey engineers have to carry measurement tools, such as tape measures, levels, compasses, pens and paper, to the site to measure and record data. If high accuracy is required, the engineers may also carry laser rangefinders, electronic compasses and electronic levels to help to measure and record data. However, in digital network deployment mode, engineers may use only one mobile phone to quickly take pictures on site, and then use digital tools to identify images, as well as automatically collect and record site data. The efficiency of digital network deployment is several times higher than that of traditional site survey.
Operators have long recognized that digital capabilities are core competitiveness. In China, China Mobile has proposed to push forward the construction of AaaS (Ability as a Service) to improve the support level for digital transformation; China Telecom has proposed to speed up the construction of new infrastructure for cloud and network integration; China Unicom has proposed that deepening reform and comprehensive digital transformation should be carried out together. In overseas markets, mainstream operators such as T-Mobile, KDDI, and Jio have also expressed the value of digital transformation and made many practices in their respective fields. It can be said that without the digital deployment of operators' networks, it is difficult to support the digital transformation of various industries.
iEPMS Digital Delivery Platform
With the efficient digital network deployment platform, ZTE is ready for digital network deployment. According to Sun Fangping, this platform consists of three subsystems: the "real-time, automatic, collaborative and visual" iEPMS (Intelligent Engineering Project Management System), "online, mobile, simple and efficient" cloud platform of network debugging and optimization tools, and "intelligent, agile, accurate and closed-loop" intelligent network O&M platform. The digital network deployment platform runs through the entire process of network planning, construction, optimization, maintenance and operation.
Specifically, at the service level, ZTE's digital network deployment covers four parts: market bidding, network delivery, network technology, and network O&M, covering the entire end-to-end network deployment chain. It helps customers to achieve "extremely simple" network deployment and "ultimate" user experience in the digital era.
At the technology level, AI, cloud technologies, and micro-services are used to provide more efficient and convenient technical support. "Our goal is to make things easy for our customers. Through big data analysis, processing, and prediction, we can digitally collect, monitor, and apply data throughout the entire process, and thus provide customers with more convenient remote network guidance, remote diagnosis, and remote services, so that complicated problems can be solved during the delivery process", said Sun Fangping
The above solution has been used in tens of thousands of projects around the world, and are highly recognized by customers. In the 5G era, the ZTE 5G intelligent delivery solution based on this concept has established its core objective: to provide a complete set of end-to-end intelligent delivery tools for network planning, installation and deployment, network optimization, acceptance tests, and network maintenance, so as to reduce the difficulty of network deployment, improve deployment efficiency and finally achieve simplified management despite complexity.
In December 2020, the leading 5G city project jointly built by our customers, such as China Telecom Chengdu Branch and China Unicom Dalian Branch, and ZTE won the 2020 Quality Project Award of the China Association of Communication Enterprises. ZTE's achievements in 5G network performance experience, innovative research, intelligent O&M, and methodology extraction have been recognized by the industry.
Since pandemic outbreak in 2020, the “zero-contact” Digital Network Deployment Solution oriented towards network construction and O&M has effectively reduced the risk of infection to network O&M personnel, increased the number of online users by 45%, and saved OPEX by 15%. With its “zero-contact” and “instant demand-satisfying” online network delivery and O&M, ZTE helps in achieving innovative applications such as remote medical care, making great contributions to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Five-Year Evolution Plan Has Been Developed
ZTE proposed digital network deployment at a very good time. The global spread of the VOVID-19 pandemic last year has posed great challenges to on-site network deployment. Customers can only perform remote management, including site operations, installation quality and function checks. In the long run, however, this will promote automated and intelligent use of network deployment in practical operations, which is a huge opportunity for digital network deployment and will greatly reduce customers' CAPEX and OPEX.
Sun Fangping gave the following example: in January this year, in a core network construction project in Africa, ZTE’s CSC remote work-order system made the entire service flow visible and controllable. The new-generation end-to-end AIC (Auto Integration Center) provided one-stop automatic integration services of virtualization core network construction from planning and design to integration tests. With the help of the innovative digital tool platform, on the premise of guaranteeing the project progress and personnel safety, ZTE finally helped the customer to achieve milestone objectives from customers clearance to First Call within just seven days.
In China, under the prerequisite of ensuring strict pandemic prevention, ZTE has helped the three major operators in China to achieve the commercial use of 5G in 200 cities in 2020, building a benchmarking 5G network in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, and achieving ultra-gigabit continuous coverage experience.
"In 2020, amid the severe global pandemic, ZTE completed multiple delivery projects by using the digital network deployment mode, winning praises from many customers. In the future, digital network deployment will become the main mode”, said Sun Fangping. "At present, ZTE has formulated a five-year plan for the evolution of digital network deployment on the whole. In line with the evolution path from online to real-time online and to intelligent online. By now, digital network deployment has reached the stage of full-service data online.”