U.S. Cellular to leverage machine learning, analytics to plan small cell build-outs

U.S. Cellular coverage area (U.S. Cellular)
U.S. Cellular is the nation's fifth largest wireless network operator, offering service nationwide. (U.S. Cellular)

U.S. Cellular announced it will purchase technology from Nokia that the company said it will use in part to more efficiently plan its cell site and small cell build-outs.

“Using Nokia’s innovative technology, this system will revolutionize the way we apply our various network data inputs to gain insights, predict outcomes and align resources to directly impact how our customers experience our network,” Michael Irizarry, Ph.D., the operator’s EVP and CTO, said in a release. “We know that the network is the backbone of our customers’ experience, and this collaboration with Nokia will allow us to better understand our customers’ data demands in order to exceed their expectations.”

Specifically, U.S. Cellular said it would deploy Nokia’s Customer Experience Management portfolio, including its “Cognitive Analytics for Customer Insight,” which Nokia describes as a machine learning-powered application “that provides a complete view of customer satisfaction, revenue, and device and network performance.” The service will alert U.S. Cellular engineers to unusual network activity and allow them to better predict and determine network performance, the companies said, as well as potentially allow the operator to create new services.

U.S. Cellular’s engineering organization plans to deploy the technology in the second quarter of this year, “with additional roll-outs planned through the rest of next year,” the company said.

U.S. Cellular joins MTN Nigeria, Safaricom Kenya, Orange in Spain and other operators in deploying the technology. Indeed, Nokia said that Safaricom Kenya was able to use the service to cut the amount of time it took to retrieve subscriber records for customer care from up to six hours to 15 minutes, and to reduce the time it took to determine the root causes of service degradations from 24 hours to 10 minutes.

“Nokia Cognitive Analytics for Customer Insight … helps CSPs [communication service providers] to advance from reactive reporting to predictive analytics and automated actions,” Nokia wrote.

The news from U.S. Cellular is noteworthy considering the operator is the nation’s fifth largest wireless network operator with more than 5 million customers. And the operator’s mention of using Nokia’s technology to in part determine small cell deployments is also important since U.S. Cellular so far has made little mention of embarking on a small cell deployment strategy. Moreover, the agreement between U.S. Cellular and Nokia further underscores wireless operators’ embrace of advanced computing techniques like big data to make their operations more efficient.