This post is by Lars Lagerström from the Networks business of Nokia.
In my previous blog post I described how Nokia Reference Architecture can help you to get a grip on traffic steering. There has been a lot of debate since then and I would like to share some recent reflections.
The vast majority of operators already uses some kind of traffic steering. Some use radio network features to balance users and traffic between different frequency bands and different radio technologies, such as 3G and LTE. Others use quality of service (QoS) for maximum business impact. However, the implementations are often rather static or require a fair amount of manual work.
The Busan fireworks festival in Korea in late 2013 serves as a good example. Nokia’s Global Services team used traffic steering principles and tools throughout the event to deliver what nobody else could. The traffic in the LTE network during the festival was three times heavier than the previous year. In order to manage what looked like an impossible situation, the team applied insights from traffic monitoring to balance the traffic using idle mode mobility load balancing in the network. As a result, the Nokia LTE network outperformed all the other networks. With success rates of over 99% for both call setup and VoLTE, it excelled throughout the event while two other networks failed to deliver. The appropriate tools were necessary for achieving these stunning results, but we cannot ignore the fact that they wouldn’t have been sufficient without the significant involvement of the Nokia services team.
How automated should we go?
Growing network complexity and unpredictable traffic growth are forcing operators to plan ahead. Most realize that their current, sometimes fairly basic, traffic steering may soon be insufficient. It was easy to predict that there would be a sudden increase in traffic at the Busan fireworks festival, and the team was therefore well prepared to deal with it. But as similar situations start to become the norm rather than the exception, operators will find it difficult to cope with them. Having standby personnel ready at all times in operations to deal with the unforeseeable is simply not an option. This problem calls for a more flexible, automated, and less people-intensive approach.
Most operators will benefit from a step-by-step approach to traffic steering, where the architecture ensures that everything fits together. A semi-automated solution based on self-organizing networks (SON) may serve as the next step when pure radio features are not sufficient anymore. Further steps need to be considered when network complexity and unpredictable traffic growth become even more prevalent. That may be the right time to introduce dynamic, fully automated traffic steering triggered, for instance, by sudden network congestion or service degradation.
Whatever path you choose, with Nokia Reference Architecture, you can get a firm grip on each step of the journey – defining the use cases, understanding the necessary functionality, protecting existing assets, and closing the gap with propositions that adhere strictly to your architecture vision.
For more on Nokia Reference Architecture, check out some of my earlier postings:
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