The Prodigious SON Comes of Age

Radio equipment providers introduced distributed self-organizing network (D-SON) solutions to automate radio access network (RAN) operations. These had the advantage of requiring only a limited amount of data and presenting a lower risk of conflicts with other systems, tools or processes; but they were also limited in scope, and insufficient to manage the increasing complexity of the RAN.

Independent vendors jumped in to develop centralized self-organizing network (CSON) solutions to support multi-domain and vendor networks, combining network-focused and customer-centric algorithms… but at a cost. C-SON solutions are more complex to deploy, require more data to operate, and will conflict with existing operations.

SON solutions retrieve a lot of the required data directly from the network systems without passing through the OSS architecture. But data about physical elements such as tower locations, etc, usually stored in OSS tools, are vital for building an accurate topology of the physical and logical RAN that the SON needs to interpret the incoming data.

Therefore, SON and the planning tools need to be closely integrated.

Also important in the radio network engineers’ toolkit are the configuration management databases that help deploy new cell configuration, analyze configuration problems, and optimize network setup. The same information is used and modified by the SON, so it is vital to keep the data synchronized via CMdb registration.

SON solutions provide algorithms that optimize the network based on input data and pre-configured triggers. Open SON extends this, so that processes can be configured and triggered from external systems to focus on a specific set of data or goal. This is done through the Open SON API.

Planning and rolling out new cells is one of the many use cases of Open SON. The planning and configuration management tools can request the SON, through the Open API, to pre-optimize the parameters of the target network deployment before the actual installation of new cells. In a similar way, maintenance systems can trigger the cell outage compensation algorithm to react to planned outages of cells in the live network, thus limiting the impact on network quality.

Technology aside, automation in the network domain needs to be accepted by end users. Network engineers are, rightly, suspicious of automatic solutions for which they are responsible but cannot fully control or even see.

Therefore, SON telecom solutions should allow the operator to identify, quickly and easily, what the solution is doing and what the impact may be.

Comarch’s SON solution has been developed as an E2E radio optimization tool that combines both the value of network automation and the transparency and flexibility of radio optimization tools. This hybrid approach demystifies SON, and presents one E2E tool that manages automated use cases and assists manual activities continuously.


Michiel Nuytemans

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