Monday, February 08, 2010 | Apple, Carrier IQ, City Planning, Coverage Maps, Data Plans, Dropped Calls, Groundhog Technologies, Network Optimization, RF Engineers, Telecom Industry Insider | 0 comments »
Carriers face a great challenge to have their networks keep pace with the ever growing performance demands and customer service complaints brought on by the explosive growth and use of data devices. The success of smart phones have put data usage on a growth path that is unprecedented. AT&T has reported an increase in network data consumption of 5000% over the last 3 years, driven by a minority of customers who own the Apple iPhone. This change in how users access data demands that network operators monitor, diagnose and optimize their network’s coverage and capacity performance in order to bring real-time response to the wireless networks.
Wireless are very complex and network planning tools can only provide a high level approximation of the quality of coverage and the peak number of subscribers per sector or cell tower. RF engineers have look at too much data to adjust configuration parameters to better manage the interference, balance the load or correct for troublesome performance areas. The identification of those spots or dead zones is not simple and requires extensive investigation, manual labor and time consuming analysis. The process may start by tracing dropped calls and dead zones within their serving sectors at the instance of the drop and monitor the probability of this occurrence over multiple weeks. In addition, drive tests could be required to identify the approximate location of the dropped calls or dead zones so that an RF network engineer can take this information into account when changing network parameters in order to improve the coverage and/or quality of the network. In other words, a carrier is required to allocate significant resources (equipment, employees, vehicles and time) to perform drive tests and collect sufficient data to diagnose network inefficiencies. It also assumes the carrier will perform these tests at the optimum time to replicate the problem during peak usage. Moreover, it is also challenging and resource consuming to optimize or improve the identified troublesome areas without adversely affecting neighboring areas. Therefore, in order to save operational expenses while enhancing user experience, there is a demand to automate the processes of diagnosis and optimization as much as possible.
Deadcellzones.com "Consumer Generated Coverage Maps" is a key network planning tool that enables wireless operators to prioritize problem areas in their network in both real-time and over-time. Rather than using expensive and time consuming drive tests to troubleshoot a problem once it occurs, the carrier collects and analyzes actual complaints from users. Carriers could spend billions of dollars fixing and optimizing the entire network but obtaining actually customer complaints helps prioritize upgrades in areas where customers feel the most pain. Often times the carrier might not be able to fix the problem themselves and might require a partner and multiple carriers to setup a distributed antenna system in the neighborhood.