While COVID-19 is still ravaging the world, governments have taken mitigation measures, imposing unprecedented demands on mobile networks. According to a GSMA report released in 2021, the global mobile data traffic per subscriber has increased even more in 2020 than ever before, reaching more than 6 GB per month, which doubles that of 2018. This means that consumers participate in online activities more extensively and frequently. As is shown in the statistical results of Analysys Mason, more than 67% enterprises suggest that the ICT industry must change to more appropriate technologies, services and processes to support new working modes.
However, in the global mobile services, the epidemic has postponed network deployment and made on-site engineering service support more difficult, bringing new challenges to base station site survey, quality check, network maintenance, and network performance improvement that originally required high personnel mobility.
At the same time, the construction and O&M of communication networks, represented by 5G networks, also face the problem of digital transformation. It is expected that automatic, intelligent, and agile deployment can be promoted to replace the traditional laborious network construction and O&M that require manual statistics, judgement, and maintenance and are carried out with the traditional deployment tools.
In this digital and intelligent era, ZTE, a driver of digital economy, has launched the digital network deployment solution to make network deployment simplified, efficient, and intelligent by applying digital, automatic, and intelligent methods.
What is the Digital Network Deployment Solution?
With only one mobile phone, an engineer can go to the selected site to take photos of the equipment and base stations, and then complete the site survey job that traditionally requires several engineers to carry out repeated measurements with a tape measure, a level, a compass, a pen, and paper or even advanced instruments such as the laser rangefinder, electronic compass, and electronic level. This is an actual application scenario of digital network deployment.
Digital network deployment means digitally displaying network deployment data such as flows, processes, and documents, and supporting the automatic and intelligent delivery operations with digital tools, so that highly-efficient and accurate network construction and maintenance management decisions can be made. The whole solution consists of the "real-time, automatic, collaborative and visual" intelligent engineering project management system (iEPMS), "cloud-based, intelligent, simple" technology delivery platform (TDP), and "intelligent, visual, agile and closed-loop" network O&M solutions. It runs through the whole process of network planning, construction, maintenance, optimization and operation.
Intelligent Engineering Project Management System: Real-time, Automatic, Collaborative, and Visual
ZTE's self-developed digital delivery platform supports five major functions: process management, quality management, document management, material management, and outsourcing management. The iEPMS can be rapidly interconnected with different content modules of different customer systems to achieve efficient service coordination among different companies, and it has been interconnected with the systems of multiple operators around the world.
Technology Delivery Platform: Cloud-Based, Intelligent, Simple
ZTE has established an end-to-end intelligent tool system covering all phases including planning, commissioning, optimization, and maintenance. The big data-based cloud network planning platform Smart Hippo makes 5G coverage and capacity planning more accurate. With the new network optimization drive test tool WNG, an engineer can complete the drive test by simply using a smart phone installed with the WNG App, and output reports automatically through the cloud server, which is portable and efficient. The VMAX, a customer-oriented tool, is introduced with AI capabilities such as intelligent analysis and intent insight. Based on intelligent insights extracted from big data, the VMAX achieves optimization, analysis, and intelligent operation of network quality, service traffic, user experience and terminal applications, thus improving user perception. The auto integration center (AIC) tool, which simplifies complexity, can achieve end-to-end continuous delivery of NFV network deployment. The virtual drive test (VDT) tool allows engineers to customize routes and drive test tasks, automatically extracts and analyzes massive drive test data. With GIS presentation, the VDT provides a wireless network coverage analysis solution with the same effect as the traditional drive test in road wireless coverage, quality and event information, greatly reducing the drive test manpower cost and improving drive test efficiency.
Intelligent O&M Solution: Preventive, Fast, Accurate
Based on the self-developed OSS O&M support platform, ZTE's intelligent O&M solution provides centralized O&M for multiple manufacturers, multiple systems, and multiple types of devices to implement online management of the entire O&M process. Intelligent fault prediction and accurate preventive maintenance can eliminate potential network faults in advance, greatly reducing the probability of site faults. In addition, through automatic fault diagnosis and recovery, remote troubleshooting and quick fault-fixing can be implemented, reducing the number of times that engineers have to go to sites to handle faults and thus reducing the risk of epidemic infection.
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 chain of end-to-end network deployment, helping customers achieve "extremely simple" network deployment and "ultimate" user experience in the digital era.
At the technical level, AI, cloud technologies, and micro-services are used to provide more efficient and convenient technical support. The purpose of digital network deployment is to simplify complexity for customers, that is, to implement digital collection, monitoring, and application of data through the big data analysis, processing, and prediction capabilities, thus providing customers with more convenient remote network guidance, diagnosis, and services.
Digital Network Deployment Widely Used Worldwide
By the end of 2021, ZTE has established service networks and branch organizations in over 160 countries and regions worldwide, and has cooperated with more than 500 telecom operators to provide digital network services to over 40,000 projects worldwide. Since pandemic outbreak in 2020, the "zero-touch" cloud-based network services have effectively reduced the risk of infection to network O&M personnel, increased the number of online users by 45%, and saved OPEX by 15%, benefiting more than 300 networks worldwide and their users.
—In South America, the 5G+ telemedicine system, which was built remotely for an operator, integrated 5G+4K UHD terminal and uninterrupted power supply, and could transmit medical videos and data in real time with high bandwidth and low delay. Through typical scenarios such as remote diagnosis, remote consultation, remote ward inspection, real-time management and supervision, it effectively reduced infection risks to doctors and helped recovery from local pandemic.
—In Africa, with the help of AIC, remote experts completed one-stop automatic delivery from planning and design to deployment and testing within just 7 days in a country severely affected by the pandemic. We not only maximally guaranteed the health and safety of customers and employees, but also rapidly delivered the network for local pandemic control.
—In Europe, in a wireless network construction project, with the help of the digital delivery platform iEPMS, remote experts efficiently made the project data of 10,000+ sites in 15 delivery regions online in real time, and achieved the online sharing of information and documents, finally helping the telecom operator win the award for mobile network speed.
—In China, based on its cloud-based network service solution, ZTE assisted telecom operators in building 4/5G networks for more than 210 hospitals in 82 cities.
On March 31, 2021, at the 2021 Digital Transformation Development Summit held in Beijing, ZTE passed the first batch of "Digital Trusted Service Evaluation" by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT). At PT Expo China 2021, ICT China selected ZTE's cloud network service solution under epidemic as the Outstanding Solution Case, and its intelligent O&M solution as the Excellent Innovative Technology Application Case. ZTE's digital network deployment concept has been increasingly recognized by the industry.
To Be the Main Mode of Future Deployment
The impact of the epidemic on network quality is temporary, while its impact on data use may be permanent. The epidemic highlights the importance of communication networks, and promotes the all-round development of working from home, online education, e-commerce, digitalization and automation. Therefore, operators and network service providers need to continuously respond and improve network capacity.
At present, ZTE has completed the overall planning of intelligent digital network deployment, which will make the future digital network deployment more automatic and intelligent, promoting the change from automatic network to intelligent network.
When changeability, uncertainty, complexity, and fuzziness become the new normal of the communication network environment, digital network deployment will definitely become the main mode of future network deployment. In the digital and intelligent era, ZTE will respond to changes in network deployment with professional, efficient, and intelligent services.