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RAN Optimization market forecast – deployments and key trends 2015 to 2020

Rethink RAN Research Module 2: RAN Optimization market forecast—Deployments and key trends 2015 to 2020
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Some trends are becoming certainties

One, mobile operator growth (or sometimes survival) will depend on implementing ever-more heterogeneous networks, virtualizing many of their functions, and supporting a wide range of services and applications.

Two, attracting and retaining customers is increasingly down to the quality of user experience, not price, which means taking a far more rigorous approach to managing and optimizing the network.

These two are very hard to support in parallel. Monitoring, performance management and optimization approaches need to evolve rapidly to support these new requirements. Management and orchestration of virtual or hybrid networks are  immature and the subject of deep splits over the best approach. Even without considering NFV/SDN, there is limited ability to optimize wireless, WiFi and wireline networks in a unified manner, even though a rising number of operators are differentiating themselves based on converged services.

Certain services raise particularly difficult optimization challenges. VoLTE and even ViLTE (video over LTE) require extremely good quality of service to provide a superior experience to 2G/3G voice and video, or over-the-top alternatives. This requires end-to-end optimization and some early VoLTE deployments have suffered from a failure to carry out this difficult task.

To address such challenges, operators expect to invest heavily in RAN software and services over the next five years, with a particular focus on optimization and SON.

The wireless forecast included in this report is based on research on the top 40 international mobile operator groups, which account for 80% of the global mobile subscribers (IMG-40). A total of 125 operating companies are included. From this representative group of operators, the forecasts are developed.

From the starting point of a calculation of the number of cell sites already deployed worldwide, forecasts were made of the numbers and type of RAN optimization tools and services that would be required. These included manual and automated (eg SON) processes. They included software tools, services provided by a third party onsite, and hosted services.

The forecasts were based on a combination of data from:

  • Detailed surveys, interviews and operator-by-operator modeling of the IMG-40 groups, covering 125 opcos.
  • Studies of the deployments and strategies of the top 100 4G operators, as tracked by Rethink Technology Research’s biannual surveys, interviews and desk research.
  • An in-doth study of 25 tier one operators about their detailed plans for RAN optimization deployments to 2020.
  • Input from ecosystem vendors on shipments, technology strategies and competitive landscape, also updated quarterly.

Definitions and scope of key categories of RAN software are outlined here:

Category Key tools and services covered
RF testing and monitoring Monitoring, probes, drive tests, device-based tools

New generation probes including virtualized

RAN planning Site survey, parameter design, capacity planning, coverage planning, interference management, macro/small cell/transport interaction

RF optimization RF optimization including neighbor list optimization, parameter optimization, simulation, signal and protocol analysis
Video optimization RAN-based video efficiency (not CDN etc) – congestion management, cell site caching, traffic prioritization
QoE – Traffic shaping according to QoE levels Shaping and prioritizing traffic according to QoS levels, subscriber, traffic type
SON Centralized, distributed and hybrid self-optimizing network and self-organizing network, Cloud-SON
RAN analytics Real time analytics of data from probes and other RAN monitoring etc.

VoLTE and video Optimization projects are divided into four main categories – video, web, VoLTE, IoT. Deployments specifically geared to VoLTE and video are separated out, as these are currently key use cases

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Table 1 MNO investment in key areas of RAN software and services (new projects)
Table 2 MNOs investing in key areas of RAN software and services (new or upgrade projects)
Table 3 Capex investment in RAN optimization and SON by region
Table 4 Optimization use cases (new projects)
Table 5 Deployment of RAN optimization tools and services
Table 6 Deployment of network optimization elsewhere in network, with RAN data feeds
Table 7 Inhouse vs hosted optimization tools and services
Table 8 Adoption of hosted optimization services
Table 9 New optimization requirements
Table 10 Drivers to deploy new optimization systems 2015 and 2020

RAN optimization market forecast chart 2015 to 2020