Home quarantine during the first half of 2020 would have been very hard without internet connectivity. Recovering from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic will take time, and this has made us realise how necessary it is to have a digital ecosystem for both mobile operators and governments. This ecosystem would help in providing digital services and showing social responsibility to assure network healthiness during the pandemic. Such digitalisation needs a fast 5G network evolution. In the Middle East, we are lucky because of the early deployment of 5G networks. In the last two years, mobile carriers have deployed more than 10K 5G sites in the Middle East, which promises more B2C, B2B and B2H chances in the region’s telecom industry. However, 5G also brings operators some key challenges in terms of double power consumption, increase in equipment, and thousands of extra configurations for 5G mobile network sites, equipment and setup.
Therefore, the question here is how to control these challenges while achieving a 5G best network performance?
The answer is that digital transformation in network infrastructure and services have become a necessity.
Digital Green Infrastructure: AI and Craft Innovation is the key for OPEX
5G has double power consumption compared with legacy network. In 2019, the local mobile operators in KSA have entered a joint venture with their partners to reduce high power consumption in less load network time and improve cooling system and rental space cost using the latest site simplification approach.
For managing the high-power consumption, a joint innovated solution called PowerStar has been introduced. Using AI capability, the solution can resolve data imbalance and equipment consumption, analyse network data trends, and adjust network configuration automatically, especially with the fluctuation of electricity price. AI technology will identify the sites that need to go to sleeping mode while the network load is low, define which sites are the best to use fuel or electricity to save money for the operator, and help the operator save 5 per cent-15 per cent in network power.
To improve the site cooling system, we re-designed the 5G site into a modular site. In the past, this required a large indoor room to deploy the network equipment. The AC needed at least 2700KW to control the room temperature. Our modular site solution can now easily deploy all NEs with 800KW AC in one cabinet, helping operators to reduce 70 per cent of AC power consumption.
To reduce site rental cost, we introduced a site simplification approach through integrating all technologies antennas (2G/3G/4G and 5G) into one antenna box called AAU blade antenna solution that can reduce 30 per cent of site rental fee.
Digital Service: the digital service is must to ensure the most potential of network
5G business growth is defined by smart tariff, innovated content and superior network experience. Automation and virtualisation have become key factors that help achieve these targets. On the other side, COVID-19 impact is still there, with on-site intervention remaining somehow as a risk. Therefore, operators must provide more digital services to their daily operation model for best 5G benefits utilisation.
We have started to develop GDE (General Digital Engine), a next generation digital service platform to ensure digital operation realisation. The solution and it is including 3 layers:
- Data Source Layer: Unified Data support E2E network planning, designing, deployment and operation, reducing E2E process integration across all phases.
- Data Analysis Layer: an open API that provides open ecosystem environments for developers, reducing customisation by 50 per cent.
- Application Layer: provides macro service to support orchestration capability for multiple applications, reducing legacy platform BOT cost by 30 per cent
In Saudi, we deployed the E2E platform for operators, helping customers to reduce E2E operation OPEX by 10 per cent within one year, improve the operation efficiency by 30 per cent, improve field test efficiency by 40 per cent, and reduce field visits by 25 per cent.
Once 3GPP R16 Standard will be released, 5G will take more 2B chances in the telecom industry. We believe digital infrastructure and service transformation will become more vital for customers in the Middle East in the next 12-18 months.