Operators agree: SON pivotal as networks transform to 5G & cloud
With every change, there is a constant. Can you imagine navigating the largest disruption in wireless networks with the impending move to 5G and cloud, without an anchor? On 18-19 October, the who’s who of SON came together with a surprisingly cohesive message: “Self Organizing Networks (SON) have finally arrived” and 2016 saw the mass introduction of SON and more importantly, its acceptance by operators worldwide. With this, we’ve come to realize that SON is now ready to take on the role of defining the future of automation. In the past, SON was more an afterthought for automating tried and tested manual tasks.
Delivering ‘User Centric SON’ is the key
The definiton of a “user” will change from a human connotation and the human behaviors that wireless networks were designed to serve, to “things” that will be anything but human in every aspect - be it sheer numbers or interactions. SON automation for network optimization is now considered mandatory by operators for improved network quality. But with operators intent on continuously improving and delivering exceptional customer experience, SON is now challenged to optimize the customer experience for each and every “user”. User Centric SON will leverage centralized SON solutions together with user application requirements to deliver superior quality of experience and network performance. The next challenge for SON is to ensure that the human users have a 100% satisfactory wireless experience, anywhere, anytime and with anyone, in a manner that makes the need for handling customer complaints nearly obsolete.
Explosive IoT growth will demand dynamic, SON driven cloud elasticity management and network slicing
With “things” becoming more demanding and unpredictable than human users, the network needs to adapt itself and self-organize the Internet of Things. This is achieved through two powerful and pivotal concepts: Cloud Elasticity and Network Slicing. SON needs to interact with other automation and orchestration engines, while serving as the brain of network elasticity mangement to intelligently deliver capacity when and where required and remove excess capacity at will. The evolution of SON to Self-Organizing Things will serve as a natural fit for SON driven dynamic allocation of network slices to cater to the needs of things that are alike and hence boost the efficiency of networks serving “alike things”.
SON is the anchor
I had the pleasure of moderating the Innovator’s panel during the two-day SON event where I discussed with Elisa, Orange and Telecom Italia the transformative role SON will play as networks move to 5G and the cloud. Through the discussion, it was apparent that today’s SON solutions will need to adapt to manage the complexity these new technologies will bring to future networks and that there will be disruptive challenges on the road to 5G and cloud, which SON will need to tackle. Purpose-built SON for mobile network optimization has thus far been the lead automation driver yet SON will become much more than that. It will become the anchor for the next generation network - the automation engine making transformation as seamless as possible.
So where does SON go from here?
The future opportunities and success factors for SON will be determined by how well it orchestrates a non-uniform network into an uniform network, where human users and things can be served without interruptions in their activities. For example, patterns of network usage at different times of day across different geographic locations (e.g. dense urban, rural, cell edge, cell center) from different users and different user application requirements (e.g. data intensive, low latency), will be managed using User Centric SON and Geo-centric SON solutions.
With SON firmly entrenched as the automation engine for yesterday’s wireless networks, we now have our anchor to drive the transformation of wireless networks to 5G and the cloud.
Further, automation will take on a broader role within the service assurance domain where closed-loop operations are a necessity to recognize the benefits of emerging cloud and virtual networking.
For more on automated assurance, please join Nokia’s upcoming webinar on November 16th, entitled Closed Loop Automated Assurance and read this recent blog.
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