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Simplify mobile transport network rollouts

Simplify mobile transport network rollouts

As mobile networks grow and become increasingly dense, with more and more cell sites being added for capacity, network operators need to be able to quickly and efficiently provision the transport equipment supporting the radio access network to seize new opportunities and gain market share.

Today there are about 5 million macro cell towers worldwide, and this number is expected to grow to 5.6 million by 2024. In addition, 5G technology will lead to thousands of more small cells, making manual provisioning of the underlying IP transport infrastructure ever less practical.

To speed time-to-market and enable fast, reliable and secure rollout across many sites, you need to avoid manual and error-prone equipment installations.

Simplification through automation

Automation to simplify the provisioning and configuration of transport network elements (NEs) will be key to performing many of the arduous tasks required to get equipment up and running.

Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) eliminates the manual steps needed to connect the transport equipment to the network and allows automatic configuration.

While ZTP can be initiated centrally by an administrator, typically the ZTP provisioning being referenced is done automatically during an automated boot sequence, removing the need for manual intervention (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. ZTP vs. manual provisioning

Figure 1. ZTP vs. manual provisioning

Benefits of ZTP-enabled mobile transport

ZTP automates the setup of NEs, providing the following benefits.

Speeds rollouts

ZTP saves time to get equipment operational. Where NEs typically have been provisioned and configured one at a time, all the new equipment can now be added to the data communications network through a single automated process.

Eliminates manual errors

Legacy provisioning required repetitive tasks involving command line interface (CLI) data entry for each NE being added — which introduced manual errors. These tasks can now be accomplished through downloadable configuration files that execute commands to customize the NE configurations.

Streamlines operations

Automated setup of equipment makes installation easier and reduces the need for highly skilled and trained staff to perform the installations.

Reduces truck rolls and site visits

The ability to have the transport equipment at cell sites and aggregation hubs be remotely accessible by an administrator, who can quickly and securely configure the equipment, reduces truck rolls and site visits.

Improves network visibility and troubleshooting

ZTP improves network visibility and troubleshooting because captured log data can be used to identify:

  • ZTP upgrade status
  • Names and addresses of provisioned servers and NEs
  • Successful and failed attempts of configuration data/software image transfers
  • Threshold timeouts.

Lowers costs

ZTP lowers operational costs by eliminating error-prone installations and unnecessary rework as well as simplifying the installation and upgrading of equipment without time-consuming site visits.

Network operators who have quickly rolled out new mobile technologies have been successful in gaining market share. With continued 4G and 5G rollouts, having automation via ZTP is key to enabling this advantage through the fast and efficient setup of the NEs needed at the thousands of new and upgraded sites.

Nokia ZTP-enabled IP transport

The Nokia IP transport solutions include market-leading IP routers featuring ZTP: the Nokia 7210 Service Access Switch (SAS), the Nokia 7250 Interconnect Router (IXR)  and the Nokia 7750 Service Router (SR).

These routers can be provisioned and configured automatically without the need for an administrator. You simply order them from the factory with ZTP enabled.

After the routers are installed and powered on, they become operational and download the necessary configuration and image files to start normal operation.

When a router enters ZTP mode, it broadcasts its presence via Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) discovery and identifies itself. The DHCP server responds with a DHCP offer that includes the router IP address, the location of the configuration image and the location of any additional configuration files.

After successful download of the configuration image and the necessary files, the router reboots and finishes configuring itself.

The configuration files can provide the necessary information for the router to be discovered by the Nokia Network Services Platform (NSP), which provides network management, orchestration, and control of the NEs (see Figure 2).

To maximize flexibility, the provisioning script is completely customizable. You can include actions to address items such as upgrading the device version, applying a specific configuration to the device, installing applications or scripts, or applying security patches.

For example, the DHCP server can create different pools and provide different URLs for the provisioning of routers in different geographical areas — helping to simplify deployments and speed service delivery.

Figure 2. Overview of ZTP steps

Figure 2. Overview of ZTP steps

Securing the file transfer for ZTP

For extra security, ZTP can use HTTPS to download sensitive files over a public network. The location of required certificates and public/private keys can be obtained via the provisioning script and downloaded to the equipment being installed (see Figure 3).

You should ensure that the certificates and keys are downloaded via the private network because they are sensitive files and are not encrypted. HTTPS can use these necessary certificates and keys to securely download additional files such as configuration and image files and scripts through the public network.

Figure 3. ZTP security via key exchange and digital certificates

Figure 3. ZTP security via key exchange and digital certificates

Make Nokia your trusted partner

Nokia IP transport solutions have been deployed extensively worldwide to support mobile transport, with network operators using the ZTP built into the IP routers to simplify and speed rollouts.

With 4G and 5G spurring continued growth in the number of sites, you can use Nokia’s advanced ZTP capabilities to cost-effectively and securely provision and maintain your IP transport network —and gain a competitive edge.

For more information about Nokia IP transport solutions, visit our IP Anyhaul web page.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #automation #ZTP #Anyhaul

Hector Menendez

About Hector Menendez

Hector is a senior product marketing manager with 30+ years of experience in the telecom industry. His focus is on marketing IP and optical products and service provider solutions in the areas of mobile transport, synchronization, OTN, and WDM. When he isn’t working, you can find Hector enjoying the outdoors, tinkering on cars or spending time with family.

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