LTE complicates network management
Network architecture is becoming flatter and networks start to organize themselves. However, some aspects of Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks further complicate network management.
Among these are:
- Their dynamic structure
- The increased number of cells and nodes
- The multiple technologies involved.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks were initially introduced in 3GPP Rel -8* standard year 2008. This standard clearly addresses network management in addition to network architecture and technology. For network management, Rel-8 introduced a concept called SON (Self Organizing Networks). SON aims to maximize automation of network management tasks. Automated tasks fall into 4 types: planning, deployment, optimization and maintenance.
LTE networks use meshed connectivity. They are purely packet-based without native support for circuit-based services. Cell sites can have multiple connections to other cell sites and to several gateways. The same meshed nature applies to the mobile backhaul, transmission network supporting LTE.
The number of cells can increase dramatically to ensure coverage and capacity. This is the case especially in urban areas, or for special events. As the number of nodes in the network increases, it magnifies the complexity of the network for management purposes.
LTE networks are introduced as islands to 2G and 3G networks. Likewise, with transmission, multiple technologies often coexist despite the high-level, all-IP approach. With SON, there are plans to extend self-organization from the current LTE networks and deployments to 2G and 3G networks, and potentially to related wireless local area networks.
The operator must stay in control
Intelligent network management tools help operators manage their networks efficiently. These tools include automatic testing after installations, capacity adjustments and traffic rerouting based on network load and service level agreements, plus expert troubleshooting.
As networks become increasingly dynamic, it’s crucial that network management systems provide a structured, top-down view of configurations. The operator should be able to increase automation levels gradually. They should also be able to take manual control of the network.
Increasing the numbers of cells, nodes and connections challenge the scalability of network management systems. The pure packet-based nature of LTE networks amplifies the problem. The collection of performance data—which is often massive— becomes business critical.
Furthermore, network management systems must be able to cope with multiple technologies, which can be fundamentally different. Older and newer technologies often exist in parallel.
Getting the most out of mobile networks
System level network management and a proven end-to-end approach are essential in today’s mobile networks. Operators must keep innovative attitudes when addressing challenges and opportunities. More than ever, they need intelligent network management as LTE networks continue to expand.
*3GPP = Third Generation Partnership Project