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Next-Generation Network Planning: Why It’s Important

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | August 22, 2023

In contrast to the relatively slow-roll deployment of 4G technology, the implementation of 5G is happening very rapidly. Network planning deployments are in motion, end-user device upgrades are proceeding swiftly, and telcos are engaged in a heated competition to secure the best possible tower locations and win the most profitable customers.

network planning

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The technical considerations that factor into 5G deployment decisions can be mind-boggling. It is especially important for telcos to adapt their network planning methods as they advance toward a fully enabled 5G environment. Simply expanding network coverage without using an analytical approach is clearly inefficient; it will not serve as the foundation for a profitable 5G business. To succeed in today’s highly competitive environment, the admonition to “work smarter, not harder” is more important than ever.

Consider the impact that poor network performance can have on long-term profitability. Delays and errors caused by bad planning decisions can lead to escalating costs and customer attrition. Optimal siting and modeling for Radio Frequency (RF) propagation are critical.

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Next-Generation Network Planning: The critical role of raster mapping in fueling the telco networks of tomorrow.

Precisely’s multi-resolution Raster file format is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure your systems are ready to meet the demands of next-generation network planning. To learn more about MRR and next-generation network planning, read our free ebook.

Because 5G’s millimeter wave (mmWave) signals have a much shorter effective range than earlier technologies, they can be far more susceptible to multipath distortions and local interference. They are more severely attenuated by buildings, landscape features, and weather conditions. Technologies such as beamforming and MIMO transmission can mitigate these problems to some extent, but deploying those technologies properly requires a deep analysis of geospatial data, at higher volumes and greater granularity than in the past.

Network planning is not a “one and done” proposition. 5G is all about building a future-enabled network. That means monitoring coverage, analyzing customers’ ongoing use of network capacity, and being prepared to expand 5G capabilities intelligently based on a continuous planning process rather than a one-time snapshot of the status quo. Next-generation network planning is about developing and maintaining an understanding of the operating domain.

It just so happens that in the context of 5G, that domain is extraordinarily complex. New technology, requirements, and applications call for an updated approach to next-generation network planning.

Geospatial Raster Data

Most telcos are using one or another variety of raster file data analyses to better understand the environments in which they are operating. Raster data consists of two-dimensional grid-based data, which typically appears in a pixelated format. Digital photos, for example, are raster files in which each grid (or pixel) contains various values associated with visual factors such as color and brightness.

Geospatial raster files typically include far more information than that, including spatial data associated with a particular location somewhere in the real world. To successfully plan and deploy communications networks, telcos must master the art of analyzing enormous volumes of raster file-based GIS data, including temporal analysis.

Raster files are critical for network planning systems, but there are significant barriers to working with them effectively. The first is the sheer volume of data that must be processed, especially in the context of highly complex 5G planning processes. Raster files also come in a wide variety of different formats, offering different levels of granularity and spatial extent. That makes it especially difficult to perform analysis for network planning using traditional raster data.

The Challenges of 5G Network Planning

Generally speaking, 5G network planning involves balancing and optimizing a staggering array of business requirements and technical considerations. In the vast majority of cases, 5G deployments involve the in-fill of existing 3G and 4G deployments with small-scale 5G mesh network cells.

network planning

Accomplishing that requires extensive analysis of detailed GIS data. It requires information about multiple layers of topology and infrastructure, including location information for populations, businesses, and network traffic; 3D details of building construction; and more. That must be understood within the context of existing legacy network and system deployments (including competitors’ networks), potential radio signal interference, competition for tower sites, and overall cost-benefit analysis.

As if grappling with all that information were not enough, the challenge is rendered even more difficult because of the nature of the raster file-based data used to model networks. There are over 100 different file formats to choose from, with different data definitions and structures. They offer a wide range of different spatial coverages, often at very different resolutions.

Making sense of this complexity is a challenge for engineers. Perhaps more importantly, because analyzing raster data can be so computationally intensive, the processes required to harmonize, correlate, layer, and analyze high volumes of raster data can take considerable time. Just the step of pre-processing a few gigabytes of data can take hours. With terabytes of data, that kind of inefficiency simply becomes too unwieldy.

A New Approach to Raster Data for 5G Network Planning

To solve this problem Precisely has identified several key requirements and goals for raster file reform. The first is to unify and standardize the presentation of diverse raster data types, bringing together data of various types and formats, including temporal data, into a unified presentation format that can be used across applications and analytics methods.

The second key element is to simplify the transformation of data resolutions and extents for efficient layering. This enables the simple and efficient porting of raster data from its various source resolutions and extent into a flexible, interoperable, and scalable layer for presentation and analysis.

Finally, network planners can benefit from significantly reducing data file volumes, which can deliver improved compute efficiency and reduced data storage resource requirements.

To address these issues and enable flexible and efficient raster analysis for 5G network planning, Precisely developed an innovative new raster format called “Multi-Resolution Raster” (MRR). This format eliminates virtually all of the inefficiencies and barriers of working with legacy raster file formats.

MRR offers a unified approach to presenting data, along with simplified transformation and scaling. It does so while also reducing the overall volume of data, decreasing overall storage capacity requirements.

Precisely’s Multi-Resolution Raster file format is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure your systems are ready to meet the demands of next-generation network planning. To learn more about MRR and next-generation network planning, read our free ebook, Next-Generation Network Planning: The critical role of raster mapping in fueling the telco networks of tomorrow.