4G Americas Report Details SON Enhancements in 3GPP Release 11
4G Americas, a wireless industry trade association representing the 3GPP family of technologies, including LTE, today announced that it has published a white paper titled Self-Optimizing Networks in 3GPP Release 11: The Benefits of SON in LTE, which outlines the enhancements of Self Organizing Network (SON) features in 3GPP Release 11 (Rel-11) and addresses the multi-vendor aspects of SON and its deployment challenges and opportunities. The SON standards provide network intelligence, automation and network management features in order to automate the configuration and optimization of wireless networks to adapt to varying radio channel conditions. With these features, SON increases efficiencies and improves network capacity, quality, performance and flexibility.
“SON has been available within the standards for quite some time, yet with the new techniques and capabilities available from vendors, it has an opportunity to be even more important to wireless carriers’ overall network strategy in the years ahead,” remarked Kamakshi Sridhar of Alcatel-Lucent and co-project leader of the 4G Americas technical group that authored the white paper.
LTE is being rapidly deployed throughout the world, with 209 commercial networks today and 250 commercial LTE networks anticipated by the end of the year. The density of wireless networks is increasing rapidly to cope with the exponential growth of user traffic, mostly driven by smartphones, tablets, connected applications and video streaming. LTE and small cells enable Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) architecture, mixing macro cells and small cells for extended coverage and capacity. However, this can increase the complexity of network operation activities in an industry working to improve and streamline efficiencies. To tackle this challenge, most, if not all, major mobile operators worldwide have or are planning to deploy SON features.
Co-project leader Pantelis Monogioudis, also from Alcatel-Lucent commented, “The densification of various cell layers in carrier networks will lead to thousands of additional small cells that will need the latest SON enhancements for operators to efficiently deploy and manage the network.”
SON is a promising feature defined by 3GPP to help operators automate several recurring tasks required for activities such as cell deployment and performance optimization for LTE, as well as a solution to manage network complexity while reducing operational expenses (OPEX).
SON focuses on three main areas:
- Self-Configuration functions: the ability for the network to reconfigure itself automatically when nodes are added, deleted or modified, such as Automatic Neighbor Relation (ANR)
- Self-Optimizing functions: a recurring and automated process for the dynamic tuning of network parameters for optimal performance in changing conditions, such as handling traffic density migration due to periodicity
- Self-Healing functions: automatic compensation to restore service where it has been degraded, for example, in the case of base station outage, by dynamic reconfiguration to adjacent healthy cells
A key goal of 3GPP standardization has been the ability to support SON features in multi-vendor network environments. Therefore, a significant part of the SON standardization has been devoted to defining the appropriate interfaces to allow the exchange of common information which can then be used by each SON algorithm. The SON specifications have been built over the existing 3GPP network management architecture defined over Releases 8, 9, 10 and 11. These management interfaces are being defined in a generic manner to leave room for innovation on different vendor implementations. In addition to specifying the interfaces, 3GPP has defined a set of LTE SON use cases and associated SON functions. The standardized SON features effectively track the expected LTE network evolution stages as a function of time, following expected commercial network maturity. In Release 8, SON functionality focused on procedures associated with initial equipment installation and integration to support the commercial deployment of the first LTE networks, and in each subsequent Release, the standards are evolved to benefit the more complex network architectures.
The 4G Americas’ white paper published in 2011, Self-Optimizing Networks: The Benefits of SON in LTE, addressed the rationale for SON and the description of SON features in 3GPP Releases 8, 9 and 10. Building upon that information, the newly updated paper based on Rel-11 standards focuses on SON use cases, which play an important role in the operation of multi-vendor Heterogeneous Networks (HetNets) comprised of macro and metro cells and various architecture options and tradeoffs for implementation.
Key SON enhancements described in this report are:
- Automatic Neighbor Relations
- Load Balancing Optimization
- Handover Optimization
- Coverage and Capacity Optimization
- Energy Savings
- Coordination between various SON Functions
- Minimization of Drive Tests
“SON is an important enhancement that affords operators the benefit of increasing their overall network performance,” stated Chris Pearson, President of 4G Americas. “With a scarcity of spectrum in the Americas, and in many countries worldwide, 3GPP continues to evolve the standards for network technology to serve customers’ ever growing appetite for mobile broadband data.”
Pearson added, “Although SON improves network performance and capacity issues, it is not a substitute for the wireless industry’s important need for more spectrum to meet the challenge of the impending capacity crunch.”
The white paper, Self-Optimizing Networks in 3GPP Release 11: The Benefits of SON in LTE, was written collaboratively by members of 4G Americas and is available for free downloadat: www.4gamericas.org.