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Upgrading your network to 5G can be a costly business: here’s how you can leverage what you have in place to start the transformation

Rolling out new 5G services while managing soaring bandwidth demands (82% YoY increase in mobile data traffic in the U.S.) is a costly business. Operators need to maximize existing infrastructure for efficiency and cost control.

A recent CTIA survey shows that bandwidth demand in the United States alone grew by a whopping 82% from 2017 to 2018 and shows no signs of stopping! Interestingly, the number of connected devices grew by 10% to 139 million showing that Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity is expanding.

Customer usage and bandwidth demands are impacting operators of course, and not just in terms of physical infrastructure, but also in the way these services are managed and monitored as the quality expectations of customers are also increasing. Mobile network operators need the flexibility to roll out new types of services and applications quickly, in a cost-effective manner, and ideally, without the need to deploy a completely new infrastructure.

Key Mobile Trends in the United States

20172018% Change
Data Traffic15.7T MB28.58T MBUp 82.2%
Data-Only Devices126.4M139.4MUp 10.3%
Cell Sites323K349KUp 8.0%
Smartphones273.2M284.7MUp 4.2%
Subscriber Connections400.2M421.7MUp 5.4%
Combined Messaging Traffic (SMS + MMS)1.8T2.0TUp 15.8%
Wireless Penetration120.7%126.6%Up 4.9%

Source: CTIA

Operators face expensive 5G bills and a TCO challenge linked to data growth

According to Accenture, mobile network operators will need to deploy 621K new small cell sites from 2020 to 2026 as part of their cell densification strategy needed to support new 5G services and applications.

Source: Accenture

Quite a daunting task.

This CTIA survey from June of this year also says that despite increased investments of $1.8 billion in 2018 (for a total of $27.4 billion), with most of it going towards expanding the capacity and coverage of mobile networks plus upgrading their technology to support 5G, network operators and cities are struggling with the upgrades needed. 

A study by McKinsey shows how sensitive the total cost of ownership of mobile access is to the bandwidth demands of the end users. A simple increase in mobile data growth of 35% augments the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by 110%. A 50% growth on the other hand triples that to 300%. Understandably, there is an urgency among network operators to come up with more economical ways of supporting the expected network growth.

Source: McKinsey

Mobile operators do share sites to control costs but space is tight

Mobile network operators already reuse and share parts of their existing infrastructure where it makes sense to bring down costs; for example, fiber ducts or even fibers, collocating equipment in outdoor enclosures, cell sites, and data centers. However, this is easier said than done. The available real estate is often limited, if not non-existent, as many sites are completely filled with equipment already.  

The picture below is just one of the many examples of the space constraints often faced by network operators today. Upgrading a site may end up being as disruptive as deploying a completely new site if the right tools are not used. Therefore, network operators will need more than just sharing existing infrastructure. FTTx fibre distribution cabinets often have limited space available.

Mobile operators will need small-footprint monitoring devices to manage 5G services and small cells

Operators will also need new small or even zero-footprint devices to deploy services in such space-constrained environments. In many cases, they will not have the luxury of deploying overlay tools to simply monitor these services since space comes at such a high premium.  

Combining service monitoring and assurance capabilities with these new small service management-capable devices would definitely help operators achieve their network growth goals at a fraction of the costs.  

How can you get some assistance in this evolution journey? Well Accedian, for one, are happy to assist in any way we can. Contact us here to let us know how we can help. And, more importantly, stay tuned for an announcement of new innovation coming soon!