Self Organising Networks, SON

- Self Organising Networks, SON are essential for today's complicated cellular networks to configure, organize, optimise performance, & then provide self healing capabilities when faults occur..

With radio networks like those used for LTE and other cellular technologies becoming more complex, network planning needs to be made easier: planning, configuration, management, optimisation and healing all need to be automated to bring improvements.

As a result the concept of self-organising networks, SON is growing in interest and use. With the networks themselves being able to monitor performance, they can optimise themselves to be able to provide the optimum performance.

By using self-organising networks, SON technology, networks are able to organise and optimise their performance. Operators can then benefit from significant improvements in terms of both CAPEX, capital expenditure and later OPEX, operational expenditure.

Self organizing networks, SON, background

The rate at which cellular or mobile communications is growing is increasing. With increasing data usage, more dense and complicated networks, radio network planning and maintenance is more complicated than in the early days of mobile communications.

Much of this has been brought about by the introduction of LTE where micro and femto cells as well as relay nodes are being relied upon to ensure that the required overall capacity can be met. This brings many challenges in terms of network planning and management.

The Third Generation Partnership Project, 3GPP has introduced the concept of self-organising networks, SON into Release 8 of their standards, and in addition to this the Next Generation Mobile Networks, NGMN alliance introduced the concept of SON with the aims of:

  • Reducing the operating cost by reducing the level of human intervention in network design, build and operation
  • Reducing capital expenditure by optimising the use of available resources
  • Protecting revenue by reducing the number of human errors

Definition of Self Organising Networks

Self organizing networks, SON, can be defined as a set of use cases that govern a network including the planning, set up and maintenance activities.

In this way the self-organising networks enable the network to set itself up and then manage the resources to enable the optimum performance to be achieved at all times.

Self Organizing Networks areas

There are three main areas over which the self-organising networks operate.

  • Self configuration:   The aim is for base stations to become essentially "Plug and Play" items. They should need as little manual intervention in the configuration process as possible. This will enable the skill level of installers to be reduced, thereby saving costs while improving the reliability. Accordingly this is a major element within the overall self organising network, SON software. Read more . .
  • Self optimisation:   Once the system has been set up, it will be necessary to optimise the operational characteristics to best meet the needs of the overall network. This is achieved by self-optimisation routines within the overall self-organising network, SON software. Read more . .
  • Self-healing:   Any system will develop faults from time to time. This can cause major inconvenience to users, however it is often possible for the overall network to change its characteristics to temporarily mask the effects of the fault. Boundaries of adjacent cells can be increased by increasing power levels and changing antenna elevations, etc. This self-healing aspect of SON, self-organizing networks is of great interest. Read more . .

SON future

As cellular networks continue to become more complex, and the performance requirements continue to increase, while costs need to be reduced, automated techniques such as SON, self-organising networks will be used increasingly.

While they require significant levels of investment, the returns they can provide are even larger. This makes they use in the long term essential for all operators with sufficient funds to deploy them.

By Ian Poole

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