How Infrastructure Management Can Facilitate Digital Transformation

Service providers need to get their customers closer to their network to deliver a better experience and towers are a vital link in the chain from core data center to edge data center to end users

Learning from Edge Data Centers

The tower infrastructure is the convergence of many elements: the tower, edge small cells, fiber and power cabling and data center infrastructure. When you consider tower infrastructure from this perspective, it makes sense to reframe managing it to align with that of an edge data center.

Towers are becoming more prevalent because they are necessary for mobile edge computing. Service providers need to get their customers closer to their network to deliver a better experience. Towers are a vital link in the chain from core data center to edge data center to, ultimately, end users. As such, they have similar needs as edge data centers in terms of capacity, connectivity and redundancy, as well as space, power and cooling. In this context, it’s valid to use edge data center infrastructure management best practices as a reference for tower infrastructure management. At the heart of both should be DCIM capabilities, enhanced with cable and telecommunication resource management.

For example, RAN resources at the site must be linked to fronthaul and backhaul connectivity data, configuration data for mobile RAN resources, and operations from mobile RAN to core network. A tower’s cabling and connectivity infrastructure must be capable of handling these data flows. For a tower to operate efficiently, it must have physical and logical network inventory to manage site infrastructure such as power and cabling, but also antenna, BBUs, RRUs, routers and OTN devices. From a mobile operations perspective, logical connectivity management is needed both in the fronthaul and backhaul portion of the network. Configuration data must also be managed, including parameters of antenna, parameters of BBUs, RRUs, cells and more. Towercos can take over these types of tasks from their mobile operator tenants, such as RAN configuration management, RAN operations, RAN spare part and repair. In doing so, they help their operator tenants get closer to their users, regardless of where they are or how distant from the core network.

In today’s new mobile RAN architectures, the previous long coaxial cable runs are being replaced with fiber optic accompanied by power cables to provide power to the equipment at the tower or rooftop. Cabling is the foundation for the FTTA (Fiber to the Antenna) and C-RAN architecture of towers and is the backbone of tower tenants’ connectivity requests. The FTTA approach used with C-RAN architecture requires enhanced fiber management functionalities to plan, rollout, and operate mobile sites.

As towercos need to connect cable at the site and equipment such as routers and OTN devices with the networks of different operators, cable management will continue to be a challenge due to more technologies being deployed and operator site-sharing making cellular sites more crowded. In addition, dozens of fiber optic and power cables will be running on the sites, increasing the risk of cable damage and the complexity to assure diverse routing requirements. As with edge data centers, redundancy is mandatory and must be managed on both the logical and fiber layers. Towercos must implement software that can manage tower resources from C-RAN and FTTA down to mobile core as well as manage all connections between all network resources regardless of where they reside.

Driving Efficiency with Product and Service Catalogs

The main benefit of a comprehensive management solution is that it provides a rock-solid foundation on which all other processes can reliably run. When you consider that a towerco can manage thousands of sites, with different tenants at each site asking for various products and services, a product and service catalog consisting of different bundles (i.e. space, power, connectivity, etc.); remote hand service is critically important. Such a catalog manages the packages sold to the different tenants efficiently. It provides full transparency of all services offered to tenants inclusive of assigned resources, cost and price over the entire service lifecycle. This catalog-driven approach establishes an efficient, standardized and scalable service delivery chain. Additionally, because such a catalog has modularized components on the back end, it leads to a more structured, accelerated and improved sales process. Given the large volume of tenants a towerco serves, this automation of service delivery is necessary for the commercialization of its various products. This approach is the best way for towercos to future-proof their towers.

Deploying the Right Management Solution

As more and more service providers push the boundaries of their networks, only towers equipped with the right foundation will remain successful. In the era of professional infrastructure-sharing, towercos can drive profitability by focusing on site management and site infrastructure to increase tenancy ratios, improve operational and energy efficiency, and standardize and accelerate 4G and 5G rollouts. To do this, towers not only need a sound infrastructure but also the proper tools to manage tower resources and processes to support these activities. Deploying the right management solution will provide towercos with a full range of capabilities to plan, operate, and manage mobile sites and the infrastructure resources they need to function for both existing networks and those in the future.


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