LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM, HONG KONG: Operators continue to deploy new technologies using the same methods as a decade ago, focusing on performance without fully considering the costs.
In a panel discussion yesterday on network development, Eros Spadotto (second from right), EVP of technology strategy and operations at Canadian operator Telus, said that the price of electronics has fallen while the cost of civil works (actually constructing the sites) has continued to go up.
“This is a trend we have to reverse,” he insisted.
In the first phase, he said, you discover “silly” things. “When you introduce new technology, people will implement in their old way. For example, RF engineers want to design the perfect network. They will tell you where to put small cells, which may be on a building 300 metres away from a fibre facility, so you will go underground to connect to that fibre and spend $35,000.”
As you gain experience and people start thinking more, Spadotto said, you realise you probably should have installed it next to the fibre and not had to incur that additional cost. “There’s a very big learning environment to do things in a simpler and cheaper way.”
SoftBank chief scientist Takashi Tsutsui (second from left) agreed, pointing to simple mistakes by the teams installing base stations. Instead of simply attaching a cell to a building (low-rise), a team may opt to install a mast to support the cell, which of course boosts the cost.
He said it’s about minimising truck roles and putting in place systems so each deployment is as uniform as possible.
Spadotto said the industry is going through a learning curve in how to deploy these technologies. “It’s actually not about RF performance, it’s about cost structure — that’s the driver.”
Telus is now using technicians that install FTTH to deploy small cells. “It may not be the most cost-effective way from an RF view, but it’s very cost-effective from a deployment point of view.”
SoftBank’s Tsutsui said that if you can keep equipment costs down and boost cell capacity, you end up with a lower bit cost. In addition, using SON and dynamic-MIMO will expand capacity to handle the cell density levels expected in the future.
When considering network sharing, Spadotto said operators are looking at breaking down the cost structure.
“What network sharing does is address the civil costs by dividing the total cost by the number of operators involved. It [civil costs] not only drives capital costs but the long tail of operating costs, which you have to figure out how to share as they are hard to control.”
As operators share their networks and move towards perhaps a single hetnet, Tony Lavender (far right), Plum Consulting CEO and partner, said this could raise flags from regulators over how different operators deal with different traffic demands, how they manage the spectrum and if they can pool spectrum resources.