Customer Sentiment Shifts as 5G Performance Declines: Network Planning Tools to the Rescue

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Something is going on with 5G.  Now that it has launched across the globe with promises of ‘blazing fast speeds’, according to network speed tester Ookla, operators are finding that median download speeds are actually declining in many of the early adopter markets like Norway, Sweden, and the UK.  Not surprisingly, customer sentiment for 5G is also starting to shift, reflected in lower net promoter scores.

Why is this happening?  It’s likely that 5G is a victim of its own success. In the early days, operators were eager to get their new networks up and running and they may have taken a few design shortcuts – and with low subscriber numbers early on, no one was the wiser. But now adoption is growing, and performance issues are starting to pop up.

Ookla attributes the decline in speeds to the changing user profile of 5G, with a shift from predominantly urban to a mix of urban, suburban, and rural users, posing coverage and performance challenges for network operators. The introduction of new services like 5G home broadband is likely only adding to the strain. Additionally, the varying performance characteristics of different 5G spectrum bands contribute to the variability in speeds.

Let’s face it, 5G is the Goldilocks of network technologies. It must be designed ‘just right’ to maintain peak performance.

Network Planning Tools to the Rescue

It’s a well-known fact that deploying and upgrading 5G networks involve substantial investments for network operators, and as the world shifts to 5G standalone, those investments will continue to grow. Balancing the costs associated with infrastructure deployment, network densification, and spectrum acquisition with the expected return on investment is a critical challenge.

Having access to the right network planning tools can make all the difference. If your 5G performance isn’t up to par, it may be time for an upgrade.

When evaluating 5G network planning tools, several criteria are important to consider. Here are the top ones to look for:

  • Coverage and Capacity Planning: Select a tool that can provide accurate and comprehensive coverage and capacity planning capabilities. It should allow planners to assess the coverage area, identify potential coverage gaps, and determine the capacity requirements based on expected traffic demands.
  • Spectrum Analysis: Spectrum analysis features help optimize how spectrum is allocated and utilized. It helps identify available frequency bands, assess interference levels, and optimize frequency reuse to maximize network performance.
  • Digital Twin Network Simulation: The tool should have digital twin simulation capabilities to more accurately model and predict network performance. It should consider factors like signal propagation, interference, and traffic distribution to evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs) such as throughput, latency, and quality of service (QoS).
  • Future-Readiness: As 5G technology continues to evolve, network planning tools should be scalable and adaptable to future upgrades and enhancements. They should support different deployment scenarios, including standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) architectures, and be able to accommodate emerging technologies and use cases.
  • Multi-Vendor Support: Since 5G networks involve various vendors and equipment, a planning tool should support multiple vendors’ equipment and technologies through open APIs. This ensures compatibility and flexibility when designing and optimizing the network infrastructure.
  • Integration with GIS Data: Geographic Information System (GIS) integration is crucial for effective 5G planning. The tool should be able to support and utilize GIS data, including terrain data, building databases, and other relevant geospatial information. This integration enhances the accuracy of planning by incorporating real-world environmental information.
  • AI-Powered Automation and Insights: With workforce shortages and network planning skills in short supply, network operators need tools with built-in intelligence and automated, zero-touch methods of performing common yet critical processes, like determining path loss predictions and generating coverage reports.
  • Web Interface: Tools should have a contemporary web interface to provide easy access to relevant data for the network planners and other teams within the operator’s environment.
  • Vendor Support and Updates: Be sure to consider the track record, expertise, and support provided by the tool’s vendor. Regular product updates and technical support are essential to ensure that everything remains up to date and effective in addressing the evolving requirements of 5G network planning. And don’t forget to ask if your vendor can provide in-house expertise and services when needed.

By considering these criteria, network planners can select a planning tool that meets their specific needs and helps optimize the design, deployment, and performance of 5G networks so that future growing pains can be avoided.

Aircom’s ASSET Suite is a comprehensive portfolio of network planning tools designed to deliver cost-effective high performance networks for 2G/3G/4G and 5G. The products within the ASSET Suite cover radio, backhaul and capacity planning across a wide range of technologies.

To learn more, visit our website or read the recent press release about how ASSET can help automate network planning for faster deployments and improved performance.

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