You know, in the old days when deployments were controlled by a tech who would oversee most of the work, things went very well, very smooth, albeit slower. I think that the broadcast engineers probably handle most of their deployments like this because they manage their sites very closely. In the cell carrier business the carriers don’t really have a site owner other than maybe the techs that work on it after handoff. When the site is being built they may notify them of the installation schedule to make sure the installation teams have access. It is very different today.
The PM will oversee the entire deployment. The RF Design team will create the design. The Site Acquisition team will find the sites and work with RF Design to fine tune the design and determine details like the antenna downtilt and power. The Site Design team will engineer and create drawings for each site. The Network design team will create all the back-end design for the core and the integration. Logistics will need to make sure that all the kits are set up properly and ready. The installation teams need to get it installed properly. The commissioning teams need to get the site powered up and the backhaul ready. The integration teams need to get the site updated and integrated into the core. The optimization team must make sure it is optimized into the cluster. Then you have site acceptance.
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This is taken from the book I am writing, I thought you might appreciate this high level overview of the wireless deployments steps. Of course I write more detail in the book.
Deployment is more than just the installation. It will cover the RF design which should be done in the beginning but many companies forgo this because they feel that the system doesn’t need it. If someone feels that confident, great. Then you need to do the survey. Many now use Google Earth for this in today’s world and for indoor they use drawings. That usually is good enough but I still think that you should visit the site to make sure that everything is the way it is on the drawing or web. If you run into any issues then someone has to make changes and eat the cost.
Then you have the optimization, which is an art and a process. For the initial installation many of the installers are doing the preliminary optimization as part of the commissioning since they are on site. Having the installer do this is easy and cheaper than deploying a team to do the optimization immediately. The carrier may have some type of optimization tool or server then that will help with optimizing.
Deployment of the small cell, mini macro, and CRAN is very similar to the Macro cell but it will have to be cost-effective. This is something that many people did not understand I the beginning, including myself. We have to change our way of thinking. Backhaul was the real issue. Installation has a procedure and has to be done correctly, but the backhaul was an issue and when we started this we thought we had to have fiber at every site. We don’t, there are plenty of alternatives, which I will cover later. For now let’s just understand that you could use wireless, fiber, copper, or a cable modem for backhaul. The other issue is that many carriers wanted a dedicated dark fiber connection, which is a lot of money, but an awesome connection. That thinking has changed to save on costs.
Now that we understand that we need to be very cost-effective we know that we can be flexible on many issues that could have been show stoppers, but now they just slow us down. The small cell/CRAN is cheaper and very cost-effective and the mounting assets are plentiful. The backhaul is still an issue, but at least we have options.
RF Design – this is generally where the RF team will determine the need for coverage based of need, complaints, and holes. This is changing because now the carriers are filling holes by responding to customer need, not looking at RF holes anymore. Just because there is no coverage doesn’t mean they need coverage. So they look at statistics and complaints, then they fill the hole or place the sites as needed. Of course, a Greenfield deployment is going to follow every step possible.
Site Acquisition – this is where a team will look at the RF design and try to find sites that fill the need. They don’t just find sites, that is how it used to be. Now they need to look at the site, the owner, the permitting and zoning, the availability to fiber or some type of backhaul, and then pick a cost-effective site.
Site Design – this is where the site, the individual site will be looked at and the design will be done. They may need to do a site survey to determine what will be needed for the installation, the backhaul, and power. They may also need to create drawings for permitting and zoning.
Network Design – this is usually the part where they have to assign the name of the site, the IP information, the RF information, the expected neighbor lists, the addition of the site to the core, schedule the date of integration and adding this site to the rest of the neighbors and maybe the cluster. This is a “behind the scenes” task that most people forget about, but it is absolutely critical. It needs to be done.
Logistics – I would bet most people overlook this and think that it’s part of installation. The reality is that if someone isn’t paying attention to logistics there will be major delays. Usually the PM has to make sure that it is all coordinated properly but unless you have the logistics of where to put all the hardware and how they will get to the deployment crews, you will have major delays and lost costs.
Installation – now you can install the hardware, the backhaul, the fronthaul, and the power. Finally you see the equipment at the site and hopefully it will be ready for the next step.
Commissioning – this is where you will power up the cell, test the backhaul, make updates to the firmware if necessary.
Integration – this is where you will complete the upgrades, add it to the core, and possibly turn up the site if it’s ready. They may or may not go live. They will also do some testing with someone on site to insure it’s working the way it’s supposed to. With LTE they will do upload and download tests. If there is voice at the site they will be required to do an e911 test to make sure it works. It must be done at the site and it must connect to 911 for any emergency.
Optimization – this is where they will have the site optimized for peak performance not only with RF, but also downloads, uploads, working with neighboring sites, and so on. The Optimization teams will consist of RF and DT, (drive teams), that will make sure that each cell site is operating properly and working in the cluster properly. The site will need to be integrated into the core. The handoffs will need to be tested. The cluster will be tested together and all the cell sites need to work together, seamlessly for the system to work well. Remember that voice, text, and data all need to be tested in the real world before the system can be accepted or brought live. This step is critical. The metrics and Key Performance Indicators, (KPIs) of this step will determine what changes need to made to the system. For instance, do the antennas need more downtilt? Does power need to be adjusted? Did a cell handoff to the wrong neighboring cell? This is all worked out and cleaned up in this step.
Project Management – PM is the overall management of the project. You will have several PMs, they have become an integral part of every aspect of deployment. You will have a PM that oversees the overall project, not one but several. Generally you have one for the customer and one for the company in charge of the project. Then you will probably have one for each aspect of the deployment and then each company may have their own PM to oversee the deployment and to be the interface between the customer and the work crew. It is the job of the PM to insure the project moves forward and to solve any issues in any aspect of the project and to set the proper expectations for delivery. No easy task.
Wrap up – So there you have a brief overview. I have more detail in the book but this is going to help you understand what is involved in these rollout. There are many more steps in each task. Some people think you build it and then turn it on, it is not that straight forward. It takes skills and talent. For all of you that do this, good job. It’s a shame these tasks don’t pay better.
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