I think that we often overlook one of the most important steps in deployment. The optimization process. This team finds more problems in the network than you realize to make it a better operating network. They find all the deployment problems that happened. They find mistakes in the original design and installation mistakes. That’s right installers! They find mistakes and problems that force physical changes!
I would like to cover these heroes because they are the ones that take the system from performing “OK” to ranking high in the Root Metrics ratings. These are the groups that make the difference between the dropped calls and the seamless coverage. They are the ones that allow you to download that ever important Facebook page without missing a cat video! Let’s look at what these teams do.
How is in the team? The optimization team is usually made up of:
- A project manager, PM
- RF Engineer, RFE
- Drive Team, DT
These are usually the three components of the optimization. What they do is gather the data to test the performance of the system and make changes to improve performance and coverage. Sound easy? Let’s look at what is involved.
The PM is there to manage the teams, create reports, and guide each team to work together. You don’t want one person going off and wasting time and money.
The RF Engineers are the ones who analyze the data, make adjustments, and make recommendations.
The drive teams are the ones who drive and walk around to collect the live data. They use laptops, software, and usually a type of smartphone connected to the laptop. They track their coverage with a GPS for location, the other devices will capture the data like signal strength, voice quality and handoff, download and upload speeds and handoffs, QoS of the connection, and the ability to connect and make a call and make data connections.
If you take all of this data, it is still not enough. There is also something called PCMD, per call measurement data that is used to analyze the coverage. The RFE teams have to take all of this data and make corrections to the network. What corrections? Let me tell you!
I know that most of you think that it’s a simple change in the eNodeB or the maybe a router. It is not always that easy. The optimization team will find so many problems with the network, more than most of you realize. I made a list below just to cover the surface.
Just a few problems caught in optimization:
- Router problems, bandwidth or routing issues
- Core issues, setting adjustments in the MME or one of the gateways
- eNodeB settings are wrong
- eNodeB wrong neighbor lists, self interference issues
- Handoff issues, could be in the eNodeB or the core
- Radio head cabling is wrong
- PIM problems at a site that were missed
- Antenna elevation, (up and down), is wrong and needs to be corrected
- Antenna azimuth, (left or right), is wrong and needs to be changed
- Bad cables on the radio head
- Dirty fiber between the BBU and Radio head causing lost data
- Power settings in the radio head
- eNodeB settings that affect QoS
- OEM problems
The optimization team’s goal is to have the network improve to become excellent in user experience. This takes time and a good plan of attack. They can’t just go around and drive the network. They really have to have a plan to concentrate on a problem area and work their way out. This will need to be organized and tactical. The cells and the clusters need to be looked at as a system. They will need to identify the problem with one piece of equipment but the goal is to have a high performing system. Making one change in an eNodeB could negatively affect a nearby cell causing new problems to arise. So this process is not an easy one. The RFE team needs to look at the whole before changing a piece.
When there is a system wide problem, the Tiger Teams are called in to correct the problem. This could be an OEM problem or maybe an issue with the original design or even faulty cabling. It happens.
OK, enough about that. I hope you learned how valuable this part of wireless deployment is to the carrier’s success.
More on RootMetrics found here. They are the group that measures the performance of the cell systems out there. They do the drive testing and package the measurements together to show the carriers how well they are performing. They have a great blog found here.
Pay attention, be smart, and be safe out there whether you are 100 feet up or driving. We need you to make it home alive, safe, and happy.
Pay attention to be smart and be safe!
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