How to Identify Likely Hazards During LTE Network Deployments

By TMCnet Special Guest
Lyn Cantor
  |  June 10, 2013

An irony of the digital world is that the biggest of big data is being generated by the smallest of devices: smartphones, tablets and other handhelds. Photos, videos, social media posts, Internet browsing, e-commerce – just about every aspect of online activity starts with or funnels through mobile devices and networks; all this on top of voice calls and SMS messages. With the rollout of 4G LTE (News - Alert), data loads will only get larger and faster, potentially placing severe strains on mobile networks during the transition from 2G and 3G systems.

Smart technology is ready to respond to the challenges associated with the introduction of LTE, but the potential trouble spots must first be identified and recognized by operators so they can make appropriate decisions regarding the monitoring and automation technology they choose and the way they structure their operations. Among those challenges are five that can be particularly complex but which can be resolved with the appropriate technology solutions.

Eliminating blind spots

When a network service problem occurs during LTE implementation, the customer is likely to have no idea as to its cause. He’s just unhappy and frustrated. It’s up to the operator to match network activity to a specific subscriber and thereby enable a rapid resolution of the issue. Usually the operator relies on temporary IDs that, in the 3G world, change frequently and therefore can be captured periodically throughout the day to identify the user. With LTE, however, ID updates are less frequent, and the operator may be unable to connect the activity with the subscriber for an entire day. New solutions are available to offer continuous real-time capture of this information across the network, replacing the need to look back to find problems with a current, timely troubleshooting view of the network.

Clearing administrative hurdles

As a result of rapidly expanding LTE coverage, operators may encounter a growing backlog of node assignments and configuration tasks that interfere with accurate performance tracking of the newest nodes. Additionally, seemingly small errors from manual processes can grow into significant blind spots in the network. The latest solutions can identify new entities by analyzing the messages exchanged and then automatically configure them to monitor and protect the network immediately.

Finding the needle in the haystack

Since LTE runs all data on an IP network – phone calls, Internet traffic and routing information alike – the most important information can be lost in a flood of web and user DNS traffic. Operators must find a way to filter out non-essential DNS data to avoid yet another blind spot that could generate a widespread outage. Available solutions now can tag (News - Alert) and discriminate between user and infrastructure DNS messages, pre-empting possible outages through proactive alarm functionality.

Preventing an outage avalanche

Indicative of its IT heritage, the LTE network is never finished; it is constantly being updated and re-tuned to meet expanded demand. Because LTE upgrades must be carried out over wide geographies by multiple parties, and implementations often are carried out on the fly, configuration errors can develop. Key performance indicators that display network elements every hour are not enough. Operators must monitor the behaviors of individual nodes carefully before, during and after a change is made. Advanced solutions can enable minute-by-minute analysis of procedure failures to uncover risks at the moment they occur. With this access, network operators can take timely corrective actions to forestall a massive outage.

Bridging the knowledge gap

LTE is still an emerging technology, and with its speed and capacity comes a fairly steep learning curve for network operators. They can benefit from guided workflows that fill the knowledge gaps with drill-through analysis paths that help the user probe from top-level node and service violations down to troubleshooting at the packet level. These workflows help teams learn more about the way their new network elements interact so they can identify and fix issues faster. The same technology furnishes real-time alarms that identify key areas that require prioritization for attention.

Deployment of an LTE network is no simple undertaking for a mobile operator. By capitalizing on the right solutions to avoid the most difficult setbacks, network operators will be well-equipped to manage the complex interoperability requirements, pressing commercial deadlines and totally new architecture that LTE entails, ultimately exceeding subscriber expectations with a high-performing mobile infrastructure.

Lyn Cantor (News - Alert) is president of Tektronix Communications (www.tekcomms.com).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi