• Huawei believes the SON market has evolved from its initial adoption phase of 2014-2015, and is poised for a market burst toward maturity in 2016. Huawei expects to nearly double its SON customer base.
• Huawei believes the SON market faces new service requirements and demands driving operator acceptance of the engineering SON, service SON, and slicing SON trends it has identified.However Huawei must advance SON Open API adoption and ensure slicing SON techniques avoid triggering regulator net neutrality imperatives to sustain operator uptake.
In recent interactions at the Huawei Global Analyst Summit and TM Forum Live! Huawei shared its expectations that self-organizing network (SON) technology will experience a burst in market acceptance in 2016 now that operators have finished cutting their teeth on SON adoption during 2014-2015. Huawei anticipates that its SONMaster solution, already deployed in 36 operator networks as of April 2016, will approach 70 commercial network deployments by the end of 2016. Huawei identified at least three major trends driving the acceleration of SON adoption in 2016 (and beyond):
• Engineering SON: Huawei and its operator partners have successfully applied SON techniques targeted at the autonomous optimization and troubleshooting of mobile networks, to drive improvements in handover success rates (HOSRs). These techniques are typically applied on a per cluster basis within the network. However applying the SON techniques to overall network build-out and coverage optimization has enabled operators to accelerate mobile network build-outs by up to two months (i.e., optimize HOSRs more rapidly). Huawei uses the term “Engineering SON” to describe this approach for advancing OSS-driven recognition and management of irregular and complex traffic patterns within new network builds.
• Service SON: Huawei asserts the “Service SON” trend will prove essential in operator adoption of new services such as cellular IoT, especially for OSS-enabled metering applications. By applying SON methods to new IoT services, faster and improved service quality can be realized during the delivery and maintenance phases by improving network correlation data reporting. This includes adjusting reporting policies and radio frequency (RF) alignments to optimize IoT network coverage and performance.
• Slicing SON: Huawei sees SON as playing a key role in addressing the challenges operators face in deploying and scaling 5G networking slicing. “Slicing SON” enables operators to optimize radio resources, such as cell load sharing, and improve service quality through optimized settings of link speeds, easing operational burdens and OSS overhead. In other words, operators can use SON optimization of precious radio resources to tier mobile traffic according to policy-based prioritization.
Despite its optimism, Huawei faces market challenges in translating the bullishness of its own business prospects into wider market acceptance of its approach in SON:
• SON Open APIs Missing: Overall, SON has contributed toward the advancement of mobile network automation through closed-loop techniques. However, many current OSS environments, which still rely largely on manual processes, limit application of closed-loop automation, rendering the scaling of emerging 5G/IoT traffic more problematic. As a result Huawei needs to champion operator and ecosystem acceptance of SON open APIs designed to expose OSS and CEM platforms. Without a SON API strategy, Huawei risks missing out on the opportunity to create a key MasterSON differentiator; and may also risk stalling the current growth in operator adoption of SON technology.
• Net Neutrality Lurks: The application of SON slicing techniques to ease the burdens of massive 5G scaling will likely prove effective on a technical and networking level. However, operators will need to proceed cautiously to avoid triggering regulatory concerns in many countries that may frown upon prioritization schemes that favor select/VIP users at the expense of other users. Huawei needs to proactively address how slicing SON methods can avoid setting off net neutrality concerns, or risk having regulatory uncertainties stymie adoption of the slicing SON technology.
Overall Huawei is poised to advance its multi-pronged SON strategy to further accelerate SON adoption, further sustaining its recent market success. Now it must show it can develop ecosystem support for SON Open APIs as well as convince operators that SON slicing techniques will avoid sparking regulator ire in order to make sure the growth curve on SON continues to point up and to the right.