Q1. Can you briefly introduce your organization and your role in the organization?
ZTE Corporation is a global leader in telecommunications and information technology.
I’m Wangqiming and I’m the Deputy Country Manager of ZTE Malaysia. My primary role to oversee all post-sales project related matters for ZTE’s customers in Malaysia, which consists of network rollout and network quality.
Q2. Can you let us know what do current mobile service providers concern the most?
We identify 4 major areas of network challenges that mobile operators are facing as below:
- Coverage: Let’s get to fundamental first. Mobile coverage is the key for any mobile network. Mobile coverage determines a user to remain connected to a solid mobile signal at all times. No signal means that the user can do nothing. Being uncontactable can be disaster for business or other aspects in life. Therefore, it’s important to have excellent mobile coverage across the board, regardless of you are inside a building or on the move.
- Network quality: Good coverage is essential but not sufficient to ensure good user experience. In many occasions, users might find that their mobile indicators show full bar, yet their Youtube service might be lagging or slow in Facebook photos loading. This comes in the second major network challenge: network quality. There are many factors affect network quality, such as network capacity, radio signal quality, basestation availability, etc. In this interview, we are focusing on improving mobile user experience by enhancing network quality.
- User experience expectations: Some 15 years ago, before the era of 3G, mobile users were generally looking at mobile coverage and voice quality only. As long as the networks were kept with sufficient coverage with minimum dropped calls, high level of call attempts success rate and reasonable voice quality, the users would be happy. However, the expectations have been changed in the emergence of 3G and 4G technologies, which are more data or internet centric. The users are no longer satisfied with voice quality and internet speed. They would not be happy if the operators don’t provide a good experience on Youtube, Facebook, Whatsapp, Wechat, etc. There is a paradigm swift on how a service provider or vendor looks at on improving user experience and fulfilling user expectation.
- Network Management: With the acceleration of 5G networks deployment and rapid growth of traffic, operators are facing the challenges of huge and complex network systems and the difficulties in network management and service operation beyond the manual processing capability.
Q3. What do you do to address the challenges mentioned to enhance mobile user experience?
There is a specific word to address the process of enhancing network quality, namely “Network Optimization” or simply “Optimization”. The scopes traditionally involve analysis of the data collected from Drive Test and basestation sites. The Drive Test refers to a telecommunication engineer carries some customized mobiles, cruising on the roads to collect network performance data. The collected data will later be decoded in specific software for engineers to analyze in the office. Together with basestation performance statistics, the engineers are able to identify areas with insufficient coverage or with bad network quality. Thereafter, the engineers will develop solutions to improve the network quality for the areas identified. After implementation of the network changes, a Drive Test team will need to redeploy to examine results of the changes. This cycle repeats to every problem area identified until the situation improved or the problem resolved. The mobile service providers, on one hand need to improve network quality consistently, on the other hand the optimization process is undoubtedly costly and time consuming, which has become one of the major pain points to the service providers. In addition, due to accessibility of the drive test vehicles, the traditional approach could only focus on street level network quality optimization, which would inevitably render overlooking of other areas, such as apartments and other restricted compounds.
ZTE has developed a series of solutions to help the service providers to address their pain points. With the rapid growth of the mobile subscribers and the flexible diversification of the user services, the amount of data in telecommunications is exploding. These data contain structured data, semi-structured data and unstructured data, which are stored in the BSS, OSS and MSS domains of telecom operators, covering production operations, network bearers and enterprise management. ZTE VMAX (Value Multi Analysis eXpert) Intelligent Big Data Platform realizes the reconstruction of wireless network intelligent operation system based on advanced big data and AI technologies. It builds an end-to-end intelligent operation system for mobile networks, and efficiently supports the network management and optimization of the telecom operators by applying ‘Intelligent & Big Data’ to the entire process of network operation. Put in a layman’s term, VMAX is a super unified tool that integrating functions of precise network planning, smart and simple maintenance and optimization, and value operation into one single platform.
ZTE VMAX Intelligent Big Data Platform is connected to the operator’s signaling collection platform and network optimization analysis platform to obtain user data. Meanwhile, it completes the storage and analysis of massive data through distributed data collection architecture and an integrated data processing system. The tool can gauge user service level experience too. In other words, it able to tell the experience while someone is browsing, streaming or web-chatting. The tool enable a much more efficient optimization process by allowing analysis and troubleshooting at any time based on huge data collected from the whole network. The tool supports geo-location function, where every sample collected is tagged with its location. Unlike traditionally approach where only street level data collected, this function allows engineers to identify the problem areas accurately, be it in accessible or in inaccessible areas. The geo-location capability and AI algorithms embedded in the tool enable a very precise new coverage areas planning too. VMAX’s multi-frequency coverage analysis function allows a service provider to compare its own coverage with its competitors’ coverage, without performing a comprehensive drive tests. The information can be obtained in a snap, which not only makes coverage planning more accurate, it is a more cost-saving and efficiently solution too.
In addition, a machine learning AI algorithm supporting future traffic projection of each individual basestation site is integrated into VMAX platform. The neural network LSTM (Long Short Term Memory) algorithm is used to run the forecast for traffic, user number or PRB utilization. The function provides an advance and accurate traffic prediction, which is a more reliable result for capacity expansion decisions.
The platform provides operation and maintenance solutions for multiple scenarios such as universities, high-speed, high-speed rail, etc., to achieve comprehensive monitoring of key scenarios. It can visually control the service quality, user perception, and network conditions, and combines key indicator data analysis to achieve rational resource allocation. The platform effectively implements the intelligent network planning and optimization, daily operation and maintenance management, through the automated problem identification, tracking and closed-loop solving. The big data platform provides more multiple application services to third parties through opening data and capabilities, and seeks new business growth points for operators.
In contrast to conventional drive test data collection approach which only collects limited data, ZTE VMAX Intelligent Big Data Platform can help the operators manage the full amount of data, which will support the cost reduction and efficiency of traditional services, the rapid deployment and operation of new services, and the future realization of data, in order to help the operators to get rid of pipeline operations and open up innovative business development models.
Big data is crude oil, data mining is the core, data is open, and value maximization is the goal. At present, VMAX Intelligent Big Data solution has been deployed and applied in more than 30 networks at globally, and has been exploring and practicing digital operation with over 80 partners. With the in-depth integration of big data & AI technology and telecom network operation, the VMAX solution will continue to help operators improve their efficiency and supports telecom operators to achieve service innovation and revenue growth in the new 5G network era. ZTE has deployed VMAX Intelligent Big Data Platform to help our customers in Malaysia, namely Digi, Umobile and TM Webe, to integrate internal and external big data resources, to unify mining, to enhance their business value, and to realize cross-industry application and realization.
Q4. What do you see the prospect of 5G? Do you think if there is any difference in handling user experience expectation in 5G network compared to the current network?
5G is a game-changing technology. It offers much wider services than current network does. All those services can be grouped into 3 main categories, namely enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine type communications (mMTC). These new services bring a lot of challenges, despite they enrich people’s lives. The definition of “user” here in 5G is a bit tricky, where they can be many “non-human” users in the network. To monitor and improve network performance and user experience effectively can only be achieve via lots of automation, big data analysis and AI. It’s going to be a very exciting journey ahead for an engineer like us to participate in this radical evolution in telecommunication history.
In 5G planning, VMAX platform adopts the accurate planning scheme based on the existing 4G network, which making full use of the existing network and environment information, and outputs the expansion construction scheme with agility through such means as intelligent network prediction, scene-based site selection and value sorting. In actual projects, 50000 cell planning can be completed in half a day. The planned sites optimized by 28% than the initial solution, and the coverage excellence rate can reach 95%. By big data user profile technology and AI methods, VMAX implements precise marketing, and realizes payload improvement and user development. In practice, the VMAX solution can identify potential 5G customers, and implement precise service provisioning and package recommendation for 5G users.
This article is brought to you by ZTE Malaysia.
ZTE Corporation is a global leader in telecommunications and information technology. Founded in 1985 and listed on both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges, the company has been committed to providing integrated end-to-end innovations to deliver excellence and value to consumers, carriers, businesses and government and enterprise network customers from over 160 countries around the world to enable increased connectivity and productivity.
ZTE believes in technology innovation as a core value of the company, investing more than 10% of annual revenue in R&D. The company has established state-of-the-art global R&D centres in USA, Sweden, China and so forth. ZTE has filed applications for more than 74,000 patents, with over 34,000 granted. Since 2010, ZTE has been ranked among the world’s Top-5 for patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) each year, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. As a major contributor and participant in the research of global 5G technologies and standards, ZTE has declared 2,561 families of 5G Standard-Essential Patents(SEP) to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), thereby being included among global top 3, according to IPlytics’ report on February 2020.