You probably never knew it, but there's a strong chance you've already been driving on the highway and suddenly maneuvered by a self-optimizing network (SON). The good news: this isn't the work of a dastardly mad scientist. It is an AT&T network innovation that comes in peace to provide an enhanced customer experience.
SON is a spectrum-efficient, intelligent network management technology that detects when a cell tower is overloaded and automatically shifts users to a nearby cell tower. These changes are completed based on availability, congestion and blocking of radio resources.
AT&T SON, which was created by Intucell, a mobile network solution provider, optimally configures the network to enhance call reliability when users move throughout the system and self-heals the network by dynamically optimizing the network to compensate for when new cell sites are added, or an outage occurs.
The optimization isn't the only thing automatic about this new technology. The impact it has had on AT&T's network experience has been solid across the board. Thirteen of the initial 20 SON deployments on the network have been tested and all 13 markets have resulted in improvements of as much as 15 percent or more in call retainability and a 15 percent reduction in tower overloading. While testing is not complete in all 20 markets SON has been deployed in, every market has shown network improvement.
AT&T discovered Intucell's Self-Optimizing Network (SON) technology in April 2011 through one of the AT&T Foundry® innovation centers, which are designed to bring innovations to market in a third of the time. It took John Donovan, Senior Executive VP of AT&T Technology and Network Operations, only several minutes to notice how SON would support AT&T's wide-ranging efforts to use innovative technologies to continue improving and expanding its U.S. wireless network. Donovan gave it the green light and the project immediately entered the AT&T Foundry® for development.
Within a month of AT&T SON's discovery, it was ready for its first test. Clinton McLain was part of the first-ever Intucell SON field trial on AT&T's network, which took place at a footrace in San Francisco in 2011. The head-to-head test engaged the incumbent original equipment manufacturer vendor, against the relatively new but agile, Intucell. The technical aspects of the trial proved the value of the SON architecture to a large provider. Specifically, that the automation of incremental network changes with dynamic feedback could be a force multiplier.
Several months later, AT&T began deploying Intucell's SON across its wireless network. Thanks to the AT&T Foundry® innovation centers, Intucell saw its fastest SON turnaround time ever. It also helped AT&T become the first U.S. carrier to deploy the network solution.
McLain has been supporting trials and innovation in San Francisco market for the past 11 years. As an Engineering Manager his team's charter focuses on enabling AT&T to innovate new solutions which benefit customers and multiply engineers' efforts.
AT&T is the first U.S. carrier to deploy Intucell's SON technology. Upgrade plans include:
- Market growth. AT&T recently completed a nationwide rollout of SON and now has the network technology live in 30 different markets, from San Francisco to Miami.
- Performance Measures. Now that the nationwide rollout is complete AT&T engineers will continue to closely monitor SON's performance to ensure it is working to its highest capability to ensure customers have a reliable network experience.