Through digitizing the site deployment process, Ericsson has reduced site revisits due to quality issues from 1 in 10 sites to 1 in 1,000 sites; decreased site material list creation times by more than 40 percent; and lowered the time it takes for a site survey to as little as one hour, according to a white paper released by the OEM Wednesday.
“Traditional site engineering approaches have their limitations and are ripe for digital transformation,” Ericsson wrote. “We view intelligent site engineering as an integral part of the standard deployment process in order to drive efficiency.”
Planning, design and acceptance of 5G network roll-out projects are now possible with enhanced visibility and control through the use of drones, 3D modeling, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, according to Ericsson, which has digitized around 27,000 sites globally including sites for Vodafone UK and TDC NET, Denmark.
“With digitalized sites and the creation of digital twins, engineers can remotely access the site with the highest degree of accuracy and predictability when taking measurements and making engineering decisions,” Ericsson wrote. “Ericsson intelligent deployment is designed to provide carriers with fast and efficient equipment rollout and site activation.”
Digitization, AI and ML reduce the complexity of 5G rollouts, which lowers capital expenditures and operational expenditures at cell sites, according to Ericsson. “Site digitalization can be performed with high accuracy, resulting in optimized site designs that closely capture the actual assets,” the company wrote. “Utilizing data to drive the site design ensures there are no surprises and enhances predictability.”
It All Begins with Drones
The digitization of cell sites would not be possible without the use of drones, which began at Ericsson in 2015, and some really high-tech photography processes. “3D photogrammetry saw significant advancements in the preceding decade, meaning that we are now able to use the geo-tagged photos taken with a drone to produce tridimensional models and accurately take measurements on the resulting point-cloud digital representation of the site,” Ericsson wrote.
AI algorithms analyze the tower data provided by the drones and insert the analysis into a dataset. 3D point clouds are translated into editable computer-aided design data, which then feeds into the building information modeling system. “This enables the automation of design projects, including the modelling of equipment and services,” Ericsson said.
The completed site design feeds into the site installation phase, where design information is sent to site crews’ mobile devices with installation guidance. Product information with guidelines and checklists can be accessed via Ericsson’s intelligent deployment site applications. “We also use built-in tools to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety administration standards for site staff,” Ericsson said.
The deployment platform can also be used to digitize and automate the site acceptance flow process. “Based on the information already collected and the predefined acceptance criteria, sites can be signed-off by using a single digital portal put in place for tracking and visualization of acceptance items progress and approvals,” Ericsson said.
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor