Ericsson extends SON to automate mixed mobile networks

The company has made self-organizing network tools from LTE work on multi-technology and multi-vendor networks

Ericsson took a step to simplify carrier mobile networks on Tuesday, during a Mobile World Congress show where infrastructure is getting more complex.

This week's show has seen the advent of numerous products for heterogeneous networks, or "hetnets," which can combine traditional macro cells with femtocells, other small cells and Wi-Fi access points. The Wi-Fi radios are even being integrated with small cellular radios in the same unit. Heterogeneous networks can help carriers offer broader coverage and higher data capacity inside buildings and in crowded areas, with lower costs and quicker deployment than with existing systems.

Vendors are also unveiling platforms to manage those networks and to automate the process of making them perform at their best. Ericsson, the biggest vendor of mobile networks to carriers, announced an entry of its own in that area on Tuesday.

The company's SON Optimization Manager is designed to automate the optimization of self-organizing networks, so called because they don't require as much planning for a given deployment. SON Optimization Manager takes functions included in the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard and extends them to non-LTE networks, including existing ones that use 2G and 3G technologies, and to heterogeneous networks.

Thanks to standards developed by the mobile governing body 3GPP (Third-Generation Partnership Project), the new software can manage equipment from multiple vendors, according to Ericsson.

Optimizing cellular networks traditionally has been an expensive, repeated process that requires skilled personnel. SON Optimization Manager can take information about performance all over the network and take steps to ensure the best possible performance on an ongoing basis, Ericsson said. Carriers can set optimization to take place daily or hourly, the company said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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