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Airtel: Transforming the India Mobile User Experience with Zero-Touch RAN


In India, there are approximately 650 million mobile phone users, and more than 300 million of them have a smartphone, according to several industry analysts. India has nearly as many smartphone users as the United States has people, and it’s about to get many millions more. Surging mobile data consumption surpassed the combined usage of the United States and China in 2017, a year that saw the landscape of the India telecom sector being altered with bitter competition. In what could be considered as a transformational year for the Indian telecom sector, 2017 saw mobile operators consolidate like never before, leaving just three major players in the market by the end of the year. In addition, the launch of new technologies such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services challenged operators to stay competitive and relevant. How did Airtel take up this challenge?

Airtel decided to meet the competition head on. It not only is investing heavily in improved network infrastructure, but also is launching new technologies and products. With this investment comes the need to improve operational efficiency through automation and adaptive allocation of network resources where needed.


The challenge

Need for automation in complex mobile multivendor, multitechnology environments

The Airtel mobile network has become extremely complex, with multiple technologies -- 2G, 3G, LTE, macro and small cells, and Wi-Fi -- from multiple vendors, all in the same geographical area, and with denser deployments than ever.Airtel needs the network to ensure that customer experience remains high whether indoor or outdoor, in all coverage areas, despite the exponential increase in data usage. Managing a network of this caliber has becoming a major operational challenge for Airtel.

Airtel needed this enhancement to improve its mobile customers’ user experience on its network and to stay months ahead of the competition.


The Airtel solution

Network automation to improve customer experience

Airtel has been focused on a critical project using Self-Optimizing Network (SON) software for its 3G network and now is implementing it to cover its 4G network, supporting VoLTE services.

This solution now covers multiple cities across India, interworking with equipment from all major radio vendors. The SON solution enables Airtel to simplify and automate its network operations practices and to focus more on creating value for its customers.

Airtel envisioned the enrichment of SON with subscriber-specific information and predictive analysis for network performance. Airtel is incorporating these enhanced use cases with SON by integrating thirdparty data sources. Such integration will enable SON to perform user-centric analysis, using new data sources, such as customer experience systems, geolocation, crowdsourcing, and big data analytics.  


Airtel and Cisco solution using SON automation end to end

It’s all about the customer

Retaining existing customers and improving their experience by using user-centric optimization is extremely important in the current Indian competitive environment. Delivering the right performance for specific customer service levels (that is, Gold, Silver, and Bronze) or accounts is a strategic imperative, but a huge challenge for mobile operators. Subscriber data is critical to enabling the network performance visibility required to differentiate the customer end-user experience.

The Cisco® SON solution is the only solution that supports integration of third-party data sources to enrich SON decisions.Cisco enhanced SON introduces user-centric optimization based on supplemental data sources, such as customer experience systems, geolocation, crowdsourcing and big data analytics. With it operators can offer differentiated QoE to their subscribers. Its added machinelearning capabilities enable SON to proactively predict performance degradation and the most effective action to prevent it. 

Improve today and plan for future with end-to-end automation

New technologies. New services. New revenue streams. Even whole new markets. Airtel is building a completely automated network platform that self-monitors, adjusts, and optimizes the network without manual intervention. The machine-learning intelligence of Cisco SON embeds intelligence into the network, takes proactive control from the hardware and delivers the automated functions needed to compete more effectively. Its open, hyperprogrammable architecture consolidates multivendor, multidomain networks into sleek, agile, unified systems.

With complexity growing as networks scale, service providers are adopting more analytical software solutions to identify and react to triggers in their networks. How can they transform analysis into action? They need machine-learning automation that executes changes, while continuing to learn and create repeatable processes.

Integrating the Cisco SON with root cause analytics system

Cisco SON can connect with a Root Cause Analytics (RCA) system to automate maintenance and optimization of the network by creating a closed loop for monitoring, analysis, and action, taking the manual factor out of the loop.

Example use cases where the Cisco SON solution can automate and optimize, bringing real recurring, sustainable value to Airtel, include:

  • Proactive sleeping cell identification
  • Predictive capacity management
  • Golden parameter audit
  • VoLTE mute and drop calls

The future: SONFlex

With a changing network and the launch of new technologies comes the demand to rapidly deliver new automation tools. Cisco SONFlex open APIs make the Cisco SON platform accessible for Airtel or third-party innovation. It enables hassle-free SON development, abstracting the complexities of the underlying vendor equipment and management systems. It also provides the conflict management services essential to enable multiple SON applications to optimize the network simultaneously.


About Bharti Airtel

Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the company ranks among the top 4 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers. In India, the company’s product offerings include 2G, 3G, and 4G wireless services; mobile commerce; fixed line services; high-speed DSL broadband; IPTV; DTH; and enterprise services, including national and international long-distance services to carriers. In the rest of the geographies, it offers 2G and 3G wireless services and mobile commerce. Bharti Airtel had more than 304.9 million customers across its operations at the end of the March 2018 TRAI Report.


Airtel leadership input

"Mobile consumers in India are expecting world-class experience, which we are fully committed to provide by deploying leading-edge technologies and using advanced machine learning to operate our network efficiently,” said Abhay Savargaonkar, CTO, Airtel India. “Our collaboration on this project with Cisco has helped us to dynamically adjust our network during an exponential increase in voice and data traffic. With the machine-learning intelligence of Cisco SON, we can automate core operations and analytical processes to repurpose more intelligence into the network vs. in the hardware."