Tuesday, 07 July 2015 23:23

Nokia Networks drones on with proof of concept in Dubai


Nokia and Dubai telco ‘du’ are first in UAE to use telco drones for better network planning, faster optimisation, automated testing and analysis, tower inspections and more.

Dubai is one of the world’s mega cities, so it is fitting that Nokia Networks and Dubai telco ‘du’, which dubs itself as ‘the Middle East’s fastest growing telco’ are literally droning on about making a noteworthy step toward ‘a smart city future’.

The droning on, as such, is about drones which are carrying smartphones with network testing applications to analyse du's network.

Both companies say the test was carried out at the Dubai International Stadium, Dubai Sports City, which has a seating capacity of 25,000 people, and which is among the very best purpose-built stadiums in the world. Nearly 1 million fans have visited the stadium and enjoyed its atmosphere since its inauguration in 2009.

The test was a Proof of Concept (PoC) exercise, which we are informed ‘gathered network data and provided Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a speedy performance test and efficient network optimisation actions.’

These telco drones were also used for tower inspections, radio planning and Line of Sight (LoS) testing between radio towers.

Nokia notes that ‘LoS testing is required when microwave technology is used to connect ('backhaul') the base station to the rest of the mobile network.’

The explanation continues, stating that ‘LoS establishes whether there is a clear and unobstructed path or 'Line of Sight' between the transmitter and receiver.’

Physical objects such as hills and buildings in between can cause obstruction to microwave transmission, affecting the connectivity of radio sites. If this can be monitored beforehand, the accuracy of planning radio sites can significantly be increased, saving significant time and cost.

So, what other benefits do the telco drones bring?

The aforementioned automated testing and analysis is another benefit, as it is more efficient than traditional manual walk tests, given that drones can cover the desired area faster.

In addition, Nokia says the test data is collected automatically and sent to a server so that it can be instantly processed at Nokia Networks' Global Delivery Centre (GDC) for immediate reporting and any necessary actions to improve network performance.

What else were telco drones used for?

Another element was using drones for tower inspections to reduce the number of times technicians need to climb up and down a telecom tower.

Nokia says this is especially important when weather conditions make climbing too dangerous.

This method delivers a high-quality site audit with unique and detailed panoramic and top-down views of the lattice tower captured in one pass.

It should also come as no surprise to learn that drones can also help supervise the quality of installation by remotely monitoring the installation via wireless video streaming.

So, the drones were also used for radio planning and the previously mentioned Line of Sight (LoS) testing.

The engineers knew if a frequency used was impacted by trees, if there was sufficient power to cover the distance, what the simulated latency would look like and what performance over such a connection could be expected. This helped achieve optimal site design, establish a clear LoS, as well as suitable antenna height and site location.

Nokia outlines the solution details ‘at a glance’:

  • In the PoC, these demonstrations were carried out in close collaboration with Nokia Networks' partners Dubai Sports City, Ascom Network Testing, DroneWorks FZ LLC, and Secutronic FZE.
  • Smartphones pre-installed with the TEMS(TM) Pocket software from Ascom Network Testing
  • High-capability drones from Secutronic were used: INSPIRE1 for network optimisation at the stadium, and MICRODRONES md4-1000 for tower inspection, LoS and radio site planning
  • Wireless video broadcast camera were used from m-View Live Video Pty Ltd for remote monitoring

It all sounds Nokia must hope that you should du unto others as you would have them du unto you - but that’s just my own take on the situation.

du’s VP of Mobile Access Network and Operations, Marwan BinShakar said: "Innovation is the lifeblood of the UAE's smart city future, and we are proud to successfully demonstrate our network capabilities.

“Together with Nokia Networks, we are satisfied with the results from the use of drones for network planning and faster optimisation in specific location at Dubai International Stadium, as well as for radio planning and tower inspection which will result in greater efficiency and improved safety."

Nokia Networks’ Head of its ‘du Customer Team’, Tony Awad said: “Drones are becoming a common phenomenon across the world and multiple sectors are embracing the benefits drones bring such as faster deliveries in logistics or delivering emergency services in health care.

“In the telecoms sector, certain operators have already embraced the use of drones for telecom tower audits, and we are proud to be able to demonstrate multiple use cases using drones with du in the UAE.

“With the use of drones we continue to bring innovation and automation into our service delivery to make our networks even more efficient and reliable."

Nokia Networks concludes by noting that it is exploring the potential uses of drones in the telecoms industry and, at Mobile World Congress 2015, says it ‘triggered the discussion on multiple use cases including tower inspection, network optimisation, LoS and radio planning with drones.’

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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