The Philippines has a population of over 100 million and the number of mobile broadband (MBB) subscribers is growing rapidly. MBB subscribers enjoy surfing the web, playing online games, and using social media. The local mobile operator, Globe Telecom (hereafter referred to as Globe), offers a better broadband experience by deploying multi-sector networks which significantly increase network capacity.
New MBB services, new subscribers
There are 121.8 million mobile connections (GSMA intelligence) in the Philippines, with mobile broadband penetration of 45% and lightning-fast growth. In 2013, Globe started attracting more subscribers and encouraging them to use data services by running special promotions on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Viber. Globe has also launched very attractive plans to gain more subscribers and increase data usage, causing a surge in demand for data services. Since then, data services have become Globe’s main revenue growth engine. Globe is forecast to serve nearly 60 million MBB subscribers by 2020 (GSMA intelligence), with 3G subscribers increasing 1.6 times and 4G subscribers increasing 6.5 times from 2015.
However, this rapid growth in data services has placed enormous pressure on the capacity of the operator’s wireless network. In Manila, a large number of 3G sites experienced a resource utilization rate of over 80% during peak hours resulting in a lower user experience than desired. The network was in urgent need of capacity expansion due to the growth in the number of new services and the need to improve the user experience.
A quick and efficient solution is needed to meet this challenge. The 6-sector solution increases network capacity by using special antennas to divide a 120-degree sector into two 60-degree sectors, doubling the number of cells and air interface resources. This technology has the advantages of higher capacity gain, lower cost and shorter deployment cycle compared to other solutions, such as adding new sites.
New network, new competitiveness
Globe and Huawei jointly planned to roll out the 6-segment solution across the network in the Manila region to increase the capacity of each site by 70%, to meet the needs of growing MBB users and traffic growth.
If 3-sector sites are reconstructed into 6-sector sites in a fragmented and patchwork manner, only short-term demand can be met and the network will be unable to meet increasing capacity demands. To improve the value of the sites and take into account future needs, Huawei and Globe have jointly aligned Globe’s entire network with future demand for spectrum, infrastructure and new technologies. In this way, Globe could deploy 6 sectors as a benchmark for UMTS sites in urban areas, changing its strategy from a passive expansion of capacity to the deployment of the whole network of 6 sectors. The 6-segment deployment approach lays a solid foundation for the future growth of the network.
Three types of sites were targeted for the upgrade of the 6 sectors: congested sites, high level customer service sites and sites with potential high capacity demand. The original plan was to rebuild over 80 percent of the Manila area sites to 6-sector sites to increase network capacity. On sites where 6 sectors were already deployed on UMTS 2100MHz, a sharp increase in traffic was observed: downlink data traffic increased by almost 50%, uplink data traffic by 74.73 % and voice traffic of 31.69%. In addition, the results of the driving tests showed that the users’ throughput was improved by more than 100%, greatly improving the user experience.
A good quality network with a better user experience attracts more subscribers. In May 2016, the number of active HSDPA users on Globe’s network increased by 68% compared to the same period last year.
When it comes to the deployment of the whole network, the 6-sector solution still faces many challenges, such as the complex deployment scenario, the progression of untargeted delivery and the strong interference. The situation worsened in urban areas where radio frequency (RF) issues occurred at targeted sites, affecting capacity gains and performance of network key performance indicators (KPIs).
Huawei’s 6-sector solution is an end-to-end (E2E) solution, comprising professional and dedicated tools, which covers the entire delivery process, from planning to execution to the stage of optimization. For the planning phase, an accurate site planning (ASP) meets the requirements of special scenarios to mitigate the potential impact on the network after deployment. For the execution and optimization phase, site optimization tools such as Automatic Cell Planning (ACP) and SmartRNO are used to accelerate the pace of successful deployment, thereby reducing potential RF issues.
Using these tools, more than 1000 sites 6 sectors have been successfully launched in the most valued area (Capital area).
Smooth evolution to LTE multisector
As LTE terminal prices decline and LTE penetration increases, bottlenecks in LTE capacity will occur in the near term in some regions. By dividing sectors and sharing user numbers, deploying 6 sectors on LTE networks can also ease future pressure on capacity and ensure user experience. Network-wide deployment of 6 sectors in urban areas is a simple capacity expansion solution that provides many years of value.
The six-segment network-wide solution in the Manila region has provided Globe with a solid foundation to develop new services and subscribers, monetize data traffic and improve user experience. It responded to the pressures on network capacity and provided valuable lessons for the deployment of 6 sectors, which will be incorporated into the future deployment of the entire six-sector network.
More importantly, the 6-sector whole network solution in urban areas set a new benchmark in network deployment for industry to develop a 6-sector network topology.