, The operator’s chess game

The operator’s chess game

Claudio Nobre Author: Claudio Nobre

All mobile operators’ CTOs have to face the same old chess game year after year, how much money do I need to invest to keep or improve the user experience in the years ahead? It can be a simple question, but the answer is not straightforward. Indeed, for a chess master, it is vital to consider not only the board with all its pieces but also the rules of the game, your competitors’ skills to outperform you, and everything else around the business ecosystem. What made Garry Kasparov one of the world’s greatest chess masters ever was his unique ability to calculate his strategy in complex positions.

Network use cases (aka the chess pieces)

Good chess players know that all chess pieces have their own characteristics, for instance, a bishop only moves diagonally whereas the rook can move horizontally or vertically. Just like a chess player has different pieces to consider when planning a strategy, an operator also has diverse network use cases to plan for. The following questions should be answered so that the operator can better understand the needs of the network: How are the clients using the network? What type of services do they use? For example, YouTube or web browsing have different requirements, and this affects how an operator plans its network. Additionally, 5G opened new use cases like virtual and augmented reality, remote healthcare, the Industrial Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, etc. All these have different requirements for quality of service and are important factors when determining the network design.

, The operator’s chess game

Regulation (aka the rules of the game)

Are the chess pieces arranged on the board as they should? How is the arbiter checking the validity of every move? These are two of the questions regarding regulations that need to be asked while playing chess whereas operators must face other types of questions, such as is the regulator enforcing a minimum quality of service? Is it mandated by spectrum award contracts? How are they monitoring the compliance of the operators? Is the requirement the same across the whole country? More and more, regulators are enforcing a minimum quality of service for new spectrum awarded and performing regular audits to assess if they are followed. The audits are made available to the public, so any compliance issue will affect the brand name and have a knock-on effect on the business, forcing the operator to react and invest to avoid further business impacts.

How is the traffic evolving? (aka how are the chess pieces moving on the board?)

Every chess master can visualize at least the next five moves in their head. Kasparov was famously known for his calculation skills and could see much farther. He knew the importance of being able to predict his moves to refine his strategy. Similarly, traffic and performance forecasting are key factors for every operator. Is traffic growing? How fast is it growing? In which regions is it growing faster? How does that affect end-user performance? Gone are the days when linear regression in the forecast was able to predict accurately the traffic evolution of the next years.

Time until deployment (aka the game clock)

Like a chess player must be aware of the time of all his/her moves so as not to run down the clock, so do operators when it comes to deployment strategy. How long does a site need to be fully deployed? How long does an upgrade take? Site acquisition, building, and installation can take up multiple years. Operators have to understand the future network needs with as much time in advance as possible to have a timely implementation of their investments but act just in time to maximize the return of such investments.

, The operator’s chess game

CapEx (aka number of moves for checkmate)

A chess master is always thinking about how to checkmate as quickly and efficiently as possible, especially since they know their adversary is doing the exact same thing. Thus, the number of moves necessary for checkmate is as essential for a chess master as the number of sites and upgrades is for operators since this translates into financial investments. Upgrading networks is not cheap, and operators always want to utilize the CapEx as efficiently as possible to maximize their return on investment and actively manage their customers’ experience.

, The operator’s chess game

The Aspire chess master

All these factors must be considered when allocating the CapEx investment, and a simple modification on one of them greatly affects the amount, location, and time to market of the investments. A chess master never forgets to consider the whole board and their surroundings.

This is the challenge that Aspire tackles with its Smart CapEx software that uses Aspire’s patented methodology – the Cell Performance Signature (CPS), together with AI machine learning forecasting, providing operators with a clear roadmap of investment to meet their business requirements. One can regard Smart CapEx as a personal AI chess master, who sees the whole board, predicts every move, and dictates the best moves to win the game. Think Kasparov, but better.

But what makes Smart CapEx stand out?

Firstly, we created the vendor-independent CPS methodology. It gathers the requirements of the operator’s use cases, the regulator’s demands, and the data from the live network to provide a clear geographical assessment of network performance, which is detailed at multiple distances from the antenna. A great article from my colleague Milutin Davidovic details the clear benefits that our methodology brings to the table. And that is totally vendor-independent, our only agenda is our client’s success.

Secondly, Aspire developed an AI machine learning forecasting method that brings new and more precise ways of forecasting traffic needs for the next years. With Smart CapEx, forecasting can now take into consideration a plethora of inputs, among which I would highlight the yearly seasons, regional traffic demands, the historical traffic profile per cell, as well as current and future network capabilities. This is an essential tool to understand where the network needs to grow faster to accommodate the increase in traffic.

Finally, Smart CapEx provides a clean user interface that makes investment estimations as simple as pressing a button. It dynamically changes according to the different inputs and shows geographically where the network constraints are and where investment is needed.

, The operator’s chess game

Garry Kasparov makes a move in New York during his fourth game against the IBM Deep Blue chess computer, May 1997. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

The new game

Gone are the days when CapEx estimation was done with an Excel worksheet. It now needs a new and vendor-independent intelligent solution that can bring all inputs together, predict the future and provide the most efficient usage of the operator’s CapEx. It needs to evolve and needs to be Smart! That’s why we created Smart CapEx, for even the world’s greatest chess master, Garry Kasparov, fell at the hands of an AI in 1997!