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The 5G migration: SON solutions must become the brains of the network

Self-optimising network (SON) technology deployments have been limited and our survey indicates that most mobile network operators (MNOs) have reduced their 1-to-2-year investment expectations as they wait for more functionality. This report offers advice for vendors that are developing SON solutions.

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Executive summary
SON solutions have not met MNO expectations; without an acceptable SON 2.0, MNOs will struggle to implement 5G
Operators are looking for two major changes from SON 2.0 – commercial alignment and 5G enablement
High expectations for SON among operators, but so far commercial progress has been disappointing
There are real drivers to adopt SON solutions, but the goalposts are moving, and none has yet been urgent enough to spark mass adoption
Meanwhile, new functions alone will not break down barriers – SON 2.0 vendors must address end-to-end platforms and processes
MNOs remain wary of automation, but they must be equipped to compete with new rivals that take automation as a starting point
Vendors need to unlock revenue by convincing MNOs that safe choices will put them at a competitive disadvantage
To make SON essential, vendors must outline a clear SON 2.0 roadmap to improve revenue/cost ratio, enable new services and lead to 5G
Densification makes SON solutions essential, not nice to have, and from 2016 this will be a key element of MNOs' network evolution
Efficiency, density, flexibility and integration are the critical success factors for SON 2.0
SON vendors must also prove a direct link to new revenue enablement and service agility in order to make the business case
As networks and services become more complex, cloud-SON will be essential to deliver full benefits
Five pillars of the new SON will help overcome resistance to automation and unlock MNO investment, laying the ground for 5G
Very high level of innovation is driving SON towards the tipping point, but fragmentation is still a potential barrier to mass deployment
With interoperability, the market is better placed to take off, for those vendors that can deliver simple deployable systems
SON vendors need to learn lessons from the open-source community and embrace open models to kickstart deployment will make SON into an open, service-centric platform and vendors will gain advantage if they provide a smooth migration path for customers
About Analysys Mason
List of figures
Figure 1: SON solutions will be the brains of 5G and cloud-RAN
Figure 2: MNOs' expected investment in SON tools and services, 2016–2020
Figure 3: MNOs' expected spend on SON tools and services, 2016 and 2020
Figure 4: The evolution of SON in line with changing MNO requirements
Figure 5: MNOs' expected spend on SON tools and services, and the reality, 2015 and 2016
Figure 6: MNOs' expected investment in SON tools and services, 2016–2020
Figure 7: Percentage of MNOs placing key factors in their top-four most important drivers for SON deployment, 2014 and 2016
Figure 8: Percentage of MNOs placing each inhibitor in their top-three factors delaying SON deployment
Figure 9: Facebook's Telecoms Infra Project (TIP) vision
Figure 10: Drivers and inhibitors of MNO adoption of automation and SON solutions
Figure 11: Commercial impacts of conservative and proactive approaches to SON
Figure 12: The evolution of SON solutions in line with changing MNO competitive requirements
Figure 13: Density of cells per km2, at which SON becomes desirable or essential
Figure 14: Percentage of MNOs planning to embark on upgrade, by timeframe and technology
Figure 15: Percentage of small cells in dense environments (more than 75 cells per km2) that are actively managed by SON solutions, 2018
Figure 16: Percentage of small cells in non-dense environment that are actively managed by SON solutions, 2018
Figure 17: Information used by SON 2.0 to create an optimised experience
Figure 18: Cloud-SON in a centralised cloud-RAN scenario
Figure 19: The five key requirements of a SON 2.0 system, according to the MNO survey, and the way those will lay the foundations for 5G
Figure 20: The fragmented SON landscape
Figure 21: Investment in SON products (not services), with and without interoperability
Figure 22: The interdependency of SON and densification
Figure 23: Facebook's open-source SON-driven small cells

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