The new era of network densification requires operational excellence

Explosive growth in mobile data traffic means companies must make an important choice about their operations.

According to the latest Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, mobile data traffic has been growing 60% to 100% per year and total traffic will increase sevenfold by 2021 from 2016 levels. Growth in network traffic is straining capacity and driving demand for network densification, resulting in an increase in the volume, velocity, and variety of projects and assets to be managed. Unfortunately, this is also happening at a time of margin compression and modest revenue growth. Now, more than ever, delivering infrastructure projects requires a more modern and more efficient approach.

To overcome increasing complexity and deliver on-time and on-budget, telecom companies must invest in operations to ensure productivity and successful project completion. Project managers should be spending more time delivering projects and less time dealing with obstacles created by inadequate tools.

Smaller, faster, stronger

The number of cell sites in the U.S. will rise to more than 1.1 million in 2026, up from around 323,000 at the end of 2017, according to the CITA. Domestic carriers have installed thousands of small cells to bring their network hubs closer to the end-user. This densification of LTE networks will continue as MNOs make the most of their spectrum resources. And then there’s 5G.

As MNOs explore 5G, high-band spectrum will require dense networks to support coverage, capacity, and latency for advanced capabilities. It’s predicted that there will be a sevenfold increase in mobile data traffic by 2021 according to the Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. To put it simply – there will be more devices online. Researchers estimate that more than 20 billion connected devices will be online by 2020. The “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) could easily increase that number to over 50 billion early in the next decade. More infrastructure will be needed to shoulder the capacity load and maintain speeds. Infrastructure deployment teams straining to accommodate the increase in project volumes.

More projects, more processes

These projects still require roughly the same end-to-end process for planning, deploying, and maintaining assets, including site identification, acquisition, regulatory approvals, site design, construction, testing, validation, and more. But, instead of being vertically integrated, mobile network operators are increasingly relying on third-party service providers, who may, in turn, contract-out work to specialists for different project phases. More parties working on a higher project volume means higher complexity, making effective collaboration more crucial than ever before.

In this new era of network densification, the legacy tools once intended to foster collaboration, ensure accurate record-keeping, and ease reporting burdens are now, more often than not, liabilities. Throughout the industry, inadequate technology fails to offer live interaction between project managers and field workers, lacks the agility to handle the increasing variety of projects, and scatters mission-critical information across disconnected systems.

While these tools were never an ideal combination, project volumes were low enough in the past that managers could mostly, given time and patience, stick to milestones, report on progress, and track assets over time. Project managers could, in other words, “muddle through.” But, with the number of cell sites increasing 52% over the last decade and the current explosion in project volume, velocity, and variety, existing tools do not offer the scale and accessibility of data needed. Project teams, therefore, struggle to effectively manage their growing portfolios today.

We need a new paradigm.

A networked age requires networked solutions

Right now, the biggest problem is that tools and processes aren’t aligned. Project management leaders know that they need to work at scale, using repeatable frameworks, and collaborate efficiently with many different stakeholders both inside and outside their organizations. They understand that this is the only path to achieving their project management targets, and therefore their companies’ strategic goals. But instead of the tools reinforcing their processes, inadequate tools end up dictating the process and creating massive friction, inefficiencies and confusion. Fingers get pointed. Instead of virtuous circles, old technology creates vicious cycles.

There are two causes of this problem: complacency with the status quo and a lack of suitable project management platforms. We have solved the latter by building a project management tool purpose-built for complex, high-volume projects. The former is up to you.

Nearly two decades after the widespread use of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and over a decade since widespread smartphone adoption, project managers and field technicians still have to spend untold sums of wasted funds on printing forms, affixing them to clipboards, and manually entering data at the end of long days.

Fortunately, advances in technology alleviate the pressure felt by network deployment managers. Having every project stakeholder working in the same platform and inputting data consistently enables project managers to forecast project milestones and completion. If individual project contributors, teams, contractors, and vendors are all seeing and working with the same up-to-date information, there’s no ambiguity — there’s one single source of truth. Sitetracker customers have cut time spent on reporting by over 80%, saving six to eight hours per day in some cases that were spent communicating updates, not managing projects. Sitetracker empowers project managers, enabling them to do the hard work required for network densification.

The result of choosing technology that complements your process, and vice versa, is operational excellence. And it is a choice: you can choose to remain in a vicious cycle or you can choose a virtuous circle. Creating order from chaos, enhancing inter-organization collaboration, and increasing accountability is possible with the right platform.

If you want to keep innovating and win business, your company must invest in operational excellence. There’s simply no other option except to fall behind, lose credibility, and ultimately, lose business.

Network densification is happening. Are you ready?

Request a live consultation with our industry experts and learn how the Sitetracker Platform empowers industry leaders to seize opportunities and thrive in the era of network densification.