One engineer referred to the digital twin as “like Minecraft for data scientists.”
In the last 20 years, the use of mobile phones has become almost ubiquitous in global society, to the point where most of us don’t even think about it; it is simply a part of life. However, keeping these networks alive and growing them to keep up with ever-improving technology is easier said than done, and it’s a constant process with increasing urbanization bringing more potential disruption to networks. Telecommunications companies have a vast network of cell towers, or mobile masts, and antennas to maintain connectivity, and with evolving technology along with the regular deterioration of infrastructure, it is necessary to build new mobile masts and adjust existing ones. . All this makes the process complicated on the part of telecommunications.
vodafoneone of Europe’s largest telecommunications companies, is working to make that process more efficient for its engineers, with the help of esriGIS software and the experience of . Working specifically in the UK, Vodafone created a national digital twin of its entire mobile antenna network across the country, providing its engineers with an accurate, interactive 3D model that can be used to strategize on how it can improve existing networks and Expand your network to serve you better. your customers, all without having to physically go to the sites of these mobile masts.
Creating this digital twin requires a lot of data, so Vodafone turns to Esri’s ArcGIS Enterprise platform, which “combines web mapping, imagery exploitation, real-time data handling, high-volume batch analysis, and spatial data science.” To create the model, Vodafone used satellite data to map the entire terrain, focusing on matching the dimensions of buildings and other potential barriers to service. Vodafone’s GIS Director, Dr. Rebecca King, said in a press release about using ArcGIS Enterprise: “Using ArcGIS Enterprise has allowed us to add the spatial dimension to a large amount of data that we were already working with. , resulting in new levels of location intelligence.”
As a result, the company’s engineers now have a tool with which they can make informed decisions about how to best tune the company’s network. The national digital twin provides the Vodafone team with precise knowledge of the precise location of buildings, hills, valleys and trees, all of which can disrupt or slow down the connection between the masts. With this knowledge, the business can more efficiently plan where to position new mobile sites for maximum connection, as well as identify areas where upgrades or repositioning may be necessary. As an added benefit, the company also reduces its carbon footprint by not requiring physical site visits to make these decisions. With the expected proliferation of 5G in our cellular network, assistance with these types of decisions is even more important.
This is a big step for Vodafone and its team of engineers, but it’s only one, as the company looks to continue adding more digitization to its workflows in the future. With this project so far looking like a success, they are now looking to test similar digital twins in other markets in Europe, targeting Germany and Turkey as potential next locations. In addition, the company also plans to use this technology to support the release of new features like Massive MIMO, which strengthens capacity at individual sites. Vodafone notes that the network of connected devices is expected to grow globally to 30 billion by 2025, so these types of improvements will be necessary to keep up with that growth.
That also helps explain the company’s “Vodafone 2025” strategy, in which they seek to automate as much of their network as possible to respond more quickly to customer demands. Right now, around 70 percent of its European network is in its “on-premises” cloud, with the goal of reaching 100 percent by 2025.
This type of digital twin is a necessary step given the near universal use of cell phones and other connected devices, particularly given the expected growth in that area and the introduction of 5G. It’s a sentiment shared by Vodafone’s chief architect, Boris Pitchforth, who says in a press release that this digital twin is “like Minecraft for data scientists” adding: “We can be smarter and faster about how and where we add new 5G features”. and the target capacity increases with greater precision. There is also the added benefit of being able to reduce our carbon footprint as our engineers will not need to make as many site visits, especially to masts in remote areas.”