Vodafone Creates Digital Twin of UK Mobile Mast Network

Vodafone Creates Digital Twin of UK Mobile Mast Network

Vodafone has partnered with Esri to create a digital twin of its network of mobile masts. This will enable real-time monitoring of the network, helping to ensure the best possible service for the company’s customers.

Engineers can now access a 360-degree virtual view of the mobile mast network via a secure connection from their laptop or mobile device. This digital twin was created by mapping more than 40 million environmental features, such as buildings, hills, valleys and trees, using Esri’s advanced mapping software. Using this technology, engineers can plan more efficiently when positioning new mobile masts, as well as identify sites that need to be upgraded or repositioned to meet increases in customer demand or to compensate for newly constructed buildings or tree growth.

Dr Rebecca King, the head of GIS at Vodafone, explained: “We sometimes refer to the disruption to a customer’s mobile phone signal as ‘clutter’, which is usually caused by newly built structures or seasonal vegetation that impedes signal strength. To better strategize the growth of our network, we like to have these issues represented in a digital format.”

Now that approximately 500,000 network characteristics – as well as billions of rows of network performance data – are accurately digitally depicted, engineers can quickly assess components of a mobile base station without physically driving to the site. Instead, they can determine if any maintenance is required with just a few clicks.

The company is now looking to launch a similar digital twin service in other markets, including countries such as Germany and Turkey, and is exploring options to create an intelligent online replica of both its mobile and fixed broadband networks. The digital twin is the latest addition to Vodafone’s growing digital network cache.

Minecraft for data scientists

Boris Pitchforth, chief architect at Vodafone, said: “The digital twin gives us an unprecedented understanding of our entire UK mobile network – it’s like Minecraft for data scientists. We can be smarter and faster about how and where we add new 5G features, and increase target capacity with greater precision. There is also the added benefit that we can reduce our carbon footprint as our engineers do not have to make as many site visits, especially to masts in remote areas.”

Working with the UK branch of Esri, Vodafone used satellite data to map the terrain, including land use such as crops, transport links and elevation data of neighboring objects. “The digital twin does not have to exactly replicate objects in the real world like the individual bricks of a building. Only its dimensions are needed so we can tilt the signal to give customers the best possible connection. The simpler the card, the faster it loads,” he says.

Large scale digital twin

Vodafone turned to Esri’s ArcGIS Enterprise platform, which combines web mapping, image exploitation, real-time data handling, high-volume batch analytics and spatial data science. “Using ArcGIS Enterprise allowed us to add the spatial dimension to a lot of data we were already working with, leading to new levels of location intelligence,” King continues. “Through our digital twin, data can now be visualized in 3D and easily shared with multiple teams.”

As well as introducing the digital twin to other countries, Vodafone also plans to use it to support the deployment of new network features such as Massive MIMO – which provides more capacity with a single handset – to meet the proliferation of connected devices, which is predicted to grow to 30 billion worldwide by 2025.

“A few years ago, a national digital twin of this type was simply not possible,” adds Pitchforth. “But the combination of ArcGIS Enterprise in Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud means large-scale digital twins can be a reality, providing a secure, scalable cloud option for enterprise data visualization and geospatial analytics. Similar projects in the utility sector, for example, traditionally focus on smaller areas, but we wanted a national model in line with our network.”

Vodafone’s Tech 2025 Strategy

The move forms part of Vodafone’s Tech 2025 strategy to automate large parts of its pan-European network to be able to respond quickly to customer demand where it is most needed. 70% of the company’s European core network already runs on Vodafone’s own on-premises cloud, and this will increase to 100% by 2025. This gives Vodafone a software-driven platform from which to launch universal products in many markets simultaneously. , as well as predicting and dynamically providing for future demand.

A shared data ocean connecting all Vodafone markets uses advanced AI and machine learning to empower tens of thousands of its employees. They can plan and operate the networks, intelligently manage data center cooling and turn off the power at mobile sites during peak times.

Vodafone has partnered with Esri to create a digital twin of its network of mobile masts

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