Automation is key to improving the economics of cellular networks in emerging markets

In our previous blog article, we discussed how infrastructure sharing will be essential to improve the economics of deploying cellular networks at scale in emerging markets where ARPUs can be very low.

In this article we look at another key area, which is critical to the economics of 4G/5G in emerging markets – automation. The provisioning, management and orchestration of small cell networks can reduce operating costs by as much as 40% over the lifetime of a deployment.

When both infrastructure sharing and automation is combined, the options for bringing broadband connectivity to underserved users are clearly far wider, with many ways to enhance revenue potential and reduce cost. Unified platforms reduce the cost and risk of deployment, but maintain sufficient flexibility to be adaptable to many local and regional scenarios. Meanwhile, shared sites transform the ROI and introduces additional financing, from neutral hosts with expertise in infrastructure investment, to the equation.

Small cells can go a long way to make the case for deploying mobile broadband in dense urban environments or rural communities, at realistic cost levels for operators in emerging economies.

There are still significant challenges, particularly in backhaul, but the more compelling the business and socio-economic case for improved cellular access, the more investment will be attracted to lower those barriers too. The use of the emerging breed of low earth orbit satellites for backhaul, and even within an integrated HetNet, is one example of how traditional obstacles are being overcome by cooperative efforts across multiple sectors. This is highlighted by the huge diversity of members and alliances that SCF now boasts, compared to its early years.

Through sharing the experiences and knowledge of our members, and driving shared platforms within its members and beyond, SCF aims to arm service providers and infrastructure investors in developing economies with powerful weapons, and commercial confidence, to embark on roll-outs where they have the opportunity to launch profitable services for the first time.