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

Engineers now have access to a 360-degree virtual view of the cell 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 more efficiently plan the positioning of new mobile masts, as well as identify locations that need to be upgraded or repositioned to meet increased customer demand or to compensate for newly constructed buildings or tree growth.

Dr Rebecca King, Head of GIS at Vodafone, explained: “We sometimes refer to a customer’s cell phone signal failure as ‘cluttering,’ which is usually caused by new construction or seasonal vegetation that interferes with signal strength. In order to better strategize the growth of our network, we like to present these issues in a digital format.”

Now that nearly 500,000 network features and billions of rows of network performance data are accurately represented digitally, engineers can quickly evaluate mobile base station components without physically driving to a site. Instead, they can determine if any maintenance is required with just a few clicks.

The company is now trying to test a similar digital twin service in other markets, including countries such as Germany and Turkey, and is exploring options to create a smart online replica of its mobile and fixed broadband networks. The digital twin is the latest addition to Vodafone’s expanding digital network.

Minecraft for data scientists

Vodafone’s lead architect Boris Pitchforth says: “The digital twin gives us an unprecedented view 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 capabilities, and 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 visits, particularly to masts in remote locations.”

Working with the UK arm of Esri, Vodafone used satellite data to map the terrain, including land use such as crops, transport links and height data of neighboring properties. “A digital twin does not need to exactly replicate real-world objects such as individual bricks in a building. Only its dimensions are needed so that we can bend the signal to provide customers with the best possible connection. The simpler the map, the faster it loads,” he says.

A large-scale digital twin

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

In addition to rolling out digital twin in other countries, Vodafone also plans to use it to support new network capabilities such as Massive MIMO, which delivers more capacity per cell site, to meet the projected proliferation of connected devices. to grow to 30 billion globally by 2025.

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

Vodafone’s Tech 2025 strategy

The move is part of Vodafone’s Tech 2025 strategy to automate large parts of its pan-European network so it can respond quickly to customer demands where it’s needed most. 70% of the company’s core European network already runs on Vodafone’s own cloud, and this will increase to 100% by 2025. This gives Vodafone a software-based platform from which to produce universal products in multiple markets simultaneously. , as well as predict and dynamically meet future demand.

The ocean of shared data that connects all of Vodafone’s markets uses advanced AI and machine learning to empower its tens of thousands of employees. They can plan and operate networks, intelligently manage data center cooling, and disconnect power from mobile sites during off-peak hours.

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

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