October 13, 2023

Simplifying interference hunting in 4G and 5G networks

Spectrum Interference Management

The rapid expansion of 4G and 5G networks has exacerbated a surge in the complexity of dynamic network architectures. As wireless networks become more intricate, a robust and streamlined interference-hunting strategy will be key to maintaining the levels of quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) customers demand as well as respecting service level agreements (SLA).

Interference hunting in wireless networks can be extremely challenging, mainly due to the variety of potential internal and external sources and the fact that the wireless spectrum is becoming more and more congested. Internal interference may stem from faulty network equipment or suboptimal system configurations, while external interference could result from unauthorized transmissions or other electronic devices operating in the same frequency band.

Furthermore, interference can manifest in different ways, and identifying its effects requires a deep understanding of network performance metrics and the ability to interpret complex data. For instance, interference could result in dropped calls, slower data speeds, or other less obvious symptoms, like an unexplained rise in network power consumption. Determining whether these issues are caused by interference or network problems is not always as straightforward as it seems.

However, interference hunting can be significantly more manageable with a strategic approach and the right tools. Here are some tips for a more efficient approach to interference hunting.

Embrace automated detection tools.

Traditionally, interference hunting has been a manual process. However, this approach can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, especially with a crippling staff shortage. Automated detection tools use advanced algorithms to identify and locate sources of interference faster and more accurately. Leveraging machine learning capabilities, these tools can learn from past data to predict future interference scenarios and suggest pre-emptive actions. They can also continuously monitor the network for any interference, significantly reducing the response time in resolving such issues.

Prioritize, plan and act.

Not all interference sources are equal; some might only cause minor disruptions, while others can cripple the entire network. As such, carriers need to prioritize interference sources based on the severity of their impact. Tools that offer severity scoring or similar ranking systems can be very helpful in this regard. Once the key sources are identified, carriers can quickly resolve the most pressing issues and restore network performance.

Implement proactive spectrum monitoring.

Consistent spectrum monitoring can lead to early detection and identification of interference.

These advanced monitoring systems allow for ongoing observation of the RF spectrum, identifying trends and anomalies that might indicate potential interference. This proactive approach can save precious time and resources, preventing more significant network issues before they occur.

Invest in training and development.

Even with the best tools at their disposal, network teams need the right skills to identify and handle interference issues effectively. Interference sources vary greatly, from passive intermodulation, cable plant leakages, cell boosters, wireless security cameras, “own” interference, other wireless networks, etc.  A robust foundational knowledge enables engineering and operations teams to rapidly isolate potential problem areas.

Training and development programs focused on understanding the complex nature of interference, its common causes, and best practices for mitigation can significantly enhance team proficiency. In-house workshops, online training programs, and industry conferences can provide valuable learning opportunities.

Leverage geo-location techniques.

Modern interference-hunting systems can utilize advanced geo-location techniques to pinpoint the location of interference sources. This eliminates the traditional trial-and-error methods and leads to faster resolution times.

Techniques such as Angle of Arrival (AoA), Time Difference of Arrival (TDoA), and Power of Arrival (PoA) can significantly improve the accuracy of interference source localization.

Foster collaboration and communication.

Interference hunting often requires cross-functional collaboration involving multi-faceted network engineers, technicians, and operations managers. Creating an environment that promotes open communication can streamline the interference-hunting process, ensuring crucial information is shared promptly and accurately across the team.

Furthermore, collaboration with external stakeholders, such as equipment vendors and regulatory authorities, can provide additional resources for tackling interference.

By incorporating these strategies, wireless carriers can transform their interference-hunting approach, enhancing network performance, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and competitiveness.

Are you struggling with interference hunting and how it compromises your network’s performance? Contact Novapex today and talk to our experts on interference mitigation strategies.