Telecoms join to drive drones for network quality

Intel, AT&T drone
More and more telecom network operators are gearing up to utilize the opportunity associated with drones for improving network quality and customer experience.

AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan says the wireless operator wants to use drones to enhance customer experience.

Earlier, du, a telecom network operator in the Middle East, made attempts to utilize the potential of drones to inspect networks and enhance quality of services of its mobile customers.

Sending the devices to do spot checks of cellular towers, inspect construction sites, or help handle initial assessments of technical troubles in the field are some of the eight cases that AT&T is working on for using the drone inside the company.

The image is from MWC 2016 where AT&T and Intel are conducting demo. Telecom network maker Nokia had discussed about drones during MWC 2015 itself.

“We’d rather send a drone out that has an antenna that collects signals to troubleshoot before we dispatch a person,” said Donovan in an interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “Once we do, we will learn a lot about it and help our enterprise customers learn what are the business cases for drones.”

Drone market

ABI Research says more than 90 million consumer drones will ship during 2025 against 4.9 million in 2014 with a CAGR of 30.4 percent over the same period. Consumer drone revenues in 2025 are forecast to reach $4.6 billion.

The size of the drones market will reach $16 billion worldwide by 2021, according to WinterGreen Research.

Juniper Research says annual revenues from commercial drones sales are expected to reach $481 million in 2016 from $261 million in 2015.

Intel and drone

AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless network operator, has enlisted Intel Corp. to help test how drones work when connected to a network.

Intel and AT&T are demonstrating a black Yuneec Typhoon H drone for several onlookers who took out their cellphones to snap pictures and shoot video. The drone, equipped with an Intel modem and an AT&T SIM card, streamed live video to monitors in the courtyard via an AT&T LTE network at MWC 2016.

Nokia and drone

Last year, Nokia Networks and du, a telecom operator in the Middle East, employed drones carrying smartphones with network testing applications to analyze du’s network. Telco drones were used for tower inspections, radio planning and Line of Sight (LoS) testing between radio towers.

Marwan BinShakar, vice president – Mobile Access Network & Operations at du, said last year: “We are satisfied with the results from the use of drones for network planning and faster optimization in specific location at Dubai International Stadium, as well as for radio planning and tower inspection which will result in greater efficiency and improved safety.”

Industry sectors, including healthcare, logistics, agriculture, news and entertainment are embracing the benefits of drones, but managing UAV growth is a challenge for governments and aviation authorities. Nokia provides centralized monitoring and control of drones via an operator’s existing LTE network or dedicated LTE networks run by government or public safety departments.

Baburajan K
editor@telecomlead.com