Transforming Telecom Tower Workflows with IBM Digital Twin Platform on AWS

4 min read

How the IBM Digital Twin Platform can help telecom companies increase operational efficiency and reduce the time-to-market of service delivery.

Telecom tower companies strive to have the most current view of their complete tower portfolio “as is.” This affects not only a cost-effective maintenance plan, but mainly space optimization to improve tenancy ratio and leasing opportunities. Challenges include fragmented data in silos, low tenancy ratio per tower, increasing speed of technology upgrades (e.g., 5G rollouts), market pressure from new players, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and high maintenance costs due to expenditures related to site visits, design, construction and infrastructure operations. Therefore, telecom companies are under pressure to increase operational efficiency and reduce the time-to-market of service delivery.

The IBM Digital Twin Platform—which combines digital thread, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, edge, 3D representations and automation—has proven to be effective in addressing these challenges in their digital transformation journey.

A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical object/process. Data is collected about the object being studied, and the virtual model can be used to run simulations.

IBM Digital Twin for telecom towers

The key building blocks, workflow and open ecosystem of partners for our telecom tower solution include the following:

  • Tower scanning: Drones follow guided flight paths to capture high-resolution images of the tower asset.
  • 3D reconstruction: The solution uses 2D drone images to reconstruct a 3D realistic model of the tower, and information from photogrammetry services, equipment catalogs and intelligent equipment detection use AI to enrich the realistic model.
  • 3D business information modeling (BIM): The realistic reconstruction is automatically converted into an initial 3D BIM model and further improved using BIM model libraries. These models allow engineers to perform highly accurate design enhancements (e.g., add an antenna, dish or Remote Radio Unit (RRU) equipment from a BIM library) and perform different types of physical simulations (e.g., EMF-Electromagnetic Field and structural stability) through the digital twin application.
  • Ground cabinet monitoring: The solution can manage IoT/edge devices like HVAC, batteries, and energy consumption.
  • Lifecycle management: The solution provides ongoing lifecycle support of the built tower through its continuous monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities.
The key building blocks, workflow and open ecosystem of partners for our telecom tower solution include the following:

Supporting the key building blocks is an integration layer to multiple enterprise systems for data exchange. This is the asset single source of truth through a digital thread layer composed of a standardized ontology model and orchestrated by a knowledge graph. AI models and analytics, weather services and additional IoT data further enrich the platform.

The figure below depicts the user interface for some use cases that encapsulate the building blocks described above:

The figure below depicts the user interface for some use cases that encapsulate the building blocks described above:
The figure below depicts the user interface for some use cases that encapsulate the building blocks described above:

Digital Twin built on Amazon Web Services (A­­WS)

The solution architecture comprises modular and loosely coupled services, and it is highly scalable and expansible through an open ecosystem and custom-developing services. Since the solution supports multiple customers of the tower company, each customer can only access and view information specific to their equipment through role-based access control and security features. We extensively use cloud-native AWS services to fulfill the needs of our AWS clients, as depicted by the diagrams below:

IBM Digital Twin for Telco Towers in its AWS implementation version.

IBM Digital Twin for Telco Towers in its AWS implementation version.

Enterprise integration layer on AWS.

Enterprise integration layer on AWS.

Benefits

The IBM Digital Twin Platform benefits not only engineering planning or maintenance teams, but also supports corporate strategy, including finance and sales. We believe it’s a foundation to improve tenancy ratio and, therefore, tower and company values. Those benefits are only possible when we implement a digital thread to bring fragmented data together in a collaborative environment (i.e., including partners and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)).

Below are some statistics we continuously collect about our “scan to BIM to lifecycle” intelligent workflow. There is also the possibility of unlocking additional value with MNOs by having accurate “as-is” 3D views of the complete tower portfolio through regions of actuation:

There is also the possibility of unlocking additional value with MNOs by having accurate “as-is” 3D views of the complete tower portfolio through regions of actuation:
There is also the possibility of unlocking additional value with MNOs by having accurate “as-is” 3D views of the complete tower portfolio through regions of actuation:

Conclusion

In this post, we presented the IBM Digital Twin platform applied to the telecom tower industry on AWS. We discussed how the solution addresses key industry challenges and provided a technical overview of the solution, including accurate 3D tower models “as is” through a scan-to-BIM intelligent workflow, space optimization with digital twin as a design tool to help improve tenancy ratio, integration of siloed data in a single digital thread to facilitate faster decisions and minimize errors, and help with predictive maintenance considering IoT sensors of ground cabinets, among others.

The platform and its associated digital twin program is continuously evolving, especially together with our partner 5x5 Technologies, which produces realistic models based on drone scanning. As a result, IBM believes the solution could possibly deliver a 70-300% ROI for telecom clients that are implementing our digital twin methodology and solution. Our solution goes beyond telecom towers. It comprehends a range of sustainable critical infrastructures, such as wind and energy towers, telecom networks, energy grids, solar farms, manufacturing lines and smart cities composed of multiple critical infrastructures.

IBM Consulting has been ranked a leader by Everest Group in their inaugural report Digital Twin Services PEAK Matrix® Assessment 2022, and the IDC report Digital Twins — Transforming Supply Chains and Operations provides further information about the business benefits that you can achieve with IBM Consulting-owned digital twin services and offerings. For more information on how to engage with IBM, visit here.

Note: The claims and outcomes referenced in the blog are based on IBM's past engagements. Results may vary across clients.

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