How T-Mobile Uses Spatial Data to Improve Network Planning


“How can spatial data solve challenges for Telecom? Discover how CARTO has helped T-Mobile improve network planning & internal operations. "

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How T-Mobile Uses Spatial Data to Improve Network Planning

When building its 5G home internet service in the United States  like most Internet Service Providers (ISPs)  T-Mobile found itself facing a critical challenge: qualification. How can you enable customers in both populated and rural areas to have access to quality internet services  regardless of their proximity to a fixed cable infrastructure?

photo of t-mobile logo Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

One effective way is by leveraging spatial data science to optimize network planning and deployment.

At the 5th annual Spatial Data Science Conference   Kendra Lord  Director of Geospatial Engineering & Analytics at T-Mobile  and Ryan Rembert  Director of Software Development at T-Mobile  discussed how they have used CARTO’s Location Intelligence Platform for Telecommunications to solve the challenge of qualification  as well as improve other processes.

Why is Qualification of Service a Problem for ISPs?

Before we dive into how CARTO helped solve T-Mobile’s network planning and qualification challenge  let’s explore why qualification of service is such a big hurdle to overcome. According to Lord  there are two major factors that contribute to why qualification is difficult:

1. Wireless internet for a fixed address requires a significantly different qualification process than a traditional ISP.

The qualification of service for a traditional ISP is determined by a customer’s proximity to the resource and infrastructure - this is generally based on the proximity to the last mile delivered over cable.

A wireless network  however  creates an entirely different set of considerations. In order for ISPs to make informed determinations for qualification of service when offering WiFi  they have to consider the following questions:

  • How can we predict the expected experience of a home internet customer by accounting for terrain and foliage interference from a tower?
  • Where should the device be positioned in the customer’s home?
  • What materials is the customer’s home constructed from?

2. Making informed decisions about candidacy for an internet service requires a large amount of spatial data…

…and it’s critical to keep that data manageable by using solutions like spatial indexing to analyze service qualification at scale. Furthermore  adding new types of geospatial data (such as demographics or financial data) to the mix can be helpful to understand customer segmentation and market potential by location.

Solving the Problem of Qualification with Spatial Indexing

Spatial indexing enables T-Mobile’s ISP business to solve large challenges by making them smaller. How? By taking radio frequency propagation and converting it into uniformly shaped hexbins. Although there are still millions of hexbins  this size is more manageable than all addresses individually; and it allows T-Mobile to have confidence that all addresses within the hexbin will have a similar experience before they make further network optimizations.

At this point  thanks to spatial indexing  T-Mobile is able to understand the serving sector and the technology service delivery. Even better? Access to this information helps solve their main challenge: qualification of service.

Operationalizing Spatial Data for T-Mobile

Even though spatial indexing makes data more manageable  according to Rembert  “There’s still a significant amount of complex data that needs to be condensed into a form that allows identification of competitive locations where we can actually provide a stable and consistent connection.”

In order to do so  T-Mobile worked with CARTO to develop an internal analytics platform that helps their team translate spatial data into digestible information.

This platform also helps T-Mobile’s enterprise channel sales and marketing partners sell their products into the right locations; and it allows them to:

  • Monitor enterprise systems for sales compliance
  • Feed their operational support systems
  • Understand the performance of their product in the field

This visibility helps further support their service expectations during the qualification process.

Additionally  the insights gained from CARTO’s spatial analysis tools for telecommunications are used across the T-Mobile ISP business to drive customer service and network expansion decisions.

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