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Drone tech and AI can take 5G deployment to the next level in 2021

by Blogs & Opinions
Article Image The pace of global 5G buildout is extraordinary. As a recent Ookla report put it, 2020 5G rollout worldwide was "a bright spot in a year that needed one." The same report notes 5G download speeds were more than 950% faster at the global level than 4G in 2020, and 5G upload speeds were more than 300% faster than their 4G counterparts last year.

Accelerated 5G expansion will continue in 2021, and that's exciting because 5G will fuel innovation and power game-changing technologies like autonomous vehicles, smart manufacturing, telemedicine and much more. Service providers that are in the 5G rollout race understand the power of drone technology in the deployment process: the use of drones is now more of the norm rather than the exception.

However, the application of AI-enabled analytics on and through collaboration platforms isn't as widespread as drone use. Now is the time to fully embrace these technologies to increase worker safety, reduce costs and generate actionable analytics. Companies that do so will gain a significant competitive advantage as they build out 5G networks in 2021 and beyond.

Keeping workers safer while reducing costs

Sending an employee up a tower costs around $3,000. In 5G deployments, workers climb traditional towers and monopole antennas, and ascend to rooftops and other structures for a variety of reasons including equipment inspections, site analysis prior to installations and new equipment deployment. Any time employees climb a structure, there's risk involved.

Almost 90% of the quality assurance tasks and observation tasks that tower climbers perform can now be performed by drones and data collection sensors instead. When drones are used for tasks such as routine visual inspections and data collection, highly skilled telecom employees can focus on more complex tasks that truly require hands-on attention.

In addition to providing real-time, detailed data on towers, antennas, buildings, etc., drones and field data capture technologies like 360 cameras and LiDAR can create comprehensive site surveys for 5G development purposes. Use of technology for these tasks keeps workers safer while reducing 5G deployment costs overall.

Enabling teamwork to drive efficiency and innovation

Drones decrease risks and lower costs by reducing the need for workers to ascend towers, but when combined with a platform to centralize data, enable collaboration and automate analysis, service providers can take 5G deployment to the next level, achieving new efficiencies and driving innovation.

With drone technology and an AI-enabled platform, service providers can put their most skilled subject matter experts on projects virtually, regardless of physical location, and automate routine analytics so that the experts can focus on innovation and complex problems. With a collaboration platform, workers can access data for every phase of a buildout, including RF surveys, site design and scoping, integration, closeouts and quality assurance.

Subject matter experts and field teams can collaborate in real time on a platform – via desktop or mobile app – accessing geotagged, high-resolution photos and precise measurement data captured onsite for projects like field audits, customer confirmations and visual inspections of installations. Virtual location examinations can reduce costs by 140%.

Delivering actionable analytics

Businesses of all types moved digital transformation roadmaps up during the pandemic, deploying new technology and analytics to support remote workforces and facilitate agile decision-making. Service providers moved full steam ahead with 5G deployment in 2020 and are continuing the push into 2021, but the companies that use available technology to its fullest extent will have the edge.

Drone data capture capabilities can keep workers safer and reduce costs, which is why drone use is widespread in the telecom sector. But to maximize 5G deployment in 2021, it's time for companies in the telecom industry to give their teams an intuitive collaboration platform and AI tools to automate routine tasks and deliver actionable analytics. Companies that do will gain a lasting competitive advantage.

— Craig Cavey, Chief Commercial Officer, Talon

Photo by Dileep M on Unsplash

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