Vodafone has created a 3D digital twin of its UK mobile mast network to allow its engineers to visualise and strategise network improvements or expansion. It will allow them to make instant decisions to improve services to customers without leaving their desks.

The digital twin involved mapping more than 40 million environmental features using GIS (geographic information system) software from Esri UK, including buildings, hills, valleys and trees. Engineers now have access to a 360-degree virtual view of the network from their laptop or mobile device over a secure connection. They can plan where to position new mobile sites more effectively and identify which ones need upgrading or repositioning to meet increases in customer demand, or to compensate for the construction of new buildings or tree growth.

Dr Rebecca King, Geographic Information System (GIS) Lead at Vodafone, explained: “A customer’s mobile phone might cut out due to what we call clutter. This is usually down to the construction of new buildings or seasonal tree growth interfering with the signal strength. We like to visualise these in a digital format so that we can better plan the expansion of our network around them.”

Approximately 500,000 network features such as antennas, along with billions of rows of network performance data can be visually presented. With a few clicks, an engineer can inspect a component of a mobile base station remotely before deciding whether to jump in their van and drive to the site to carry out any necessary work.

The company is now looking to test a similar digital twin service in other markets, including Germany and Turkey, and is exploring options to create an intelligent online replica of both its mobile and fixed broadband networks.