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The paper aims at answering the question of how local a UMTS network optimization problem should be defined in order to guarantee an effective optimization by an automatic cell planner (ACP). Based on the interference matrix approach, sets of base stations, denoted as influence sets, which are those most coupled with the problematic ones, are identified and introduced to the ACP for optimization. The size of an influence set is a key issue: under-sizing the set reduces the effectiveness of the optimization; over-sizing it increases the cost of implementing the solution. Comparison of the steered optimization with a global one illustrates the robustness of the proposed approach.