The mobile industry is one of the most dynamic, competitive and growth-oriented segments of the communications market. The insatiable demands from customers for new services, matched only by the innovative delivery of new applications and devices, require the industry to transform itself. Wireless providers are looking for ways to launch a massive new set of offers, products and enabling technologies that will produce additional revenue streams. Personalization and rapid service delivery continue to be high on the priority list and are forcing providers to be more imaginative about how they innovatively bundle their products and services and explore new areas for sales growth. Adding further to the complexity, many of the types of services that LTE and 4G networks can be expected to deliver are likely to be very performance-sensitive.
Live mobile TV, video calling, and mobile video services all need to be delivered with low levels of latency, and a high user experience, if they are to generate new revenues. Customers won't tolerate low quality levels, so effective delivery of these bandwidth-intensive services will require real-time pre-emptive service management.
But to proactively manage service performance and deliver an optimum end-user experience mobile operators must first overcome some critical challenges that are centered around the segmentation of their networks and their siloed operational departments, which generally span the radio access network (RAN), data and voice core, IP transport (including wholesale or backhaul) and data center or IT departments. These challenges include:
- A lack of visibility across the multi-domain, multi-vendor and multi-layer mobile communications infrastructure
- Siloed and complex OSS systems, which result in increased integration cost and effort.
- Lack of end-to-end cell monitoring
- Lack of application monitoring and analysis
In the hyper-competitive mobile services market, where the only way to create customer stickiness is to consistently provide the quality of service (QoS) customers expect, end to end mobile experience management will play a pivotal role. End-to-end mobile experience management solutions need to be able to monitor and troubleshoot in a collaborative manner in a multi-domain environment and across a multi-vendor infrastructure. Typically, all the infrastructure trenches are being dug with the purpose of launching new, innovative services as well as reducing overall operating expenditures. However, just providing and fulfilling new services is not enough. It is critical to ensure that the services launched are delivered to subscribers with expected or exceeded QoS. Therefore, the only way CSPs can keep their subscribers happy and reduce churn is by providing continuous monitoring of provisioned services and maintaining optimal QoS through the entire life cycle of the provisioned services.
Some must-have features of an end to end mobile experience management include:
Efficient correlation and service modeling: Solutions will need to integrate with multiple data sources such as fault management, performance management, activation, inventory management and network-facing systems. Data obtained from these systems will need to be integrated, correlated and mapped with fulfilled subscriber services as well as offered services to create a link between network resources and fulfilled services. Mobile application monitoring and root cause analysis also become critical as these capabilities help to investigate the reasons for failure of service objectives and also to isolate network resources and subscriber services affected by service degradation. This information assists in identifying service-related problems so that quick corrective measures can be taken.
End-to-end network visibility: Solutions should be able to monitor and cover the entire network and not be restricted to any domain or device type. Service quality degradation cannot be accurately captured by monitoring a single point in the network as problems can occur at various locations. Hence, solutions should offer visibility of the entire network and path and state of the sessions.
End-to-end mobile service management: Solutions should be able to provide comprehensive multi-domain, multi-vendor and multi-layer end-to-end mobile service management through a combination of deep packet inspection (DPI) and infrastructure monitoring. This enables a session level view in the core, with session trace analysis for mobile broadband and fixed IP services, and the ability to troubleshoot network level statistics.
The ability to implement real-time KPI and alarming: Solutions should be able to monitor the network in real-time and generate alarms and KPIs to gauge the overall network performance. They should be able to capture a variety of information from the sessions, the network and correlate them to produce specific KPIs that can be used to generate alarms and network health indications.
The ability to monitor and measure IP traffic effectively: The underlying topology of IP networks is not static, and the network paths formed from the routing protocols are constantly changing and adapting to real-time events in the network. This can have a significant impact on the paths taken by packets through the network. Real-time services require guaranteed and deterministic packet delivery and hence solutions need to able to monitor and measure network performance and be able to pre-empt packet drops from impacting the service experience of customers.
Ari Banerjee is a senior analyst at Heavy Reading, where he focuses on service provider IT, including all aspects of telecom software research. Banerjee examines the breadth of software used by communications service providers in customer, business, service, and infrastructure management. His area of focus includes all aspects of BSS, OSS, SDP, digital commerce, revenue assurance, service assurance, and elements that span both the infrastructure and network software markets, such as data warehousing, analytics, and business intelligence.
This is the first of a three-part guest blog on Key Service Provider Insights for Ensuring Mobile Quality of Experience, a feature of the End-to-End Mobile Service Assurance Expert Blog Series, which includes contributions from Heavy Reading, Infonetics and TMForum. Join us next week as we preview our Webinar on End-to-End Service Quality Assurance. We look forward to your comments.