The A – Z of mobile network analytics: Part 1
The telecommunications industry has hundreds, if not thousands of terms and abbreviations that are used on a daily basis. And as the industry evolves, that number is set to grow. In part one of our A-Z we drill down to some of today’s top terms in Mobile Network Analytics. From the well-known ones like Big Data and Hadoop, to the lesser heard terms such as Topology and Drive Trials, we cover everything, from A -Z!
Unsurprisingly at the top of the list is analytics, the interpretation and communication of data and patterns. With new technologies to monitor, and new services to optimise, every second counts for mobile network operators. In mobile networks, analytics are key to enhancing network performance, rapidly fixing faults and identifying new opportunities for growth, says Mark Slinger, head of Product at SysMech.
In fact, mobile network analytics now encompasses so much more than just the network – it also involves monitoring and analysing drive trials and probe data, customer experience metrics, complaints and IT systems, within an increasingly virtualised network. Without good analytics, communication service providers (CSPs) could not survive in today’s competitive marketplace. Every letter on this A-Z involves analytics in some form or another.
Hand in hand with analytics goes big data. With ever decreasing revenues from traditional sources, CSPs are successfully leveraging data as an asset to derive valuable intelligence to optimise business, creating new sources of income and improving their brands. In the telecoms industry this means billions of data records daily; network performance stats, subscriber information, billing calculations, customer tickets, network inventory etc. In fact, in telecoms Big Data has now become synonymous with just data! To actually make use of all of this data, CSPs have a plethora of tools to collect, enrich and visualise data, enabling impactful business decisions from it.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) in telecoms is now a strategic business objective for all CSPs. CSPs have been seeing declines in revenue and operating profits of up to 30% over the last decade, making retaining existing customers more important than ever before. CEM directives do this by offering customers personalised services, reducing call centre on-hold times and improving the network performance through customer-centric optimisation.
Drive Trials are the process in which a vehicle carrying a number of SIMs and handsets is driven around the country, testing the voice and data services from an operator. Complex measuring equipment enables the continual measurement of voice call quality, data service stability, YouTube performance and download speeds. Drive Trials are often carried out by CSPs themselves to better understand their network, as well as independent bodies, for example, the upcoming P3 benchmarking trials, which measure the performance of the big four in the UK; Vodafone, O2, Three and EE.
End-to-end network visibility
The mobile network analytics environment is currently in a stage of transition. Traditionally, CSPs would analyse each network domain (radio, transmission and core) independently of each other. However as new network generations have launched, and new services have accompanied them, this no longer works efficiently.
There is now a drive towards end-to-end network visibility, in which CSPs can visualise and monitor the performance of a service across all domains, rather than the network domains themselves. This is especially key within a virtual world where end-to-end services are spun up automatically.
Modern day operators have integrated their fault management with their network performance management to enable better insight into what faults are actually impacting the network performance, and in turn the subscribers’ experience. As subscribers interact with their devices significantly more often than other communication channels, customer care teams are focusing on drilling down on network performance data, network faults and planned network maintenance, in real-time.
Generation (next generation)
The next generation of mobile technology to hit the telecoms market is 5G. Initial trials are already demonstrating speeds of up to 20GBps, and some operators are claiming a launch as early as 2018 for the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
When it comes to mobile network analytics, 5G is set to introduced more complexity, with more network data to manage and analyse to get a complete understanding of how the network is being used.
Hadoop has become synonymous with Big Data, offering a vast amount of storage for both structured and unstructured data. In the telecoms environment, Hadoop plays a part to help store and manage the vast amounts of data generated, but it does not act as a stand-alone solution. To enable operators to get the most out of their data, they need advanced visualisation, complex querying ability and real-time analytics capabilities provided by specialist solutions, often in conjunction with Hadoop.
Internet of Things (IoT)
With billions of devices already connected, and even more on the way, CSPs are preparing for a real-time data flood that cannot be ignored with The Internet of Things (IoT). The number of sensors and volumes of gathered data can range wildly depending on the application, so excess data will come into the network at varying frequencies, and in multiple formats, adding to the complexity of mobile network analytics.
Operators who are rising to this challenge best are the ones that already have strong network management platforms in place, and who were already using these tools to handle big data as well as to optimise network performance.
Jitter is a voice metric commonly measured to understand the quality of a call. It is the variation in the latency on a packet flow between two systems, when some packets take longer to travel from one system to the other. Jitter results from network congestion, timing drift and route changes.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
There are a huge number of mobile network performance KPIs which are monitored in real-time and on an hourly, daily and weekly basis. Some of the most common KPIs measured by CSPs include availability, latency, packet loss and dropped call rates, all of which give a better understanding of the mobile network performance.
LTE Advanced (known as LTE-A or 4.5G) is a step-up from LTE, which builds on the LTE standard to offer improved network capacity and faster download speeds. LTE-U is very similar, except that it proposes to operate within the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum, which has caused some controversy due to potential interference with Wi-Fi. In fact, some say that this controversy has meant the clock is ticking on LTE-U, and it may well never take off.
Look out for the second part in our A – Z of Mobile Network Analytics.
The author of this blog is Mark Slinger, head of Product at SysMech.
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