Operators are experiencing stiff competition from new entrants and OTT players, and it significantly impacts their revenue. In addition, they are facing challenges in monetizing their data services. Launch of LTE services requires major investment in terms of license and spectrum fees, new network equipment and increased OPEX. Enhancing network performance is one key lever in the operators' toolbox to help deliver increased data throughput at a differentiated quality level to improve revenue. Enhancing the network performance is a key lever in the operators' toolbox to ensure increased data throughput and improve revenue. Telecom Review sat with Mohamed Samir, head of Services for MEA at Nokia, to unravel this thorny area, and he shared his interesting insights and Nokia's unique approaches for operators to ensure superior network performance.
At the outset, can we start with what are the various metrics of network performance?
Yes, absolutely. Operators are primarily monitoring their network performance at a network level in terms of the following:
• Network availability, which is related to a user being able to connect to the network
• Network accessibility, which is about a user being able to select services within the network
• Network retainability, which is about how long can a user maintain the service connection.
• Network integrity, which is about the service quality, and responsiveness of the network.
Service management requires a transformational approach, building from network operations to service quality and customer-centric operations. This requires a paradigm shift from control over network elements to managing end user service experience.
How has network performance been affected with the transition from 2G to 3G to 4G, and what are the various ways in which Nokia is helping operators improve network performance?
An increasing number of subscribers, 41% globally, demand excellent network and service quality, even if it costs a bit more. Not only this; these subscribers were willing to change their operators to achieve the excellent network and service quality. Unfortunately, 60% of customers reported having problems with data services quality, according to Nokia's latest study on this subject. It indicates that if expectations for quality are not met, operators risk losing subscribers.
Securing new customers in place of lost customers is a costly task for any operator and it impacts operators' profitability. Nokia can help operators address users' demands with our extensive portfolio including customer experience management (CEM), Nokia EdenNET SON (self-organizing networks) as well as service operations and management solution. Network complexity is increasing and most operators have networks with multiple technologies (2G, 3G, WiFi, LTE), multiple frequencies and layers (small cells, macro). However, subscribers simply expect to be able to access content seamlessly and the network to connect them wherever they are and whenever they need it. The network is invisible and transparent to users until it stops working!
The transition of cellular radio technologies has introduced fresh challenges, including:
• Higher probability of dropped connections due to mobile users transitioning between different technologies
• Higher probability of users being out of network coverage due to mobile users transitioning between different technologies
• Complexity of balancing traffic between different technologies to avoid congestion and capacity bottlenecks in any specific technology.
A key innovation by Nokia to address these issues is a new multi-layer optimization service to ensure that all layers work seamlessly and that devices make full use of the network resources. Using Nokia patented methods for interference detection and load simulation, our experts were able to reduce unnecessary inter-radio access technology (IRAT) handovers by up to 20%. Nokia's key differentiators for ensuring superior network performance include solutions such as application driven capacity optimization, subscriber focused network optimization and preventative complaints analysis. Nokia delivers specific analytics-enabled advanced services such QoE service modeling, and Nokia solutions such as application driven capacity optimization help operators design their networks for specific end-users' application demands. Nokia services such as HetNet optimization and multi-layer optimization help operators efficiently steer the traffic between network layers and maximize their available resources (spectrum and capex).
How do Nokia's network optimization solutions contribute towards better network performance as data demands continue to rise?
Operators are challenged with ever growing data demand. By 2020, they are expected to deliver 1GB of personalized data per user per day, profitably. To help operators prepare for this mobile data avalanche, Nokia recommends the following for upgrading existing 3G and 4G networks to deliver 1,000 times more data traffic.
• Significantly enhance macro network efficiency by deploying a range of innovative technologies such as MIMO and advance receivers, smart scheduling and enhanced coordinated multi point (eCoMP)
• Use new frequency bands and develop new ways to make better use of existing spectrum through carrier aggregation, deployment of new spectrum bands and authorized shared access (ASA)
• Integrate small cells into macro networks to create seamless heterogeneous networks (HetNets) with higher network density by creating advanced macro sites with sectorization, efficient HetNet management and deploying small cells
• Getting the most out of an operator's spectrum and CAPEX through Nokia services such as multi-layer optimization.
The end user perception influences different network optimization objectives and different strategies to achieve better quality of service. Some examples of how Nokia's network performance optimization services provide better end user experience include:
• Services for OTT Management: OTT applications such as Skype, YouTube and WhatsApp have changed our industry. Nokia combines insights from smart labs on devices and apps with know-how about the network. Our network planning and optimization services help to understand exactly where the devices and applications are being used, how they impact the network and the overall experience that end users get. Nokia's solutions such as application driven capacity optimization and subscriber focused network optimization help operators with such challenges.
• Services for Het-Nets to improve hotspot/indoor experience: With this we are helping operators identify more accurate location of hotspots inside buildings and at different heights for best small cell placement. This maximizes traffic offload from the macro network, minimizes interference and provides better quality, faster data services. Nokia's HetNet optimization services with 3D GL as an enabler is a key differentiator.
What other interesting trends and technologies is Nokia focusing on?
Operators need to look beyond the quadruple-play landscape and expand their customer horizon. CSPs have often lacked the agility with respect to the introduction of new telco services. Telco cloud will be a game-changer as it will act as a key lever for CSPs to accelerate the delivery of new services. By building cloud datacenters to host the new generation of virtualized telecommunications products, CSPs will be able to deploy and launch new services much faster than ever before and drive revenue growth. The shift to datacenter infrastructure will open up new revenue streams. Whereas, CSPs typically offer voice and data services, with their new datacenters they can start offering what is referred to as "anything-as-a-service", or "XaaS" for short, to public and enterprise customers. Moving to the cloud is not simply about introducing new technologies.
Whilst technology is a crucial component of the cloud, there are many other aspects, beyond the hardware and software building blocks, that need to be considered in order for a CSP to transition toward becoming a true digital services provider (DSP). Nokia's superior technical capabilities are well known; however, Nokia's value proposition is not only in its technology leadership position. We are already working closely with key customers to advise them, and help them on their cloud transformation journey.