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Making Your Network Speak: The Power of Analytics

Operators today need every advantage to successfully navigate complex issues

As new smart-connected devices ship at a record pace and more and more people join the mobile world, strained networks are bound to incur the occasional dropped call or slow-loading app. However, users are growing less tolerant of service "hiccups" and are more demanding of consistent mobile performance. Mobile operators must provide a solid customer experience in order to retain customers, even though many device- and app-related issues are beyond their control.

In addition to daily service assurance and operational challenges, mobile operators are faced with other problems. For starters, the pace of technical change, coupled with an unprecedented demand for bandwidth, wreaks havoc on infrastructure planning activities. To further complicate matters, competition is no longer limited to other carriers. Over the top (OTT) apps are draining revenues. And many consumers are choosing providers based on devices or other factors that have nothing to do network quality.

Operators today need every advantage to successfully navigate these complex issues.  Luckily, the intelligence they need can be gleaned from the vast amount of data floating around the network.   What would the network tell operators if it had a voice?

1. How Specific Devices, Apps and Customer Behaviors Impact Customer Experience:
Each element in a mobile communication can affect the individual experience. Customer behavior, applications, services and specific devices all interact with the network differently. For example, iPhone 4S users, with new features such as iCloud and the intelligent personal assistant Siri, consume about twice as much data as those with an iPhone 4.  App-centric activities consume more bandwidth than browser-centric activities.  An in-depth understanding of the many ways these factors combine and consume resources allows operators to enrich customer experience in both the short and long term.

2. Where the Next Failure Will Occur:
Deteriorating conditions indicate a potential problem before it fully manifests itself. Alerting the right people and providing them with intelligence in real-time on where the problem is occurring enables operators to preempt issues before they can impact the customer experience.

3. How Quality Fluctuates:
Network operators are accountable to their customers for the QoS they provide - whether they serve consumers, businesses or other providers. Understanding quality across today's complex mobile environment is extremely important for more stringent control over profits, partner contracts and customer relationships. It also enables companies to leverage LTE's guaranteed QoS capabilities to implement tiered pricing plans or set service levels based on a variety of parameters.

4. Which Infrastructure Investment will have the Greatest Impact on Customer Experience:
Given the complexity of today's mobile networks, the old practice of overprovisioning and waiting for demand to reach capacity is obsolete. Operators need a complete understanding of chokepoints - whether they are due to heavy demand for video, under-subscribed HSS servers or tower access - to pinpoint investments and effectively enrich the mobile experience.

5. How OTT Apps are Impacting Business:
Quantifying consumer OTT app usage, including how much bandwidth these apps drain, allows operators to understand the scale - and the ramifications - of evolving customer behaviors. This type of intelligence can help operators design new apps, business models and strategies for thriving in today's complex, evolving market.

Additionally, a mobile operator's best asset - their own network - is the key to many of these issues.  Embedded in the traffic it carries is crucial intelligence that companies can leverage to make informed decisions across the organization. Included in these network data streams is information pertaining to:

  • Devices - Different devices require differing amounts of bandwidth when they connect and maintain communications with the network. All of that device and signaling information is captured in each mobile session.
  • Applications - Not only do networks know which apps customers are using, they also track how well they perform and how much bandwidth they consume.
  • Geography/mobility management - Customers utilize many network types, elements, service delivery methods and connections as they move between locations and/or use different applications.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) - Networks house a tremendous amount of information on requested, negotiated and delivered service quality for every mobile session.

Transforming endless streams of data into actionable information for solving complex issues can seem daunting. To get started, operators need to collect - and intelligently correlate - data on each mobile transaction from end-to-end as they traverse the complex mobile environment, regardless of network protocol or service delivery method. It also requires information from the network and application layers and properly correlated user and control plane data streams.

With network analytics, mobile operators can trend, enrich and manipulate multiple data points and KPIs to reveal the intelligence they need to meet today's difficult challenges.  As this information becomes an integral part of an operators' decision-making processes, they will reveal business-changing answers to questions operators didn't even know they had.

More Stories By Tim Moynihan

Tim Moynihan serves as vice president of marketing at Empirix. In this role, Tim is responsible for strategic business planning and product revenue growth strategies as well as expanding Empirix's position as the market leader in service quality assurance solutions for enterprises and service providers. These responsibilities include providing executive leadership, managing their individual business units on both an internal and external basis as well as overseeing marketing objectives worldwide.

Tim earned his bachelor's degree at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and received his MBA from Purdue University.

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