One thing became very clear after attending the LTE MENA conference in Dubai over the past few days: Customer Experience is a major item on mobile operators’ minds. Jerry Gregoire, the former CIO of Dell, nailed it when he said, "The customer experience is the next competitive battleground."
The conference had many presentations from mobile operators that emphasized that they believed that the quality and performance of their networks would allow them to compete more effectively in the market and enable them to better monetize their network.
But a key question to reflect on is “How do you define the mobile experience?”
There are some obvious metrics and some that are not covered by traditional solutions that are installed in mobile networks today. Some of these metrics are:
- Do I have good coverage?
Without coverage, the service is doomed to failure, and operators all agreed that phase 1 was to get “some” coverage, and phase 2 was to get comprehensive coverage (as much as possible). Any solution monitoring customer experience needs to understand the subscriber’s view of their RAN connectivity.
- Does the service deliver the expected performance?
Although speed tests are actually one of the worst ways to determine the customer experience, if a user buys a high-speed service and never sees good performance, they will be dissatisfied. This includes cases where operators throttle after a customer hits their limit; the customer ends up seeing a “slow service”, even if they were told they were now being throttled. Understanding what performance that the subscriber is seeing (not a speed test, but the actual real-time performance) is a mandatory requirement.
- Do the applications that I use on the network perform as expected?
This is a really tough one for RAN-centric monitoring solutions today. Getting good data on the applications performance on the network (do Facebook uploads go fast, do videos stall, how long does a web page take to load) requires application-layer visibility and enhanced QoE metrics.
- What real-time information is available for proactive and reactive problem resolution?
This is especially true in the area of customer service, where customers are frustrated when the customer care professional tells them that the RAN is operating perfectly, but the IP layer is not, and no one knows why. After being transferred two or three times, it is easy to see that the customer experience is not very positive. A solution is required that combines real-time RAN and IP visibility down to the single subscriber.
I look forward to seeing what solutions are adopted by operators that can meet these requirements, as they appear to be key to ensuring a high QoE for mobile subscribers.
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