News From Telecom World

Mobile network optimisation: A cross-eyed vision key for data services

Posted on: October 22, 2008

Network monitoring systems can help operators maximise ROI, and can significantly reduce customer churn.

The complexity of wireless networks will increase dramatically over the next five years due to the rapid adoption of mobile data services based on 3G architectures. For operators pursuing the dream of a 4G migration (e.g. 3.5G/HSDPA to 3.75G/HSPA to an eventual 4G/LTE), the complexity will be particularly intense.

To date, a mobile data service is considered anything that a smartphone [or like device] offers in the way of basic HTTP/SMTP connectivity to the Internet. That landscape is about to change. In the near future, it will be content-rich, interactive services such as video calling, mobile gaming, blogging and podcasting that will set operators apart.

Introducing these services is no easy task, however, as the multi-service networks required to deliver them are much more complicated than legacy voice and basic data networks. Operators must be more focused on the customer experience than ever before.

Thus a critical challenge for the operators lies in Optimising the monitoring and troubleshooting process across the network and service planes – hence the term cross-eyed vision – to deal with the new paradigm of advanced mobile data services in a converged voice/data network environment.

In almost every case, this optimisation process will force a re-evaluation of how front/back-end processes function, as operators must be much more knowledgeable about business intelligence and how network/service performance affects other aspects of their business. In many cases, this also requires an upgrade of existing monitoring/test tools which may not have rich enough capabilities for both network and service-level analysis.

A few examples will help illustrate challenges in this new cross-eyed environment, where network and service planes must be intelligently correlated for effective mobile data services.

Mobile data service measurements
For legacy mobile voice, network-plane measurements such as latency, delay, jitter and perhaps bit-error rate are sufficient to assess QoS. Historically, if these measurements in a mobile network are good, we can assume service quality is good.

For mobile data services, this is no longer always true. We still require network-plane measurements, but as the illustration shows, mobile data services require a much richer assortment of metrics to assess quality of service. For mobile data services, we are much more interested in the end-users’ actual quality of experience (or QoE). Thus, the new paradigm (at least for the telco world) of data service-oriented measurements such as TCP/UDP/IP analysis and perhaps more importantly, DNS and HTTP analysis, become paramount.

Service monitoring
For voice and basic data networks, the process of network planning and bandwidth provisioning is fairly straightforward as individual bandwidth usage is fairly easy to predict with basic statistics. For the new data services, bandwidth usage can vary wildly depending on which services are used.

For example, simple Web browsing from a PDA phone requires little bandwidth, but what about the group of users who are using peer-to-peer (P2P) services such as FrostWire or eMule to download large files 24 hours a day?

Worse yet, mobile applications used to be fairly asymmetrical in terms of upstream/downstream bandwidth requirements. Many new interactive applications such as mobile gaming and video calling are drastically upsetting this balance with huge demand for upstream bandwidth.
Thus it is imperative, again with cross-eyed vision, to assess how service-plane activities are impacting network-plane metrics. The same can be said, of course, for the converse. That is, mobile data services can be impacted severely by network-level issues as discussed in the last section.

Fast responses
The best way to address a service problem is to solve it before a user actually experiences it. Thus operators must adopt a much more proactive approach to addressing service issues than before.

As an example, by correlating real-time analysis on user and group-level behaviour with actual network and node behaviour, the operator can predict and alarm on emerging service issues such as network congestion, service breakdown and roaming/handoff problems.

Fast reactions also become critical in this new service paradigm. From the time the front office receives a trouble ticket to the time the back office is able to drill down and determine the root cause must now be measured in minutes, rather than hours or days.

In short, while mobile data services are an attractive goal, there are significant challenges that must be overcome for their successful deployment. At the forefront of these is the requirement to become cross-eyed, that is, to become aware not only of network and service-level issues prevalent in the network, but how those critically inter-dependent areas impact each other.

Such awareness can be easily achieved with deployment of a network monitoring system with the ability to correlate across these two planes. Not only can such systems maximise ROI by providing more efficient multi-layer test capabilities, but they can significantly reduce customer churn as a result of much higher quality data services.

Michele Campriani is general manager of Sunrise Telecom’s protocol products group.

Source: Total Telecom

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