Pipeline Publishing, Volume 3, Issue 11
This Month's Issue: 
Beyond Quad Play: XoIP 
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Making XoIP Deliver QoE
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By Eileen Haggerty, NetScout Systems

We see it everywhere - people are surfing the web on their laptops over lattes in coffee shops and participating in web-based demos over business lunches in restaurants; doctors and nurses are using advanced PDA devices in hospitals and clinics to review patient EKGs and drug interactions; airports are filled with travelers using their mobile phones and BlackBerries for talking, sending photos, or checking emails; and the virtual office is really here with employees on computers in home offices participating in live video conferences with their corporate headquarters. These are just a few examples of how individual subscribers, enterprise businesses, and government agencies are all driving demand for XoIP services. Be it personal interest, recreational / entertainment pursuits, or strictly business, the opportunity for capturing revenue with the growth in demand for IP-based services is increasing steadily. However, the opportunity brings with it challenges never before encountered when it comes to a quality end-user experience.

Opportunities and Challenges
The opportunity for service providers is to offer competitively designed and priced services to capture subscribers, network access, and IP service delivery for as many of these uses as possible. Once upon a time, it was easy to identify the different operators for different services, such as fixed wire voice, fixed wire data, cable, and mobile services. Today, the lines have blurred due to mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships, new business models like VNOs, as well as newly developed and deployed network architectures like IMS. Any provider interested in sustained growth must embrace this chance to attract new customers by offering combinations of these services. The challenge faced by these providers is subscribers’ expectations – that is they expect a high-quality service experience regardless of the access method or which service is in play.

Think about your own personal experiences with IP-based services over the last five years – would you say your tolerance for the quality of delivery for your cellular phone service has evolved over time? Perhaps five years ago you tolerated a slow dial-up connection from home for accessing personal email, but today do you become frustrated if you have slow internet access over your broadband or if your WiFi connection at Starbucks keeps dropping? This change in expected QoE levels has created an even greater challenge for providers now wanting to deliver XoIP services across any number of fixed line broadband, wireless, cable, and/or metro Ethernet access methods. As operators move into each of these new areas of IP service delivery, they will face what wireless providers contend with

Be it personal interest, recreational / entertainment pursuits, or strictly business, the opportunity for capturing revenue with the growth in demand for IP-based services is increasing steadily.

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daily -- subscriber loyalty, or lack thereof, and the subsequent ever-present threat of customer churn.

Service Assurance
The answer to avoiding churn is to maintain the balance between service mix, price, and customer experience. The IP revolution has certainly brightened the future for service mix flexibility, and price is driven by market conditions. The greatest remaining challenge lies in understanding and managing service quality and customer experience. New strategies for customer-centric service assurance are required to address this formidable challenge. Regardless of the access technology deployed, providers must be able to monitor, track, and trend network and service performance.

You’ve probably heard the adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” and in the case of IP, being able to measure starts with establishing direct visibility into the IP service delivery fabric to understand the activity and behavior of each customer’s service usage. Further, that visibility needs to be available in real-time so that customer care inquiries can be addressed without delay and, better yet, service-affecting issues can be anticipated and corrected before subscribers start complaining. Device management and signaling management have a long-standing history in service provider networks, however the actual service flows of subscriber activity are not revealed with either of these tool sets. Monitoring and analysis of the metrics and KPIs, subscriber service flows and conversations, including easy access to the packet streams that comprise the services delivered, is the missing link.

Performance monitoring solutions that leverage packet inspection technology are available and deliver real-time operational intelligence spanning from high level application and conversation flow information all the way down to a reservoir of the actual

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