Activating Quality of Experience KPIs in Your Network

By: Alexander Havang

Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 5G were all the rage at Mobile World Congress this year. Each, in its own way, is a critical network enabler, with analytics and AI already having impact and 5G appearing to be the future endgame. With the transition to 5G just ahead, how do we evolve our current networks, operations, and investments to make this shift more seamless?  

The answer is that we need to focus on the business “first principles” that will continue to be fundamental in both the 4G and 5G eras. Network quality of experience (QoE) is one of these fundamental areas that is poised for rapid advancement as industry, technology, and operational forces join to deliver better QoE analytics, actions, and outcomes.

Network QoE Today

Today’s network QoE analytics are largely used to measure the impact that network resources and operational actions have had on the experience of operator-provided applications and services. These metrics help operators stay attuned to the impact that their tactical and strategic decisions have on customer QoE. The QoE metrics used by many operators are usually very basic and are centered on throughput and uptime, which are not always very actionable.

Existing QoE metrics are also used to take corrective actions when network conditions degrade and deliver subpar services. These actions are generally applied as use cases such as those that manage traffic in times of congestion, optimize traffic performance, and use current resources more efficiently and cost-effectively; generally, these actions are fairly static in nature, implementing a specific corrective action based on a small set of conditions without considering other, potentially more disruptive underlying problems.

Innovation is Coming

Advancements in QoE are underway as the industry prepares for high-quality 5G services and as operators have become more knowledgeable from their own in-house QoE initiatives. In due time, operators should have far more capabilities for delivering better quality—and for providing it on a more consistent basis.

Two leading industry bodies are taking significant steps on these fronts. The 3GPP 5G standards body has introduced a Network Data Analytics (NWDA) function for mobile network architectures and has defined a collection of initial use cases that specify the kind of data that can be provided to feed 5G network decisions.

ETSI has recognized the importance of customer experience and launched an Experiential Network Intelligence (ENI) Industry Specification Group (ISG) to define a context-aware system using AI. ETSI envisions that the control model should be “observe-orient-decide-act,” in which the AI and network analytics are used to adjust services based on real-time changes in user needs, environmental conditions, and business goals.

In tandem, these two powerful initiatives will combine to identify and act in more powerful and specific ways than are currently available. Current QoE resources will provide the foundation for near-term advancements and evolve to create a disruptive advantage for mobile operators today—and in the 5G future.

Embracing Change

Although change is afoot, it’s best to reexamine your current network QoE activities in light of today’s best practices. Yes, future networks will be faster, more automated, and much more agile, but many of today’s greatest subscriber quality challenges will apply for years to come. Content and apps will be king, subscribers will want more personalization and self-service, higher-resolution videos will continue to drive up traffic volumes, and a burgeoning number of additional devices will demand an increasing number of network connections.


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