Crucial in the process of cementing LTE's commercial success will be understanding how subscribers behave on 4G
By Warren Dumanski, vice president of sales and marketing at Newfield Wireless
Global wireless operators are currently searching for ways to ensure LTE deployments reach the potential expected of them. This is challenging, as operators have few points of reference to measure against when it comes to the performance of all-data networks. Crucial in the process of cementing LTE's commercial success will be a thorough understanding of how subscribers behave on these new networks.
The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and connected devices, as well as subscriber demand for data, has ensured a rapid global rollout of LTE networks. According to 4G Americas, there will be one billion HSPA and LTE connections at the end of this March alone.
Recently, Canada's Telus followed an international trend of launching LTE after its rival regional operators had done so. Telus is the third operator to launch LTE services in the country, following in the footsteps of Rogers Communications and Bell Canada, and the latest to face the challenge of an LTE rollout. No doubt, we will see a similar domino effect in the UK and across Europe as soon as the major operators in the region commit to LTE.
Smoothing the path to LTEA lack of historical reference points means operators have effectively been working 'in the dark' when deploying LTE. However, carriers now have the ability to assess the performance of their new LTE network deployments with network visualisation and optimisation applications.
These solutions are able to drill down to an individual subscriber's calls, messaging and data sessions, providing a rich tapestry of invaluable network information. Using these applications will enable operators to process some of the subscriber and network information in real time, allowing them to identify usage trends and in some cases, potential issues before they escalate and impact on the end user experience.
Traditionally, RF and network performance engineers have had to 'drive test' networks. Drive testing is a process in which a vehicle, containing mobile radio network air interface measurement equipment, is driven around a geographic area detecting, and recording, a variety of physical and virtual network performance data.
However, network visualisation and optimisation tools allow subscribers to effectively drive test the LTE network for the operator. Information from subscribers' voice and data sessions can also be looked at individually, or rolled into area or network-wide assessments pertaining to coverage, traffic and data throughput. This information can allow the operator to optimise the network; and ensure it is performing to a high standard in real time.
As with the deployment of any mobile network there will always be teething issues. Network visualisation and optimisation tools can drill down to individual calls and let operators assess if a complaint is related to a problem on the network, or with a certain device. This information can be passed to the customer care representatives, who can, in turn, provide engineers with actionable data to solve the issue, thereby improving the customer's experience on the network in the future. Moreover, information gathered on subscriber usage patterns and location can be distributed to different departments across the business; in order to streamline marketing and business models and drive service uptake.
Capital expenditure is a huge priority for operators when deciding whether or not to deploy LTE networks. Network optimisation tools are already in operation with existing 3G networks. The knowledge they provide related to demand on legacy networks can be utilised to form network planning strategies, allowing for the prioritisation of site locations and investment in network infrastructure for the 4G network.
Ensuring a future for LTEInsatiable subscriber demand for mobile data is driving the growth of LTE deployments. But operators must find ways of rolling out LTE as cost effectively and efficiently as possible. Deploying, and maintaining, a high performance LTE network is expensive. However, by harnessing visualisation and optimisation tools this costly process can be mitigated.
These tools offer operators a window into the subscriber experience of their LTE network. This ability to visualise, and optimise, LTE networks can help define an operator's engineering strategies. The information these solutions provide can help to improve network planning, optimise problems in the network and make informed decisions on business models. Crucially, this information can enable LTE to achieve commercial success.
Newfield Wireless delivers network visualisation software and specialised engineering services to wireless operators so they can improve their subscriber experience.