Astellia-ManagerAstellia are a sponsor partner of the LTE World Summit, taking place on June 24th-26th 2013, at the RAI Amsterdam, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to Thierry Jacq, LTE business manager to find out more about why network monitoring is so important and how it has evolved in recent years.

Why is mobile network monitoring important for operators?

Probe-based network monitoring is the only way to efficiently obtain comprehensive data on the quality experienced by subscribers on mobile networks. The collected data gives deep insight in network elements performance, handset behavior, services and applications usage and group of subscriber’s behavior such as corporate fleets that require particular quality grades based on service level agreements (SLA).

Probe-based network monitoring tools are the key source of network vendor independent KPIs necessary to benchmark equipment vendors and to evaluate the customer experience.  These tools are invaluable to operators as they are an effective way to identify and troubleshoot poor network quality and misbehaving smartphones that are not in line with 3GPP specifications. This helps to preempt customer complaints and to lower churn.

How have monitoring tools evolved over recent years?

More than 10 years ago Astellia’s Ocean probe represented the beginning of the network probing revolution. In a market where probes were complicated protocols analysers dedicated to troubleshooting, Astellia’s product offered a QoS KPI generator, changing every subscriber into a drive-tester.  Today Astellia takes it some steps further: driving the customer experience through customer analytics. Customer experience management (CEM) is becoming fundamental for mobile operators to differentiate themselves and to succeed. To drive customer experience, operators need to have a 360° visibility into customer’s usage behavior, the network both RAN and Core, and the handset. Therefore, mobile operators need probe-based monitoring solutions which can detect, analyse, correlate, report and troubleshoot issues which are linked to network efficiency, QoE, roaming, handset performance and application usage.

What differentiates one monitoring tool from another? What should a carrier’s CTO look for?

The first thing would be end-to-end monitoring. A mobile network is a set of interworking network elements and as such it is crucial to monitor the network from core to the radio access (RAN) part in order to detect any weak link. Most quality degradations are coming from the RAN, so unique RAN expertise is something CTOs should look for. CTOs should also pay attention to the tools’ capturing and processing capacity. Data is still surging in mobile networks and probes have to be ready to deal with this amount of data.  Data content awareness is another important element. Awareness of the most used services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and traffic generated by OTT applications (Skype, Whatsapp, etc) is key to be able to optimise a mobile network where, by definition, capacity is limited.

What are the particular challenges that LTE brings that differ from 2G and 3G networks?

LTE’s expectations in terms of throughput and quality are very high. This new technology has been deployed very quickly compared to 2G and 3G, and the integration and the ‘user friendly phase’ have been shortened considerably. As such, operators are under financial pressure to monetise LTE very quickly. LTE introduces a new network layer and new vendors that have to interoperate correctly. This challenge is complicated by the fact that LTE is a pure data network: if you receive a voice call your smartphone has to fall back to 3G layer before taking the call. In order to provide high-quality network services to an increased volume of consumers, mobile network monitoring and optimization is key.

What’s the link between network monitoring and customer retention?

Customer retention is a multi-faceted challenge that encompasses all interactions between the subscriber and his service provider. Probe-based network monitoring brings operators the assurance to quickly detect and fix the root cause of dissatisfaction in a proactive way, hereby providing reliable services to an ever more demanding customer base. Customer Care agents for instance can get a detailed overview of the subscriber activity and identify issues encountered by the subscriber as well as the cause of the problem. Thanks to these probe-based data, they can improve first call resolution time and reduce significantly the number of trouble tickets sent to level 2 teams. Furthermore, collecting and analysing data about customer usage enables the marketing department to propose services and data plans adapted to the subscriber needs, thus increasing satisfaction and ARPU.

Meet Thierry Jacq during the LTE World Summit on Tuesday June 25th at 15h00 on Track 4 where he will be presenting Big data analytics: ‘Extract network and customer insight from Big data – Turn it into action’.

Astellia are nominated for the Best Test/Measurement LTE Product, at the LTE Awards, taking place  at the LTE Awards 2013, taking place at the 25 June 2013, De Duif, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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