By Trevor Dearing, EMEA marketing director for Gigamon
Modern mobile subscribers are demanding. While SMS and voice were once satisfactory, social networking, online gaming and streaming HD media have become the new must-have capabilities for customers. The ‘always on’ lifestyle is further driven by a need for reliable and fast connectivity from home, work and all points in between, which has well and truly changed the game for carriers. The channel must keep up with the latest solutions to ensure that – as networks are pushed to the limit – revenue opportunities are not missed and service quality does not suffer.
A major problem is the fact that many service providers lack the necessary visibility across their networks, which creates a number of blind spots that could impact performance as next-generation services are rolled out. While it is true that most solutions on the market deliver some insight into network activity, they often lack the intelligence to link application usage patterns with individual subscribers for an end-to-end view. Add to that the issue of mobile device fragmentation, the potential for service-impacting handset configurations, the dynamic application developer ecosystem – and carriers soon find that their networks become complex and difficult to manage. More importantly, new revenue channels become virtually impossible to spot.
Performance drives loyalty
As the stakes become higher, and customer loyalty dips, carriers and their channel partners must work together to implement solutions that can manage the complexity of today’s networks, optimise the end-user experience, manage network capacity and pave the way for new service offerings.
When it comes to keeping customers, user experience is the most important consideration for carriers today. Pervasive visibility into network availability and performance are therefore critical to gauge end-user Quality of Experience (QoS), and solutions should be sought to offer the deepest level of intelligence possible.
While smartphones and tablets have certainly boosted speeds and bandwidth, this is not always equally shared among customers. It has been said that a very small percentage of users generate the most network load, which illustrates that heavy users are effectively impacting the QoS of other users. Until now, the lack of subscriber-level visibility has more often than not led carriers to develop and market ‘one-size-fits-all’ data packages and tariffs that have little effect on congestion – and more worryingly, caused a negative impact on the majority of subscribers who are stuck with slower speeds.
A change is coming
As well as bandwidth issues, other factors can affect performance across networks (both current and future).
Engineering and planning teams navigating the transformation to next generation network technologies will have to contend with emerging devices, significantly more data traffic and sudden surges in popularity over the latest ‘must have’ devices. This makes the development of cost-effective, high capacity networks inherently difficult. To make matters worse, operators simply cannot optimise the design and management of their networks without fully understanding the drivers of traffic – in terms of applications, devices, subscriber behaviour, usage patterns, etc. Essentially, only by purchasing the right tools to enable pervasive visibility that correlates and characterises customer, application and operational data, will they be successful.
With this, more operators will be able to move away from universal, flat rate pricing plans. With the right guidance from partners, the evolution to LTE will impact not just carrier network operations, but it could also influence business models and revenue streams. Deep intelligence will enable the creation of tailored portfolios and pricing strategies based on usage patterns and premium level content – helping operators to improve customer service and reposition their business to become more services-centric. This in turn will help them to profit from the increased demand for content and applications that comes with LTE.
See what you’re missing
With the right advice and the right solutions, gaining subscriber level intelligence, understanding usage, performance and consumption trends will allow carriers to make better business decisions, maximise profits and create new revenue streams. The solutions are available to delve deeper into the millions of flows, thousands of events and hundreds of changes that occur within a network at any given time.
Carriers should be demanding the ability to prioritise critical traffic flows or applications over non-essential ones, to properly design next generation networks and to protect the integrity of QoS in order to reduce churn – as well as to generally obtain a tighter grip over their networks. The opportunities presented by today’s increasingly complex infrastructures should be seized with both hands by channel partners.
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