Traditionally, network planning and optimisation software has been used to plan and add the right capacity, in order to improve network efficiency and provide the best customer experience. Currently, operators are enhancing their performance as it is key to be successful in the region.
Paul Black, director of telecoms and media at IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa
Rami Boctor, CTO at Vodafone Qatar
Alaa Hadi, senior sales manager, MEA and CIS at Tektronix Communications
Teemu Salmi, VP and head of operations at Ericsson, region Middle East
CommsMEA: How are operators working with vendors to improve their network performance?
Black: Currently operators are looking to develop their data analytics capabilities to improve their network performance. Some of their requirements from vendors are geo location based traffic and performance analysis. Performance analysis includes number of customers, KPIs, drop call rate, and particularly location coverage. Operators are looking for tools that provide more insights from the measurements gathered from the network such as geo coding of the performance issues and also type of handsets that experience the most problems, so that operators can provide better customer experience. Overall, operators want to align technical performance KPIs to the overall customer experience indicators and business objectives.
CommsMEA: Users are also demanding ubiquity when enjoying the operators’ services. How are operators enhancing their networks to offer the content customers want anytime and anywhere?
Black: Operators have started to build their content platforms through partnerships with global vendors.
Cloud based delivery of content to multiscreen is becoming a telco industry standard with the growing smart devices penetration and migration to fixed and mobile next-generation networks to ensure seamless content delivery.
Boctor: Service providers are integrating services into the mobile phones applications portfolio. With bigger and stronger partner roaming networks internationally, these services are available to the subscribers at the touch of their fingerprints anywhere they go.
Salmi: Telcos have to participate in the ICT transformation by developing and altering the architecture of their various platforms. This may entail transitioning from copper cables to microwave solutions; introducing LTE services designed to meet their respective countries’ growing demands; and deploying small cells into urban sites to improve their network offerings. The point is, operators will have to rely on various analytics to not just preempt users’ expectations but also meet them. Customers expect a ubiquitous experience across different platforms and devices both indoors and out.
Operators have to address broadband concerns and manage limitations to ensure that their offerings are completely aligned with user expectations and a robust omnichannel experience can be achieved.
Hegazi: Operators in the region realise that ubiquity is an important aspect that consumers and customers are looking for. They are investing in convergence on the network level and on the service level to make this happen. We can see that operators see the economic and cost benefit and service benefit to converge the network into a single multi-service network.
In various GCC countries, they have moved in this direction to converge the access, the backhaul, and aggregation for both, fixed and mobile.
Seamless MPLS is becoming the way forward to tie all the network layers from aggregation to core over one transport technology. IP Multimedia subsystem is becoming the common session control layer to provide service convergence to setup, control, and manage sessions.
In the fixed and mobile domain, service providers in the region need to allow service mobility between fixed and mobile and across devices to their customers.
CommsMEA: How are operators in the MEA region monitoring their network performance?
Black: Operators in the MEA are primarily using a combination of CEM tools and performance management tools to monitor their network performance.
Boctor: Network performance is monitored in different dimensions – through network performance indicators, drive testing, customer complaints, probe-based feeds and crowd sourcing tools.
Hegazi: Operators are monitoring their network performance via full-fledged OSS systems and service aware management systems. Also monitoring user devices via device management applications is being used in the region. Service providers are also collecting network statistics and using offline or online analytics systems to analyse the performance.
Reports are being generated and shared with CTO and COO to indicate network status and performances and capability to match needed service level agreements.
CommsMEA: Do you see an impact in the adoption of next generation networks given the current state of political unrest seen in a few markets?
Salmi: Yes. There is a direct correlation. Any kind of political instability in a country will have a knock-on effect on the progress and development of any industry and the ICT sector is no different nor immune. An unstable climate, would translate into longer periods of market maturity, as well as longer time frames for operators to benefit from any investments made to the industry during that time. Operators should also be aware that the propensity for customers to adopt readily on telecommunications offerings will take time.
Boctor: Security concerns in the region are increasing challenges for the cellular operators in the region. Networks have been impacted because of interference in their licenced bands, and more severely because of shut downs to disrupt the public communication channels that costs revenue. Generally such challenges are not easily preventable, but operators have taken certain measures to minimise the impact. For example, in some countries mobile operators have improved subscriber registration processes to help law enforcement with security challenges. Mobile operators have also invested in security and filtering infrastructure to prevent exploitation of mobile networks in anti-social activities.
CommsMEA: Which are the most common problems faced by operators in the region when trying to deliver a better service to their customers?
Black: Traffic growth is the main problem for operators in the region. Mobile data traffic in the region, especially in countries like KSA and UAE is tremendously increasing. In KSA, mobile data traffic has almost reached the fixed broadband traffic and is forecast to grow 11 fold from 2014-2019 at CAGR of 62% according to Cisco VNI forecast. Growing penetration of smartphones and consumption of video via these devices is placing ever increasing pressure on networks to match the network capacity with demand.
Salmi: Ensuring connectivity and communication across the spectrum — via radio or other services — is increasingly important for both the economic and social development of these countries. The emergence of OTT players — most of whom are using telecoms networks to reach customers directly — is impacting revenues. Telcos have to diversify their offerings and, instead of being a “pure data pipe”, leverage their existing service capabilities to add value that is greater than just data connectivity. They should shift their focus so they can become smart pipes that deliver unique solutions that extend beyond bandwidth and network speed. It is also imperative for governments and regulators to secure additional spectrum resources to support the forecasted growth in mobile broadband traffic.