Remember when the biggest challenge for mobile network operators (MNOs) was how to provide voice service, anywhere and anytime? Now the biggest network challenge is to consistently provide quick and reliable data services, anywhere and anytime. Delivering anywhere, anytime data services is further complicated by today’s increasingly complex heterogeneous networks (HetNets), with LTE, small cells and Wi-Fi being added to existing 2G and 3G networks. This elaborate ecosystem has made it increasingly difficult for MNOs to efficiently manage their networks and deliver consistent subscriber experiences. To further compound these challenges, data services are delivering lower revenues per bit carried because service providers need to over-provision to ensure consistent quality of experience even in low-demand service areas, meaning MNOs are being adversely impacted in terms of profitability. This “perfect storm” of barriers to delivering quality mobile services is forcing MNOs to re-evaluate and evolve the way they deliver ubiquitous network experiences and increase revenues.
The network experience is one of the most important aspects of customer satisfaction and consistent positive network experiences minimize churn. Consumers are quick to judge on a mobile operator’s ability to deliver high-quality network experiences regardless of geographic location. Customers expect the same connectivity experiences whether they’re at home in the city or on a weekend retreat in a remote town. With MNOs, such as T-Mobile, offering to pay early termination fees on behalf of customers who want out of their current contracts, it makes it easy for subscribers to abandon their “two-year ball-and-chain” should they feel that their current quality of service is unsatisfactory.
In a recent survey conducted by On Device Research on behalf of Amdocs, 47 percent of respondents put “lack of mobile data coverage” at the top of their list when asked “what do you least like about the services your current mobile operator provides”. This feedback doesn’t stem from MNOs not trying hard enough to provide ubiquitous mobile data coverage; it’s their approach that’s holding them back from a perfect five-star response. MNOs must evolve from their traditional, network-centric policy of providing quality mobile services to focus on a customer-centric approach. Instead of focusing on measuring availability and performance at a hardware level, which aggregates experiences across all subscribers and locations, MNOs have to consider where and when individual subscribers use network resources and make network decisions based on real customer insights.
For example, instead of considering the average data throughput for all subscribers in a wide geographic region, MNOs should gain an understanding of the data throughput for each subscriber at street level. This results in the ability to establish the exact impact of network performance on the customer experience. It also enables them to understand when network quality matters and when it doesn’t. There’s no point in having HD video-ready network connectivity in a location where subscribers usually only make voice calls. Having this transparent subscriber intelligence also empowers MNOs to know how much revenue is being generated in each service area, and this intelligence can be as granular as knowing the revenue-generating potential of a single neighborhood block. This significantly simplifies network decisions, such as when to deploy high-capacity, low-range small cell solutions in dense living communities or vice-versa for rural areas. Through our engagements, Amdocs has helped mobile network operators quickly identify and resolve customer experience trouble “hotspots” that have plagued them for years, leading to happier subscribers and increased loyalty.
Subscriber intelligence allows operators to rapidly make network decisions based on facts and proceed with changes that are necessitated by actual requirements to improve network quality. There are even automated solutions to help operators cope with the growing complexity of mobile network management. Software-based automation, such as self-organizing network (SON) solutions, is an integral component to the cost-effective planning, deployment, and operation of modern mobile networks.
The ROI of automated network management is maximized when it’s guided by customer experience. MNOs will know where to target network investments that will make a huge impact on customer experience and ultimately, the bottom line. During network rollout, customer experience insights can help to rapidly pinpoint the source of troubles and enable the automated system to resolve issues before it affects the wider network. Ultimately, it’s the ability to link automated network management to customer intelligence based on their experiences on live networks to massively improve network quality.
Neil Coleman is director of marketing for Amdocs RAN Solutions.