The expression, "You can't see the forest for the trees," applies to those who are so singularly focused on the details of a situation that they're unable to take a step back and gain a perspective of how those details relate to each other and to the overall view.
For mobile operators, seeing the "forest" isn't usually a problem. Those that have full, end-to-end visibility across the entire network are able to see when network conditions deteriorate, allowing them to quickly prioritize and address specific problem clusters accordingly.
The problem for operators is that while they may have visibility across the whole network, they could lack a detailed view of individual subscribers who may be experiencing network and service performance problems. This is common in today's networks, as increasing network complexity has masked individual subscriber problems from the view of mobile operators.
Why is this actually a problem, though? Mobile operators may think that even if a handful of subscribers experience service interruptions, those problems can be corrected without damaging the subscriber's perception of the operator. They may also think that even if a few, select subscribers churn out because of frustration, their loss won't dramatically affect the operator's bottom line.
There are two problems with this line of thinking -- not all subscribers generate the same return for the mobile operator and some have lower thresholds of what they consider to be unacceptable performance. What about the enterprise customer trying to access an ERP or critical operation, only to run into productivity-halting network performance interruptions? Or the CFO of a global enterprise trying unsuccessfully to make a phone call, browse the Internet or use a data service while commuting home from the office?
In both of those scenarios, VIP subscribers -- often high-paying businesses, public figures or individuals with a tendency to speak up on social media or in the press -- could become so frustrated with their service that they consider moving to another mobile operator. This is a real problem, and it's one that mobile operators have no choice but to address.
Bridging the visibility gap
The mobile phone market is more saturated than ever. Developing markets continue to see substantial growth, while the US market has actually reached an inflection point, with IDC predicting that smartphone shipments will actually decline from 174 million to 169 million between 2014 and 2018. Given these high levels of saturation, subscribers are at a premium and mobile operators cannot afford high rates of churn, particularly among their highest-paying, VIP customers.
To these subscribers, service degradation isn't just a minor annoyance: It's all the reason some may need to switch operators and take their high-spend accounts elsewhere. This is why subscribers need to be at the center of the troubleshooting conversation and why mobile operators must proactively prevent problems and assure quality of experience (QoE).
Yet, simultaneous to service assurance and reduction of churn becoming more critical for mobile operators, widespread, overarching network changes have made it even more difficult for operators to do so. As traffic has increased and subscribers use more bandwidth, networks have become more complex and dense to meet demand -- there are more devices, more circuits and more technologies, making it more challenging for mobile operators to assure consistent network performance.
There are also limitations to traditional service assurance practices deployed by operators. For most, cell-level KPIs (key performance indicators) are aggregated and propagated by site, cluster, city and country, and then alarms are triggered when KPI thresholds -- availability, traffic, integrity, retainability or drop call rate -- are exceeded. But this method of network performance management doesn't allow mobile operators to determine which outages and service performance degradations are affecting VIP customers.
Imagine a scenario in which one VIP subscriber is unable to complete a call after trying ten times. The drop call rate for that subscriber would be 100%, yet the collective site drop call rate -- what the mobile operator actually sees -- may only register at an acceptable 0.5%.
Without visibility into the VIP subscriber's difficulties, every minute the operator doesn't act is another minute closer to the customer getting to their tipping point. The subscriber will wonder whether the mobile operator can be trusted to deliver consistent mobile network connectivity to support their critical business applications, and perhaps reconsider their agreement with the operator.
Adopting a subscriber-aware approach
A shift of focus for network performance management that puts subscribers at the center allows mobile operators to track QoE of selected customers around-the-clock, enabling them to accelerate and escalate diagnostics and troubleshooting procedures as needed, even across the most complex, convergent, cross-domain scenarios.
By combining both subscriber geo-localized analytics and end-to-end network intelligence, mobile operators are better able to track subscriber QoE and detect the network problems that are most relevant to the VIP subscriber, and therefore to the mobile operator as well.
With this approach, an operator will see both the "forest" and the "trees" -- and have the ability to cater to the customers that matter the most to their business.
— Affandy Johan, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Mobile Optimization Solutions, InfoVista