Despite rapidly growing momentum that is fuelling 4G and VoLTE growth, a number of challenges remain. While an increasing number of operators have invested in, deployed and launched 4G / VoLTE service capabilities, that does not necessarily translate into financial success. In order to ensure long-term profitability and successful returns on their investments, operators must focus their attention on three key challenges.
These key challenges are:
- Deployment of LTE and VoLTE, on time and on budget
- Ensuring operational performance to deliver the best customer experience of 4G VoLTE services
- Deciding on the best future network investments
There’s a logical sequence underpinning these challenges which suggests that the right approach is to address them in series, but that’s not the whole story. A better approach is to consider how they are connected and how they relate to each other as part of a deeper understanding of network life cycles.
The complexity of LTE and VoLTE is well-known. More than one operator has publicly said that deploying VoLTE is the most difficult technical feat that they have managed to date. Carriers typically have complex, multi-domain and multi-vendor networks to manage, which can affect their ability to implement VoLTE successfully, dramatically undermining user experience.
What is needed is a comprehensive programme of end-to-end testing to confirm interoperability between networks and different system elements. The ability to support functional and load testing is crucial for easing the path towards successful VoLTE service launch and can have a significant impact on time to market, helping to reduce costs.
However, this is merely the first step in our journey. Operators have to not only launch VoLTE services, but also ensure they deliver the expected levels of operational performance and the appropriate customer experience to their users. To do this, operators need access to data that can provide information on the performance of each element, interfaces, user equipment and more. By combining different data points, operators can secure a detailed picture of the performance of their networks and how users interact with them. This requires a unified approach that spans all network domains and elements.
“Collecting and immediately interpreting real-time data from all domains in mobile networks, including VoLTE, is of critical importance as it can provide valuable information that helps operators anticipate problems and stop them from happening.”
It is also abundantly clear that such data can inform other processes in the operator’s organisation. It can provide insight into customer experiences and help operators deliver better services. In other words, it can be the foundation of a complete programme of customer experience management. However, for this to happen, data must also be spread and shared throughout the operator’s organisation in support of initiatives to enhance customer experience.
In the past, it’s been difficult to access such data, but that is changing. Data analytics is changing from being the specialist preserve of experts to something that underpins a host of organisational initiatives. In a sense, data is being democratised so that it is becoming not just available, but accessible to more users. As a result, more people can understand operational efficiency and collaborate to ensure the best experience in delivered to customers.
Data, then, is the key to ensuring operational success, but what of the future? How can operators ensure their ongoing and future network investments are directed more effectively and in a manner that increases returns? The answer, of course, also lies in data.
Network data and the insights it can yield will help operators to make more effective investment decisions. They will help them decide where to invest, where and when to increase capacity, and to better ensure that they anticipate user demand based on real information on consumption, behaviour and performance.
All of which means that operators will go through cycles of deployment and network enhancement, with a constant need to maintain operational performance. They will need the ability to perform end-to-end testing not only when VoLTE is first deployed, but for each network upgrade or expansion. The process doesn’t stop but rather proceeds in a continual cycle: successful 4G and VoLTE deployments must be followed by the effective delivery of these services to paying customers. Customers that pay expect a reasonable experience as a result. Good experiences lead to increased demand, which needs to be accurately delivered, and so on.
Networks do not reach static, equilibrium positions. Instead, operators need to be prepared to expect the unexpected and to anticipate change, even as demands and circumstances evolve. Real-time network data enables this level of operational vigilance and performance to be attained but it also provides the detailed information that can ensure the next wave of investments is made effectively.
It can clearly be seen that these challenges are part of a clearly linked cycle of events. Deployments must be managed and then extended. While that’s a definite series of events, it’s also a circular path, with investment being guided by the outcomes of deployments and, in turn, directing the next round of network extensions and changes.
Of course, operators need to have the right test solutions to aid deployment in complex environments, the right platforms to make sense of real-time network data, and the right insights to direct future investment most accurately against a landscape of ongoing economic constraints. However, a key step is to recognise that these challenges are linked and to adopt an integrated approach to the complete 4G / VoLTE life cycle.
Understanding this at the outset will have a profound impact on the success of the journey towards and beyond VoLTE. Better, by fully integrating the collection and use of data into their organisations, operators will also be able to anticipate new challenges that will inevitably emerge.
Meet Polystar at the LTE & 5G MENA 2016 (pod 4) conference in Dubai, 9-11 May, and learn how they can help you unlock the power of real-time network monitoring, and address the challenges of 4G and VoLTE networks.
This blog post was initially published on the 5G World Blog: