CCA Voice, Spring 2020
As we move into 2020, it’s clear that mobile network operators (MNOs) face a number of challenges. Three are particularly pressing and demand urgent attention:
- First, ensuring success from 5G investments.
- Second, delivering better experiences for mobile video viewing.
- Third, capitalising on the dramatic growth and appetite for mobile gaming.
Of course, these also represent opportunities.
5G has led to growing industry excitement, but this must be tempered with reality. The fact is that few MNOs are able to offer anything like nationwide 5G coverage yet. While 5G footprints are growing rapidly, coverage gaps remain.
This means that users are likely to move between 5G cells and existing LTE infrastructure, which will change the performance experienced. Think about the needs of passengers on a train or in a car, for example. Their experience will change as they move between locations due to the different network connectivity available, varying demand from other users, latency conditions, and more. Users expecting a consistent 5G experience may be disappointed when they move between network coverage zones.
To complicate matters further, 2020 will see the first steps towards launch of R16-based 5G networks, which also will see the introduction of network slicing. MNOs will need to be sure that their services and networks can scale, not only horizontally to account for more devices and traffic load but also vertically to encompass the different slices that are deployed.
Consequently, expectations must be managed. MNOs must ensure that they accurately track service consumption and performance in order to maintain consistent user experience as their customers move from cell to cell. This issue will become particularly important if operators choose to charge a premium for 5G. While many have not, some have chosen to pursue this strategy, so it must go hand-in-hand with a corresponding focus on service management.
The growth of demand for mobile video is well known. Already accounting for more than 60% of all mobile data, according to the latest edition of Ericsson’s Mobility Report (October 2019), it is expected to exceed 75% by 2025. While some traffic relates to MNO video packages, much is from providers such as Netflix and YouTube. Customer expectations also have surged — the ability to stream video in real-time and to deliver a high-quality viewing experience are now critical factors in differentiating MNO offers.
As for gaming, mobile now has become the preferred interface for many. That’s because mobile devices provide a convenient means to access games and are cheaper than traditional gaming consoles. Analysts at NewZoo suggest that more than 2.4 billion people played mobile games in 2019. Happily for MNOs, this growth presents an exciting revenue opportunity. Investment firm Wedbush reckons that mobile has the potential to triple the size of the overall global gaming market by 2030.
In this context — fragmented 5G, surging video and gaming traffic — service assurance is more important than ever. Operators must deploy service and performance monitoring solutions that are correctly adapted for the 5G network architecture, ensuring they can fully incorporate analytics from all network domains into their operations. Moreover, it will be essential to deliver performance insights from video and gaming services to even more stakeholders in the organisation as 5G investments come under increasing scrutiny and as the user base grows.
However, monitoring, while necessary, is not sufficient. Operators also need robust and adaptable analytics solutions to provide insights into video, gaming, and service performance, which must extend to encrypted streams to extract relevant data.
These insights can be used to construct KPIs that reflect the experience levels required by each service and each network domain and to ensure consis
tent and outstanding service delivery. MNOs also can leverage these same analytics solutions to create new process automation and workflows that enable cost-effective service management and a more agile footing — and the 2020 vision they need to convert 5G, video, and gaming into profitable offers.
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