In the recently released report Choosing a Mobile Operator, part of the landmark Nokia (News - Alert) 2016 Acquisition and Retention Study, “Best Network Quality” ranked right behind “Best Prices” as the reasons why customers choose one network service provider over another. This raises an interesting challenge as mobile operators and their solutions providers look to the fast-approaching 5G future, “How can mobile operators assure that the network quality is where it needs to be to in order to provide truly differentiated value-added and compelling services?”
In fact, the question becomes all the more relevant in the face of what will be the rapid rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is projected to require the network to provide quality access to seven trillion connections a day by 2020, and in a world where declining ARPU and the availability of options for customers abound creating a difficult account churning environment.
The path forward to success is the subject of an illuminating posting on Nokia’s eZine Insights by Andrew Burrell, Head of Marketing, Network Planning and Optimization (NPO), Nokia. Titled, Leading the way to smarter network planning, Burrell explains that: “One of the most direct ways to improve the performance of increasingly complex networks is through Network Planning and Optimization (NPO). This plays a critical role in maximizing an operator’s return on investment (RoI) and improving network quality for customers.”
In short, having the right tools and assistance from NPO specialists smart planning is the path to being able to attract customers based on having great network quality.
What Burrell also explains is that due to the dynamic, constantly changing market which puts a premium on agility, rethinking who and how to leverage NPO to achieve desired outcomes is in a state of transition. He notes: “Although operators have their own in-house NPO expertise, new and fast-changing demand on networks mean that sometimes they need specialized support. Traditionally, NPO activities have been focused on improving network performance by focusing on KPIs, but in recent years an additional focus on the customer experience has come to the fore with Key Quality Indicators (KQIs) being used.”
Given that mobile operators in all likelihood should be looking for support from NPO vendors, Burrell asks the important question, “what should operators look for?” Table stakes in answering this question are obvious, i.e., third-party providers of NPO services should be reliable, focused on quality, trustworthy and flexible.
The criteria Burrell recommends are:
- The supplier should be able to plan capacity down to the smallest levels, using techniques such as 3-D geolocation.
- The supplier should also ideally provide solutions that focus not merely on the standard network KPIs, but also take into account how subscribers are experiencing the network and its services.
The facts point to the need for operators to focus as much on what customers are demanding as they are on the technology. The reasons are to assure that realities are aligned with perceptions.
In terms of an NPO solution that fits the criteria above, Burrell notes that research firm Current Analysis (News - Alert) recently ranked Nokia as the NPO market leader, excelling at innovation, and being the first to offer 3-D geolocation and applying advanced analytics and automation to network optimization. The Current Analysis report says that: “Nokia’s network performance optimization (NPO) service development of the recent past, present, and future is predicated on its journey to transform the discipline from support of network performance to support of the customer experience.”
What lies ahead?
What is important to consider as the use of NPO capabilities transitions to the new era of focus on the customer experience is the evolution of NPO itself. They are part of the emerging area of cognitive computing-based technologies that do rely on the smart/cognitive approach of using sophisticated analytics, automation, machine learning and the aforementioned 3-D geolocation technologies.
Burrell highlights that the new Nokia AVA services delivery platform is constantly evolving to make optimal use of cognitive capabilities so that operators have the resources they need to assure great customer experiences by having the best information available so that network degradations are predicted and changes are rapidly implemented through automation. Where machine learning will be applied is in the predicting of future network or service anomalies, which will also be used for adjustments of network performance in near-real-time.
Cognitive computing is an exciting field that holds tremendous promise. It involves the simulation of human thought processes in a computerized model. It involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. The end result of the application of cognitive computing approaches is a more accurate view of how things are performing, in real or near real-time, with the addition of a human and human-like recognition of changing circumstances that enable fast responses to the dynamics of a world that is not only rapidly changing, but where the pace of change is increasing.
What lies ahead for the use of cognitive capabilities, such as Nokia’s AVA services delivery platform, is the ability to give customers the services and experiences they expect and demand when, where and how they want them. And, in an increasingly mobility-centric world filled with lots of service alternatives, this is a clear case where knowledge is power and a path to maximizing competitive advantage.
Edited by Alicia Young