With 4G LTE and VoLTE cresting the horizon, guaranteeing that customers receive the purported and expected benefits of this new technology is paramount. However, with complex systems come proliferating points of failure - something especially true when operating across multiple networks. With a successful track record in overseeing such roll-outs, Ascom is the perfect partner for operators that are looking to design and optimise their networks.
Experience matters; user experience matters even more. Increasingly positive news regarding 4G LTE and VoLTE deployment and growth, and the simultaneous investment in a complete IP multimedia core network system (IMS) do not change the fact that many issues remain in order to make these roll-outs successful.
IMS and VoLTE are complex. A single VoLTE call session may span as many as 28 different network interfaces, ten separate network elements and six subscriber databases. This complexity translates into millions of different call flow combinations - and that does not take into account calls to devices on legacy networks and other service providers.
This complexity means it's tough to get it right - but if subscribers are to experience the promised performance enhancements, then you not only have to get it right from the outset but also need to make sure you continue to do so in perpetuity thereafter.
It also means there are more things that can go wrong, as well as more places in which problems can occur. In addition, mobile network operators (MNOs) have found VoLTE, in particular, to be operationally challenging because problems can cross organisational boundaries. Worse, reporting from network elements may suggest they are performing as expected, but this may differ dramatically from the real user experience.
Design and build
So, what's an MNO to do? The answer is that they must focus on two key issues. First, designing the network and its enhancements from the outset to plan for optimised quality of service and the needs of different user classes. Second, paying particular attention to the fact that a service is composed of multiple elements, with the result that an end-to-end view of individual and aggregated services is required. A holistic, end-to-end view is essential - and this starts with the first site survey and continues all the way to the devices that will be in the hands of your users.
To achieve this, MNOs need partners, such as Ascom, that can support them through every step of this process and beyond, and that have already been involved in the world's largest VoLTE roll-out programmes. They need the confidence to ensure that network coverage and design is accomplished to the highest degree of accuracy possible. This requires planning tools that enable indoor and outdoor network coverage, backhaul capacity requirements to be modelled and QoS performance estimates to be obtained, providing a seamless end-to-end workflow for network planning and optimisation, covering all of the required mix of radio technologies.
They need solutions that enable the continuous collection of reliable measurements of service quality and user-experience data in real time and at the scale that reflects the reality of an operational network. Within the radio network, drive testing is not a luxury: it's an operational necessity. It addresses the issue of user experience; no view of a service can be representative if consideration of the user experience is missing, and the real outdoor and indoor conditions are not captured.
In the core network, active testing from selected sites within the network enables MNOs to access and use services in the same way as subscribers, and identify issues that passive probe solutions cannot easily expose. It provides a powerful means of testing end-to-end services or individual functional elements, such as IMS client software, the IMS core or the evolved packet core.
Delivering the right user experience is tough, but it's not an optional goal: it's mandatory. MNOs must address this from the outset. They have to plan, build, deliver and operate their networks with this goal in mind at all times. This requires a suite of tools that can be used at every stage in this process - and the right partner to deliver them.
Ascom Network Testing, Inc.
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Reston, VA 20190
United States of America
+1 (703) 956 5399