During 2019 we, at Netradar, have been working with many leading telecom operators, regulators and technology vendors. It’s given us deep insight into the current state of affairs for mobile network operators and in this article, we outline our predictions on what we think the year 2020 holds for this fast-changing sector.
1. First steps with 5G
The recent Ericsson Mobility Report paints a picture of massive increase in 5G usage: “By end-2025, 5G will handle 45 per cent of global data traffic – lead by North America, followed by North East Asia and Europe.”
As always, the telecoms industry gets excited about over-hyped next generation networks. This was the case with 3G and 4G – and it is probably the case for 5G. That said, for 5G, there is one guaranteed use-case: building the capacity to serve customers better.
We will definitely see the launch of multiple new 5G networks, but real consumer uptake will take some time. Initially, 5G will provide much-needed help in building capacity but this is largely dependent on the availability of mid-tier 5G devices and on reasonably affordable 5G pricing plans.
Operators can use Netradar to pinpoint areas where existing 4G networks struggle to provide a decent level of service to customers. Besides, we think it is now time to move on from the “build it and they will come” approach. Instead, operators should adopt a network deployment approach that is driven by customer demand.
2. Flat Rates Rule
Until 2019 only a few quirky markets had flat-rate data pricing plans, but recently we have seen operators in many markets launching flat rate data plans.
The change from volume-based data plans to flat rate based plans will have fundamental implications. Obviously, the amount of cellular traffic will increase as consumers no longer monitor their app usage or think about offloading their cellular traffic to Wi-Fi networks. This will, in turn, require operators to be increasingly cost-efficient in building capacity where it is needed most.
Netradar can shed light on consumers’ usage patterns as they shift from Wi-Fi to cellular networks. By comparison, how much of the total data traffic generated by a user does a typical cellular operator really capture?
3. No Room for a Third Device OS Platform
Trade politics have been in the limelight for most of 2019. Huawei has been most affected by this, both in the network infrastructure and mobile devices spheres. In August, Huawei launched HarmonyOS while their recent high-end smartphones were launched without Google apps.
The mobile phone market is currently dominated by Apple iOS and Google Android platforms. It is very unlikely that a third OS platform will make any significant inroads in 2020, but for this trade political resolution is needed. Consumers will be the beneficiaries.
4. Quality Does Matter – but Not the Way You Think
Too often, mobile operators are keen to advertise maximum network speeds that have been measured either via drive testing campaigns, or by a legacy active crowd-sourcing measurement app where users need to press a button to measure the network maximum speed. Unfortunately, these measurements can have very little to do with real customer satisfaction.
First, typical user demands on the network are considerably lower than above-mentioned maximum network speeds. But shouldn’t sufficient maximum network speed lead to excellent customer satisfaction results? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
Next, occasional speed measurements do not give a 360-degree view of the consumer journey. Users might be connected to home broadband in the morning, access the cellular network during their morning commute and switch to Wi-Fi at the office again where the connection is usually facilitated by office broadband.
Finally, consumer experience measurements need to be performed while consumers are using normal apps in their typical daily environment. User interaction (touching a measure now button) is likely to lead to significant measurement bias.
In contrast, Netradar captures anonymous network performance data as consumers use their devices through their daily routines. Even better, no user interaction is required for these measurements to take place. The Netradar Service Level Score (SLS) paints a complete picture where users are being served by their chosen network provider. SLS can tell whether a user gets the capacity (bit rate) they needed, or not.
5. Understanding App Usage Drives the Customer Experience
Flawless app performance is crucial for consumers. Different apps require fundamentally differently resources from a network: just consider the different bandwidth and latency requirements of browsing, video streaming or social media apps. At the same time, usage patterns across different types of consumers differ even more.
Netradar anticipates that operators will increasingly leverage app usage insights to focus activities and investment in areas that truly improve customer satisfaction.
6. Actionable Insights with AI
It’s a familiar scenario: raw data pours in from multiple sources and we are overwhelmed, unable to process all this data with our limited resources. Let alone produce actionable insights that drive business process improvements.
There are alternatives to fight this data paralysis: i) just get on with it – proceed with small steps at a time ii) go back to basics – find the areas with the biggest impact or iii) identify your pain points.
So, as our last prediction, we think that telecoms operators will increasingly use AI-based tools in identifying network anomalies or to find angles where they might build a competitive advantage.
Clearly, 2020 will be a year of change, with a range of fresh challenges for network operators. Rest assured, however, Netradar is fully geared to support our customers in the ever-changing market landscape of 2020!
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