Optimising a 5G roll-out?: You need augmented user experience data
Operators increasingly offer 5G to their customers, if only in city centres. However, blanket coverage is still a long way off and users do not yet enjoy a consistent, smooth 5G experience. As it stands, operators are actively making roll-out decisions.
In our article about 5G investment decisions, we pointed to the importance of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) as the most prominent use case for 5G, at least initially. We’d argue that a customer that is confident that their apps and services will perform better thanks to 5G will consequently spend more with their operator — leading to higher average revenue per user.
There is, of course, no easy, fast or cheap way to provide blanket 5G coverage. It is a pain-staking process. Operators need to consider carefully how to optimise an investment-heavy 5G roll-out programme to maximise the 5G user experience. After all, a superior user experience drives 5G ROI.
The best decisions rely on solid, comprehensive data. However, in this article we outline how Netradar’s user experience data sketches a far more complete network experience picture and how operators that use Netradar make better 5G roll-out decisions.
A challenge unique to 5G: indoor coverage
Operators know that 5G is a different beast when it comes to a network rollout — particularly where gigabit speeds are at stake. In large parts of the world 5G operates on higher frequencies than 4G. And even with 4G, providing indoor coverage has been challenging at times. The use of higher frequencies with shorter wavelengths makes the indoor coverage challenge far greater with 5G.
It is true that operators can continue with their usual planning process, installing base stations where the mix of physical aspects and customer demand makes sense. However, the unpredictable nature of user behaviour vastly complicates this process. And operators have limited insight into user behaviour.
For 5G, delivering and monitoring the indoor network experience and tuning networking planning accordingly is highly challenging. Operators can take a range of measurements, but it is very difficult for an operator to know whether a user with a poor experience is outdoors, indoors next to a window, or indeed sitting in the basement.
Here, Netradar provides a critical source of data to augment 5G decision making. Operators that harness the Netradar Suite get a device-sourced perspective that is unique to Netradar. The Netradar Suite uses an internally developed, proprietary algorithm
With Netradar’s unique user location data, the operator can better understand where on the indoor, outdoor continuum a user is located with every data session and how that influences the user experience. It means more accurate decisions around 5G networks — more so than relying on network or user complaint data.
Managing and meeting customer expectations
The unique indoor, outdoor user experience challenge brought forward by 5G is just one aspect of the complex 5G customer picture. Understanding the complete picture is key: a consistently superior 5G experience means winning and retaining the customers that deliver the highest average revenue per customer. We next highlight three key ways that the Netradar Suite can help operators tune 5G their roll-out to meet customer expectations.
Is it the app — or the network?
First, when a user has a poor app experience, such as buffering video, the user will blame their operator without giving it much thought. Users will not weigh up the chances that the app developer or OTT provider serving streaming content is at fault.
But operators must be able to distinguish the cause of the poor user experience — is it the app provider, or is it a network bottleneck? Operators that make assumptions purely based on user experience reports are at risk of skewing their 5G roll-out in ways that undermine investment efficiency.
As with indoor vs. outdoor concerns, Netradar Suite is uniquely positioned to help operators narrow down the source of poor user experience.
In contrast to network measurements, Netradar takes measurements on the actual device on which the user experience takes place. So, Netradar data indicate to operators whether OTT providers are the source of poor user experience, or indeed the network. In turn, operators can make accurate roll-out decisions.
App trends and broad usage statistics
The second consideration is app and usage trends. Yes, 5G serves existing customer use cases better simply by providing more bandwidth and therefore avoiding network congestion. But which future apps will trend thanks to 5G-driven network capabilities?
Operators that observe these trends and how new apps put unique demands on their networks can ensure stellar user experience for a newly popular app. In contrast, competitor networks that have less insight into the impact of trending apps risk customer churn.
Again, Netradar provides the device-centric data that operators require to analyse the impact of trending apps. It helps operators make 5G investment decisions that reflect the future — not the past.
Nonetheless, current user habits also matter when making efficient 5G investment decisions. Merely observing network statistics will not deliver these insights. Operators that deploy the Netradar Suite get a broad-based picture. Just a few of the aspects covered in the Netradar Suite:
• Netradar outlines whether an operator’s network is able to serve the requirements of specific apps and does so in context of the apps that are most popular with the operator’s users
• Our user data also indicate at what times of the day what type of app is used most often and how the usage patterns affect demand on a network — and indeed when networks fail to meet demand
• We also reveal in which locations apps are the most popular so that operators can make location-specific decisions
This information helps operators prioritise 5G rollouts. As we know, in addition to higher throughput 5G delivers capacity and it is often this additional capacity that enables a smooth user experience.
The enterprise use case
As a final point, to emphasise how Netradar’s unique, augmented user experience data is invaluable for operators, we conclude with an enterprise use case. Network slicing, the ability to create private cellular networks with unique properties, is not new. However, 5G takes network slicing to the next level — including the ability to deliver end-to-end network slicing.
Network slicing has many different purposes, but often the aim is to deliver a superior network experience compared to the public network. Network slicing is tied to QoS parameters, with performance expectations bound by an SLA. Of course, just as with consumer networks, operators deliver the infrastructure — but not the application.
When performance fails, and the SLA comes under scrutiny, is it the operator that is at fault, and is an infrastructure upgrade due? Or is the application the problem? The enterprise use case mirrors the consumer use case here — and so does the advantages of using the Netradar Suite. Again, Netradar delivers device-centric measurements that can evaluate network performance from a wider perspective.
With Netradar’s insights operators draw on more data and can thereby judge whether a poor SLA-bound network experience is due to the network, or as a result of other factors — such as the underlying application. And if indeed it is the network that is to blame, the operator can roll out a fix based on broader information.
Continuous planning and assessment — with Netradar
So, Netradar significantly improves your 5G roll-out decision making by colouring in the user experience picture — augmenting what you already know about your users.
Of course, network planning is an ongoing effort. Network demand and usage habits continuously shift, making an already painstaking task that much more difficult. Over and above a broader picture, Netradar Suite also delivers a more actionable view of the user experience.
Operators benefit from a user-friendly Netradar dashboard that makes swift work out of understanding where user experience gaps lie. Netradar also uses an AI-driven algorithm that automatically flags network anomalies that are otherwise difficult to observe.
It’s an efficient tool that makes 5G roll-out far easier and more optimal than it would otherwise be. Just get in touch with Netradar for a demonstration — and to see how your network can use Netradar’s unique user experience perspective to make far more accurate 5G roll-out decisions.