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30 Oct

How Carriers Keep QoS Top of Mind as LTE Traffic Increases

We’ve all had mornings when our mobile service doesn’t work during our commute – we can’t access work email, catch highlights of last night’s game, or even mindlessly scroll through our Facebook feed.

Our option a few years ago was to deal with it and hope the situation improves by lunch. But today, we can switch to a carrier with faster service and better coverage. This understandably has mobile carriers who are unprepared to handle the volume and scale of today’s global IP traffic very worried.

Global IP traffic has increased more than fivefold in the past five years and is on track to triple by 2019, according to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, and much of that traffic is mobile. Compounding the increase in users is consumer demand for fast and reliable service while accessing more complex mobile offerings than ever before. This has led mobile carriers to begin migrating in mass to LTE, a packet switching all IP network standard, to help meet explosive consumer demand, while still maintaining their existing multi-technology networks.

So how can carriers ensure they’re prepared to handle the increasingly complex infrastructure of their hybrid networks when the stakes have never been higher? One piece of the puzzle is being able to holistically monitor their entire multi-vendor infrastructure without visibility gaps.

Visibility gaps prevent carriers from understanding how individual customers experience activity on key websites and applications in different geographical regions. Say Facebook is running perfectly in Seattle, but customers in Kansas are experiencing 10 second load times – this insight is key to ensuring quality of service for all users and reducing customer dissatisfaction and churn.

Carriers who use a next-generation performance monitoring platform benefit from actionable intelligence and insights that can direct them toward making the proper adjustments and investments to optimize traffic patterns, ensure network performance, and even adjust service offerings to maximize their revenue streams.

These are just some of the KPIs that carriers should monitor and report on:

  • Traffic patterns: Carriers need to have end-to-end visibility into their infrastructure to analyze users’ traffic patterns and network usage. Networks consistently dropping frames can indicate potential problems that may lead to service degradation, just as overloaded links and delayed packets are symptomatic of higher latency issues that might result in performance bottlenecks and service delays. Knowing exactly where and when traffic peaks occur on network infrastructure could spotlight a specific issue and allow allocation of necessary resources.
  • Growth: Cisco predicts global IP traffic will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 23% from 2014 to 2019, ballooning from an impressive 1.1 zettabytes annually (or 88.4 exabytes per month) in 2016 to hit a new milestone of 2.0 zettabytes per year in 2019 (the equivalent of 168 exabytes per month). As traffic continues to explode, use patterns will evolve and carriers who are unprepared to understand and capacity plan accordingly will find themselves at risk for significant customer churn.
  • Backhaul path service quality: Carriers need to ensure backhaul providers are delivering on their promise of quality service by measuring jitter and latency by markets or sites. This guarantees customer expectations are met and SLA benchmarks are achieved accordingly. Failure to do so could result in costly penalties.
  • Backhaul congestion: Carriers need to be able to identify oversubscribed classes as well as traffic discarding patterns to determine which services are growing or shrinking.
  • Backhaul prioritization: With this insight, carriers can determine Class of Service (CoS) prioritization for voice, streaming video, email, file transfers, etc. and plan for future CoS growth in specific markets.

The ability to drill down and turn standard KPIs into actionable intelligence allows carriers to make the necessary adjustments or be confident that performance levels remain acceptable to certain customer constituencies as opposed to a deterrent to user satisfaction. Carriers looking to compete in today's always-on mobile world need to offer superior coverage and availability, and comprehensive infrastructure monitoring is what will take the customer experience to new heights.

For more on how the growing demand for LTE and how it’s shaping the mobile marketplace, read our whitepaper, Keeping Quality of Service High as LTE Traffic Increases.

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