Opinion Articles

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LTE fuels the race for the fastest network

Noam Green of Flash Networks writes:

The introduction and deployment of LTE networks offers real promise for both subscribers and operators worldwide. It brings the potential for revolutionary improvements in quality of experience for mobile broadband, and even faster downloads and video streaming.


Those operators who enter the market quickly and decisively with LTE gain substantial market share and revenue. Operators that take a slower, more conservative approach get left behind. As a result, operators are quick to implement and measure and then take credit for having the fastest networks.

Because speed is so important, PC Magazine, PC World, Connect Magazine and others measure and compare LTE network speeds on an annual basis to see who comes out on top. The results are announced with fanfare and typically become the mantra of the winner’s advertising campaign.

However, the promise of speed can’t always be guaranteed.

Maintaining first place is difficult for operators because subscribers’ insatiable appetite for mobile data, including high definition video, is increasing faster than LTE network capacity. The ability to download more data at faster rates only makes subscribers crave mobile data more. On US LTE networks, 20% of mobile Internet traffic is Netflix video, compared with only 5% on 3G networks, and overall 50% more traffic travels on LTE networks compared with 3G networks.

As a result, operators are putting a lot of emphasis on acceleration technologies. For example, TCP optimisation gives all network traffic a boost by overcoming inherent protocol inefficiencies and dynamically adjusting transmission rates based on real-time network conditions. Last year, five operators from around the globe won first place in network regulator speed trials after implementing TCP optimisation solutions, most of which improved their former years’ competitive position.

Mobile video and especially the smooth-playing of streaming video has become one of the leading methods for users to gauge their network quality. According to a recent Flash Networks survey, over 72% of users blame their mobile operator for bad video quality experience (even if the source of the problem may be the original video quality or handset capabilities). Video optimisation that can improve the customer experience by adapting the video bitrate to real-time network conditions without perceptive degradation in video quality, has continued to be an important part of the toolkit operators adapt to maintain a superior user experience.

Operators are very eager to understand their subscriber’s usage patterns. Insights on data usage and customer experience are becoming increasingly important as well as connecting these inputs to customer care. Since subscribers have become so demanding about network speed and video quality, there is a need for operators to become more proactive in updating users if there is degradation in the customer experience.

For example, by adding messages and notifications overlaying the browsing session with notifications about irregular network congestion, operators can acknowledge that they are aware that a problem exists, and are implementing a solution. These types of messages are a proactive way of handling customer experience issues before they reach customer care personnel, or worse, through churn.

With the launch of LTE, maintaining a positive customer experience by delivering top network speeds and superior video quality has become the most important operator differentiator. Subscribers demand faster and smoother networks and operators have opportunities to deliver a superior customer experience, including acceleration, mobile video optimisation, and proactive engagement with subscribers.

Noam Green is Vice President of Marketing at Flash Networks, having joined the company in January 2014 following its acquisition of Mobixell. He'd previously been Mobixell's Vice President of Marketing and Monetization. Flash Networks is a specialist in mobile internet optimisation and monetisation.
Author: The Fonecast
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