27
Mon, Sep

Bringing real-world perspective to wireless network testing

Blog

Network testing must be smartphone-specific, says this guest piece from Myungsup Kim, CEO, Accuver. Kim claims that although operators and vendors attest to investment in the signalling and radio performance of their networks, these is little collaborative work being done that takes advantage of the wealth of data available to create a picture of actual call quality and voice QoS on networks.

"Claims that vendors have fine-tuned their networks to allow for signaling need to be verified in terms of end-user impact," Kim writes. He adds that finer-grained testing might be able to establish if there is a point at which "networks have a smartphone-based threshold beyond which there will be a permanent degradation of quality."

If such a limit exists, the ability to accurately model and forecast it would have a significant impact on the market, he adds. Operators could also test the impact of data offloading on VoIP over WiFi call quality.

Kim's full post follows:

Bringing a real-world perspective to wireless network testing
Myungsup Kim, CEO, Accuver

Mobile network testing and optimisation has been a priority since mobile phones were first produced; yet when smartphones arrived they were not met with new, more appropriate methods of network testing. As the proliferation of smartphones and the use of data-based services continues to increase year on year, there is enormous pressure on vendors and operators to conduct smartphone-specific testing as part of their network improvement programmes to ensure consumer satisfaction. Ultimately, basing network and service improvement programmes on the richest and most appropriate data available will lead to greater end results.

If the industry is to have an open and objective dialogue about the cause, effect and potential fixes for wireless network performance bottlenecks, then operators and vendors must not rely simply on high-level key performance indicators. It is essential that the radio frequency data is analysed and more specifically, from a subscriber perspective using commercial smartphones.

The proof is in the results
Accuver recently supported the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) in conducting the world’s first smartphone testing project of this kind on a national scale, with the active involvement of all major network operators. The testing focused on measuring the voice call quality and dropped-call rate, as these issues are paramount to delivering the best possible service to mobile users.

These tests showed that the overall voice call success rate for mobile-to-mobile calls (98.7%) was better than that of smartphone-to-smartphone calls (97.6%). The resultsof the KCC’s tests highlighted that there are specific areas in need of improvement on voice calling on smartphone devices, emphasising that joint efforts are needed to improve that quality of voice calling on smartphones. Claims that vendors have fine-tuned their networks to allow for signaling need to be verified in terms of end-user impact, and this information should form the basis of further improvements.

Supporting industry-wide innovation
The entire mobile industry and its consumers would benefit from these more appropriate testing initiatives being brought in as standard. We have cutting-edge test and measurement solutions at our disposal, capable of delivering highly detailed information based on real-world performance, however the uptake of nation-wide, collaborative projects such as those carried out in Korea has been disappointing to date.

Furthermore, smartphone-specific testing would help to establish whether or not networks have a smartphone-based threshold beyond which there will be a permanent degradation of quality. If such a limit exists, the ability to accurately model and forecast it would have a significant impact on the market.

Extending testing to cover VoIP would also further reinforce understanding of network performance, to assess the impact of data off-loading on call-quality over Wi-Fi, for example.

Collaboration is key
If voice call quality is to improve in line with user expectations, vendors and operators should be working together to implement more valuable end-user centric network testing. The testing of smartphone devices on networks at a national level ought to be standard practice in today’s gadget-dominated society where user expectations continue to grow, as do the capabilities and demands of the devices being used on our networks.

Going forward, network/service improvement programmes and methods should be continually reviewed and adapted to reflect the devices and services that are actually being used in the real-world, on a national scale.