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Upgrading T&M: Enhancing QoS through investments in testing solutions

October 20, 2016

The telecom industry is witnessing unprecedented growth on the back of a significant rise in the array of services as well as the number of service providers available to consumers. This increased competition has resulted in lower prices for advanced services, thus opening the market to millions of new consumers who are becoming more sophisticated and demanding. Price is, therefore, no longer the sole deciding factor for consumers, and quality has become the key.

In the Indian telecom market, the issue of service quality came into the limelight with the increasing instances of call drops. In order to safeguard the interests of telecom users, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in October 2015 mandated operators to compensate subscribers for call drops. This was, however, later turned down by the Supreme Court which termed the order as unreasonable and non-transparent.

While TRAI has maintained that the operators shied away from making adequate investments in telecom infrastructure, which led to this situation, the operators claim that they are unable to improve the quality of service (QoS) due to multiple technical factors, the lack of adequate spectrum and difficulties in setting up new mobile towers. Nonetheless, the issue of poor service quality still remains.

QoS parameters

The various network service quality parameters taken into account by  TRAI include network availability (base transceiver station [BTSs] accumulated downtime); connection establishment (call set-up success rates); connection maintenance and retainability (call drop rates); and point of interconnection congestion. Meanwhile, with regard to data services, TRAI has issued the Standards of Quality of Service for Wireless Data Services Regulations, 2012. The various QoS standards listed by  TRAI for data services include technical parameters like data transmission attempts, latency, average throughput, minimum download speed, drop rate and packet data protocol content activation success.

As per TRAI, while on an average, the QoS benchmark is being met, there are individual BTSs that have much worse QoS than the benchmark of 2 per cent of call drops or less. Further, more than 12 per cent of individual BTSs have call drop rates that are over 2 per cent while only 1 per cent of BTSs have call drops of over 10 per cent.

In this context, greater investments in the telecom test and measurement (T&M) equipment by the operators can help ensure better service quality to consumers.

Role of T&M in improving QoS

The requirement for T&M products and solutions emerges at several stages of wireless communication, right from the design and development of wireless equipment to network deployment and service assurance.

As per industry experts, one key reason behind the deteriorating voice quality is that operators have increased their investments in data networks, while neglecting their voice infrastructure. This has necessitated the use of T&M products to optimise voice networks.

Data performance of networks has also emerged as a critical test area. While extremely high speeds are promised by operators, the performance in terms of real-world speeds is often unsatisfactory. Moreover, the proliferation of data-intensive applications has made speed of data service delivery a differentiating factor for customers and fuelled the demand for solutions that can determine Ethernet quality. For instance, video applications, like voice, are real-time services that are highly intolerant of delays and packet loss in the network and thus require specialised T&M solutions. In addition, for even more sophisticated services like internet protocol television, the operators must ensure that the quality is consistently acceptable, or they could face an increase in the rate of customer churn.

Further, with operators deploying a combination of voice and data networks as in the case of voice over long term evolution, ensuring seamless handover between the two technologies is imperative for ensuring a good service quality experience.

Key challenges for T&M players

A key challenge for T&M companies is finding ways to constantly improve test capabilities under the excessive pricing pressure exerted by operators. T&M products typically come with a high capital investment and these costs escalate further as the equipment needs to undergo constant upgradation. Thus, T&M vendors have to undertake the challenging task of reducing testing time and conducting more tests at lower costs.

Another challenge is that of increasing the complexity of technologies. Evolving standards have made the product life cycle of T&M equipment short, hence new equipment has to be developed keeping pace with the changing standards. This further escalates the cost of T&M equipment.

Conclusion

With the focus shifting towards improved connectivity and enhanced user experience, T&M is increasingly becoming critical for ensuring the delivery of quality devices and services. Moreover, with price no longer remaining the key deciding factor, network operators can also differentiate themselves with an enhanced quality of experience through the use of T&M solutions.

 
 

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