In 1995, only one person in a hundred owned a telephone in Sub-Saharan Africa. Provisioning public infrastructure was challenging, and that was particularly true in the case of the telecommunications infrastructure (at that time limited to fixed voice services), which was incapable of satisfying the continuously increasing demand. It was assumed that the introduction of Mobile Services in the second half of 90s’ would encounter the same challenges as fixed line services but, surprisingly, the story took another turn.
By 2000, virtually all countries in Sub- Saharan Africa had mobile service, with total subscribers surpassing 10 million. Within five more years, subscribers had increased to 90 million, expanding to almost 400 million subscribers by 2010 and about 750 million by 2015. Coverage and penetration statistics are equally impressive: the percentage of the population covered by mobile networks climbed from almost zero in 1995 to more than 80 percent in 2015 (source: International Finance Group, a member of the World Bank Group) pushed by strong growth and investments during the last decade.
It is also worthwhile to underline that while fixed services penetration has remained relatively stable at around 1%, mobile penetration reached 75% last year. From a competitive landscape, Africa followed what already happened in the rest of the world. After an initial phase where the first mobile operators were subsidiaries of the existing state-owned fixed operators, all second and subsequent mobile operators came from private sector, following the deregulation of the telecom services and the consequent end of the government monopoly, normally belonging to a large regional mobile group.
While, initially, the main target was just to provide connectivity and basic voice services, now mobile operators are facing new challenges as they face increasing demand for data services. The key question now is, how can the operators differentiate themselves to subscribers?
One of the best ways to do this is by regaining ownership of the services, emphasizing what they can control on the network, that is, the quality of the offering. But to do that, they need to have a full visibility regarding who is accessing the network, through which devices, from where, doing what and most important of all, what is the quality they are experiencing.
Various standard bodies and industry organizations have defined in the past how to measure the so-called Quality of Service (QoS), meaning “the ability of a network to provide a service with an assured service level”. QoS was defined by means of a set of technical metrics (a.k.a. Key Performance Indicators or KPI) such as Packet Loss, Delay, Throughput, Answer-to-Seizure Ratio, Call Setup Time and so on. It should be noted that QoS was a valid approach in fixed line environments to derive the experience perceived by the subscribers due to the concept of “if the network is good, the service is good”. Then, for a better understanding of the voice quality from a subscriber’s point of view (their perceived experience), the standard bodies and industry organizations developed the Mean Opinion Score (MOS), which provided a subjective measurement of the quality of a call. This methodology has evolved over the years to accommodate the transition from circuit-switch services to packet-switched networks carrying voice.
Following the introduction of the data services over mobile networks, QoS has proven to be a valid way to check the health of the physical network and of the interconnection links between nodes, but it lacks the ability to represent the objective perception of the quality from the subscriber point of view. While MOS was effective for voice, there is now a gap as it pertains to data services.
Operators today have no shortage of Performance Monitoring solutions that generate hundreds or thousands of KPIs covering specific network domains, but they lack an easy way to obtain a holistic view of the experience provided to their subscribers. Empirix can fill this gap through its solutions that provide a complete set of tools to gain full visibility of the customers’ experience, enabling mobile operators to proactively address issues and increase customer satisfaction across the full range of offered services. The Empirix Customer Experience Assurance (CEA) platform offers Troubleshooting, Data Analytics and Real-Time Monitoring all integrated in a single platform covering all Fixed/Mobile technologies and Voice/Data services, providing full visibility on every single subscriber accessing your network.
Come and visit us at AfricaCom (stand P23b) to understand how Empirix Customer Experience Assurance solution have enabled mobile operators to achieve their Key Business Objectives and how they will benefit your organization.
Written by Angelo Baccarani – Angelo on LinkedIn
Angelo is currently focusing on Product Marketing at Empirix for Customer Experience Assurance applications. He has worked in the Telecom sector for the last 25 years, his background includes experience in Engineering, Product Management, Solution Architecture and Strategic Marketing mainly focused on probe-based passive monitoring systems for CSP.