As 4G coverage comes under scrutiny, can mobile operators end “Digital Deserts”?
The UK’s 4G coverage is not good enough – that’s the damning indictment today from the country’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). They commented on research that showed the UK’s mobile network was worse than Albania, Panama and Peru and is ranked 54th. The NIC called on mobile operators to end “digital deserts” as British subscribers were frustrated with coverage dead spots in city centres, roads and on rail networks.
One of the biggest challenges facing mobile operators is the extreme non-uniformity in their networks. A Viavi study showed that 50% of mobile data is consumed by less than 1% of subscribers. And 50% of data is consumed in less than 1% of the network area. Mobile operators have the unenviable task of managing this chasm in variability and balancing the needs of subscriber devices that have an appetite for bandwidth. Operators must plan and optimize mobile networks to deliver a reliable and consistent Quality of Experience (QoE). Subscribers should not have to put up with coverage dead spots where coverage is needed – this is not geographic coverage but people coverage.
When it comes to planning, all too often mobile operators rely only on network performance metrics. That’s not good enough. Planning and optimization is a continual process. It must be subscriber-centric and location-aware so they do not overlook areas such as towns, villages, road networks, events and rail lines. Data from calls and connections on a network-wide basis can provide unmatched insight into network behaviour. Operators and governments can then prioritize improvements to have the greatest impact on subscriber QoE.
Technology available today in the form of Automated Optimization allow operators to fully automate and intelligently manage the entire network so subscribers don’t suffer from poor QoE. An effectively optimized network delivers significant advantages. Subscribers benefit from reliable coverage. Operators get much more from their network investment. It defers CapEx, minimizes time to resolve issues and automates processes that can free-up valuable time for engineers. It is a win-win. It is time to put a stop to poor QoE and to “digital deserts.”
Paul Gowans is Viavi’s marketing manager for Location Intelligence & RAN Solutions.