Smartphone penetration is predicted to double in the next four years, everywhere in the world. That means that, on average, mature markets will be looking at 60% smartphone penetration and even some cities in emerging markets will have a smartphone penetration of 30% or more. So if some operators had problems with smartphone signalling volumes at 30% penetration, how will they cope with 60% smartphone penetration?
Nokia Siemens Networks has been addressing this smartphone signalling issue ever since it first appeared in 2009. With Cell_PCH and Network Controlled Fast Dormancy (which we’re the only vendor in the industry to offer), we’ve been able to, for example, reduce the signalling volume at T-Mobile Netherlands by 30% overnight by implementing Cell_PCH.
But with overall smartphone penetration likely to grow in a steep curve until it reaches 100% or more, Cell_PCH can’t be the only tool in the toolbox to make sure that operators aren’t caught out by huge, unexpected increases in smartphone signalling traffic, data traffic, and simultaneous users. Because this is the real issue with smartphones – these upticks in use are driven by forces and events beyond operator control, such as a new release of Angry Birds triggering millions of simultaneous downloads or the recent British royal wedding causing YouTube traffic to spike by 39% above normal. It’s great that real-time internet access to news and services has brought the whole world closer together – but this can also sometimes mean bad news for mobile networks that aren’t prepared.
So how can an operator continue to ensure smartphone service excellence in the face of wildly unpredictable traffic and signalling swings?
According to Stefano Savioli, head of network optimization at Nokia Siemens Networks, “What we’ve learned from the field is that key factors for staying ahead of smartphone-associated problems are proactive capacity planning for signalling, data, and simultaneous user volumes, and real-time reporting to make sure you know what’s happening in the network right now. Network changes driven by external factors can happen so quickly that you simply have to know what’s happening as they occur. The issues of signalling and battery lifetime improvement also continue to dominate everyone’s concerns, so most of our current and upcoming releases include new features that keep improving both of those measures.”
But really making smartphones fly isn’t just an issue of beefing up the radio network. Operators also need to look at the actual experience that end users are having – which aren’t necessarily reflected in traditional network KPIs – and use those insights to prioritize their network improvement activities. For example, when a European operator was recently seeing a lot of dissatisfaction among its mobile broadband customers, its first inclination was to just add more network capacity and increase the speed. More and faster is better, right? But after asking us to analyze the problem from the end user perspective, the operator learned that end users were actually suffering the most from poor network coverage – the issue wasn’t What, but Where. And that means an entirely different kind of response to solve the problem.
It’s this measurement of smartphone performance from a combination of both operator and end user points of view that sets Nokia Siemens Networks apart from the rest of the industry. If you’d like to learn more, please stop by and see us at TIA 2011 in Dallas, 17-20 May (booth #1217), and Management World in Dublin, 24-26 May (booth #37), where we’ll be particularly focusing on how the combination of customer insight and operator actions can really make a difference to smartphone users and smartphone network providers. We hope to see you there!
This blog post is by Leslie Shannon from our Network Systems marketing team