Proactive problem prevention
Resolving issues in wireless networks before they affect services can increase network uptime and cut operational costs — both by 15-20%. Network uptime is increased by minimizing service affecting conditions. OPEX is cut by focusing existing staff on identified issues more quickly and thus improving staff efficiency by freeing up time to work on new network projects. Traditionally, operators react to problems. But waiting until a wireless network issue becomes a major problem can have costly consequences in the form of outages, revenue loss and most importantly, unhappy customers.
Early insight into trouble that may be brewing in the network lets operators address issues before they escalate to affect services and revenue. Providing explanations about what the issues mean and how they correlate to one another gives customers the insights needed to resolve the issue proactively. In addition to increasing network availability and decreasing costs, proactive services can help operators:
- Improve customer satisfaction. While outages can be a major source of customer dissatisfaction, it’s the day-to-day issues like dropped calls and slow transmission speeds that are likely to make customers churn to the competition. Actions that help avoid capacity bottlenecks and improve network performance for voice, data and video applications keep the customer experience high.
- Increase internal efficiency. Network operations teams can focus on the issues that are most likely to affect services and revenue. There are fewer field dispatches and more time for planned activities.
- Reduce risks. Preventing problems with new technologies, such as LTE, helps operators meet high customer expectations and accelerate return on investment (ROI).
Operators already have the network data needed to predict and prevent mobile network problems. But they often have limited resources to filter and analyze the vast volumes of alarm, performance monitoring and event information their mobile networks generate. Potentially service impacting issues can become buried in a sea of data. A partner that offers proactive services can help operators find and fix these types of issues before they become service impacting.
A model for proactive services
The right partner brings operators the tools, expertise and real-world experience needed to predict which wireless network issues could lead to a poor end-user experience. They can also recommend actions to resolve these issues, and determine whether they can be addressed during regular maintenance windows — long before they spiral into major problems. Figure 1 illustrates a model that can help predict, prevent and prioritize network issues.
Comprehensive proactive services can provide operators with the following:
- 24×7 data gathering to ensure no relevant events or alarms are missed
- Near-real-time monitoring to reduce delay between issues and responses
- Improved network availability and performance measured using KPIs and thresholds
- The ability to drill down from the highest to the lowest network levels to detect root cause
- Early warning of service-impacting issues to accelerate responses
- Trend analysis and new signature detection to pinpoint problematic wireless network activities
- Predictive modeling to anticipate service-affecting issues
- Expert analysis and recommendations to ensure the right actions are taken
- A continuous feedback loop to refine monitoring criteria and thresholds
3 real-world case studies
Operators that have already adopted proactive services report positive business results. For example:
- A large Tier 1 operator estimates a 300% ROI.
- An emerging Tier 3 operator reports a 48% reduction in internal assistance requests.
But what’s happening behind the scenes to lead to these numbers? The following 3 examples illustrate why proactive services are becoming a “must have” for mobile networks.
Detecting dangerous trends
In this case, trend detection techniques revealed spikes in the number of short calls per minute. The spikes reflected a rash of one-way voice calls. Patterns in call duration records isolated the one-way audio problem to a router with a switch protection failure.
The router was quickly replaced and the one-way audio problem resolved — before it became a serious customer issue.
Pinpointing root cause
In this case, historical trending techniques identified significant packet loss on a bearer channel during peak hours. The intermittent issue had started 3 months earlier but the operator wasn’t aware of it.
Identifying the source of the problem:
- Saved operating expenses. The operator no longer had resources searching for the root cause of poor call quality.
- Prevented reoccurrence. New events were monitored to enable earlier detection in the future.
Increasing network efficiency
In this case, a low network efficiency ratio was identified at certain sites within the network. Analysis showed that the low performance numbers were all related to certain dialing patterns. A study of digit translations then revealed that incorrectly provisioned digit translation tables were causing call failures.
Resolving this previously unknown issue:
- Eliminated call failures due to provisioning errors
- Made more efficient use of network resources
- Improved verification processes for future provisioning changes
Looking at the benefits experienced by other operators is a good way to understand the value of proactive services. Additionally, operators can start quantifying ROI for their wireless network by establishing a trial with a proactive services partner, or using an entry-level service for reporting services on a given network.
A trial or reporting service can benchmark the wireless network performance and identify the most critical problems in the network. An ROI tool customized for the operator’s network and market can then be used to quantify the potential revenue loss associated with those problems. Also, reports from a scaled, entry-level service can provide insights into key changes in the network or KPIs, and signal network operations, capacity or performance trends over time.
An effective proactive services partner will have the flexibility to tailor trials and offerings to meet an operator’s experience level, competitive environment and business model. For example:
- Many operators will want to rely fully on their partner’s tools and experience to detect issues and recommend actions. This approach brings operators expertise and insight they don’t have in-house. It also helps them run leaner, more efficient operations teams.
- Other operators may feel they have the internal knowledge and experience to proactively identify and resolve issues. They only want access to their partner’s data analysis tools. When needed, they can call on their partner’s experts or extend to a full managed services approach to free internal resources for other priorities.
Collecting network information is the easy part. Picking out the right pieces of information takes specialized tools and knowledge. The real pay-off for operators is understanding how to put all the pieces together and interpret what they mean to prevent serious network problems.
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-  Based on Alcatel-Lucent industry research and field experience. ↩