Augmenting Wireless Quality of Service Metrics with Crowdsourced Wireless Quality of Experience Data




Macdonald, Hunter

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Due to advances in mobile devices, service providers must support a roughly year over year doubling of data traffic on their wireless networks. Large capital expenditures are required on an ongoing basis to upgrade networks and keep up with this increasing demand. However, revenue growth is not keeping pace with these capital costs. This is placing significant capital strain on wireless service providers as they seek to increase the extent and capacity of their infrastructure deployments. Service providers are highly motivated to increase revenues in order to improve their bottom line. Unfortunately it is difficult to increase average revenue per user (ARPU), which has remained stagnant for most service providers in North America for the last 3 years. Instead, 70% of service providers cite improved customer attraction and retention, often achieved through providing a better wireless user experience, as being their core strategy for improving revenues and affording the required network upgrades. The understood dynamic is that customers do not have strong loyalties to their wireless service providers. They will willingly change providers to receive a better wireless experience. However the approach of attracting customers with superior quality of experience can only work for some service providers. When it comes to improving customer retention and attraction rates there must be winners and losers since not every service provider can deliver the best quality of service. This has produced a highly competitive customer acquisition and retention landscape with each service provider striving to attract a growing share of customers so that more revenue is available to support reinvestment into their networks. In many cases service providers will go so far as to buy customers out of their existing competitor contracts in order to gain their patronage. Given that the majority of wireless service providers are competing on wireless quality to attract and retain customers, the industry has reached a critical point at which being profitable relies on near perfect deployment of a limited amount of capital to improve customer experience. A wireless service provider who poorly deploys its capital will fall behind their competition in terms of wireless quality and will lose portions of their critically important customer base. This means that revenues drop further - reducing the capital available to re-invest into the network. This accelerates the process so that once a wireless service provider falls behind in quality it becomes increasingly difficult to catch up. Hence it is critical for service providers to understand what is influencing wireless user experience on their networks so that effective strategies can be put in place for cost-efficient continuous improvement. Service providers are actively seeking solutions to help them be more intelligent with how they spend their network improvement dollars. Basic economics suggests that companies may compete on both price and quality. This is of course also true for communications networks and some smaller players have emerged which compete by offering a lightweight, low-cost feature set. However the same core dynamics exist among this group of service providers. If one of the low-cost players poorly deploys their capital, and provides a lower quality of service at a given price point, then they will lose customers to those offering better service at the same (or lower) price point. Losing those customers reduces revenue for that wireless service provider making it difficult for them to remain competitive. Hence, even among low-cost providers, it is critical that they deploy solutions that help them spend their network deployment and improvement capital as intelligently and cost effectively as possible. Quality of Service (QoS) has traditionally been measured using network probes deployed within the service provider’s core network. Hence QoS describes the network’s perspective of user experience. At this time, the majority of network investment decisions are made to achieve the greatest gains to QoS. This approach does achieve some level of customer perceived success. However making decisions based on maximizing QoS does not necessarily mean that the consumers will see improvement. QoS often fails to reflect the consumer’s perception of wireless quality which can, at times, be substantially different. Using QoS as the key performance indicator for a wireless network creates problems because it only incorporates information collected with core network probes or via deep packet inspection. As an example to highlight the shortcomings of network-side monitoring, consider what happens when a mobile device fails to connect to a communications network. In this case the dropped call doesn’t reach the network and network monitoring solutions in the core are blind to the error. However if monitoring was also performed directly on the mobile device that event would be recorded. It is increasingly important to make decisions to maximize the customer’s perspective of received quality. Wireless service providers can therefore improve the effectiveness of their network investments by augmenting their existing QoS information with user experience information collected directly on mobile handsets. These device-side readings reflect the consumer’s perspective of quality. Additionally, by monitoring directly on mobile handsets types of failure events can be captured that are not measureable by core network probes and deep packet inspection. Quality of Experience (QoE) is a term coined to characterize these key performance indicators of a wireless user’s experience built by incorporating direct mobile handset data collection. QoE requires not just on-device measurement but also and understanding of what on-device applications require what levels of network service. Customers experience networks through the applications they use on their wireless devices. Hence for a service provider to truly understanding a customer’s QoE they must monitor experience from the application layer of their customers’ mobile handsets and build an understanding of how specific network conditions affect the performance of mobile applications. For example service providers must become well-versed in the customer’s perspective of video and voice over IP calling (VoIP) sessions occurring over their networks, where these are distinct from, for example, the network demands of text messaging. This report explores the differences in QoE and QoS in order to highlight the benefits of deploying solutions focused on monitoring QoE to enhance network planning and operations practices. In particular customer QoE as it relates to video and VoIP services is examined as those are the services that tend to be the most network sensitive while having a strong potential to impact a service provider’s customer churn rate.



Quality of Service, Quality of Experience, Wireless