While the recent launch of the new iPhone X had consumers excited about the prospect of a newer, shinier device, the telecoms industry was equally excited, albeit for different reasons.
Despite the phone’s new features – from water resistance to wireless charging – it was the launch of iOS11 which captured the industry’s attention. Apple’s latest operating system promises to improve users’ public WiFi experience by disabling the ‘auto-join’ feature, preventing the phone from automatically joining Wi-Fi networks with poor connectivity. For users, the removal of these patchy WiFi hot spot options means better Quality of Experience (QoE) when choosing to connect to a public hotspot, and a guaranteed optimal connection. For operators, it signifies a greater step towards an “always best connected” approach, through the augmentation of 4G networks with Wi-Fi.
But from an operator point of view, ensuring the seamless diversion of traffic from cellular to WiFi requires more than just an operating system. If operators do not ensure that they have the correct tools within their Business Support Systems (BSS), they will fail to deliver a WiFi experience that is equal to that of cellular networks when offloading their subscribers.
What’s more, with the telecoms industry achieving an average of Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 31 out of 100, it is essential operators maximise their opportunities to enhance QoE, Quality of Service (QoS) and CX.
What’s in a WiFi network?
WiFi delivers significant network savings and operators are increasingly offloading cellular traffic onto WiFi networks. While this allows for greater network capacity, historically the fact that WiFi is an unlicensed, unregulated technology has seen its reliability, QoS and QoE cast in a shadow of doubt. Unlike 3G, 4G and soon 5G networks, Wi-Fi can be offered to consumers regardless of the quality of the connection. This means that offloading becomes harmful rather than beneficial to the consumer if the connection is less than seamless.
But WiFi should not be seen only as a network capacity optimization tool. Indeed, operators now have the opportunity to harness the qualities of WiFi to create new revenue streams and drive customer engagement. However, operators are faced with several dilemmas. First, how can they ensure the quality of a WiFi network if they have no visibility of it? Second, how can they decide when to offload a user if they cannot control when and under what conditions said user will be offloaded to Wi-Fi? Third, how can they manage CX and enforce policy rules when they have no visibility of the user’s traffic when on the WiFi network?
For the telecoms industry, these issues act as significant obstacles to the use of WiFi as a true alternative and extension to cellular. Thankfully, however, the industry is working hard to address these problems.
In the past few years standards have emerged to change the way in which users engage with WiFi networks. Notable standards include Access Network and Discovery Function (ANDSF), Hotspot 2.0 (HS 2.0) and Next Generation Hotspots (NGH). ANDSF in particular enables operator-controlled offload by assisting devices to discover access networks in their vicinity, and provides rules to prioritise and manage connection to all networks. As a result, operators can dynamically control and define preferences – i.e. how, where, when and for what purpose a device can use a certain radio access technology. These standards have proven to be a game-changer for a number of mobile operators.
Harnessing the power of BSS
But standards only solve part of the problem. Operators also need the correct Business Support System tools to ensure the correct level of network optimization. Keeping track of network performance can become difficult due to the level of traffic, worsening as consumers increasingly swap and flip between mobile and WiFi connectivity. While this places more pressure on the network, consumers expect an uninterrupted experience. It’s therefore important that operators have a solution which provides clarity across the network, in real-time, in order to reduce pressure points and ease transitions from mobile to WiFi networks.
One such operator doing exactly that is Liberty Global, through its recently launched Connect App. The app offers users seamless connectivity between cellular and WiFi networks, both in and out of the home within the same, easy-to-use interface, and includes WiFi onboarding and automatic connection to Liberty Global’s 10 million European hotspots.
The Connect app benefits from range of network selection and analysis capabilities, including tools to identify and blacklist hotspots whenever a connection is rejected, WiFi usage information for all subscribers, and offload statistics. The app gives Liberty Global real-time visibility of device and user requirements, while MVNOs using its network also benefit from reduced termination costs as subscribers are easily commuted onto local WiFi options. The inclusion of this analytical element allows the TV and broadband company the ability to identify areas of the network not as seamless as they should be and improve the overall customer experience, reduce costs, and make new services available.
The time is now
As subscribers consume more data and content than ever before, it’s important that operators have the right solutions to manage network congestion and traffic. Subscribers need to be able to switch from WiFi to cellular, and back, without the worry that their connection will be affected.
Operators increasingly need to look at the end-to-end experience of their subscribers. It’s no longer enough to simply rely on data connectivity and offer additional service bundles—subscribers need to know that the connection they are getting is the fastest and the most seamless one. If operators do not deploy the necessary solutions that are capable of identifying areas of the network that are causing issues to the end-user, it’s not just connectivity that will be affected—it’ll be everything else, too.
Filed Under: Infrastructure