Magazine Article | June 25, 2013

Understand The Trends In Mobile Broadband Network Development

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Andrew MacFarlane, founder and CEO, Mobile Pulse Inc.,

The standardization of mobile broadband measurement will play a key role in the future of network development.

Today, the build-out of mobile broadband is accelerating at an incredible rate. LTE network technology is bringing wired broadband performance to a wireless world. Mobile devices perform more like PCs every day. Users now expect wired desktop-like performance, regardless of mobile device and network. The importance of mobile performance to enterprise, government, and the public cannot be understated.

An interesting trend in the development of wireless networks is the increasing importance of end-user data on network development. With comprehensive network performance detail and minimal upfront cost, the use of end-user analytics promises to benefit every stakeholder in the mobile ecosystem. Network operators, governments, enterprises, and the public are all beginning to leverage these powerful tools. Importantly, the methodology of mobile broadband performance measurement is being standardized as part of an ongoing project at the IEEE. With this standardization, end-user analytics will continue to play a key role in the development of mobile broadband.

Broadband Performance Measurement Benefits
End-user broadband measurements promise unique advantages over traditional network analyses, such as drive tests. First, end-user metrics are able to collect critical details about device conditions and network performance as the customer experiences them. Drive tests offer detailed insight into radio dynamics but cannot capture differentiation between various devices and key variables impacting user experience. End-user tests are also capable of sampling geographies — broad or isolated — across longer spans of time. This allows network analysts to analyze areas that are costly to test and enables an assessment of the network’s performance across various spans of time.

Key stakeholders are taking advantage of the end-user metrics these measurement tools provide. Government agencies are leveraging these metrics to gain insight into the dynamics of mobile broadband and to enhance the connectivity of emergency services and in rural areas. Enterprises are demanding accountability from service providers for downtime and poor performance. Policy makers are making better decisions about how to allocate scarce resources, from towers to spectrum. The user is truly defining the way the industry moves forward in mobile network development.

An important consideration in the overall acceptance of end-user metrics is the standardization of wireless broadband measurement methods and metrics. Unlike traditional wireline services, where performance metrics are highly standardized, wireless performance metrics are varied due to the myriad devices, networks, and methods used by testers. In order for wireless end-user metrics to gain greater traction and acceptance, the testing methodology must be standardized. This is the goal of the IEEE standard 802.16.3.

With standardization, researchers and policy makers will have access to a wealth of normalized data necessary for advanced study. Consumers will benefit from the enhanced study of comparable user-centric measurements. Perhaps most importantly, all users will have access to metrics that are recognized in the technical community as accurate and representative of true service quality.

The Future Of Wireless Analytics
Advanced end-user metrics will provide unique benefits to all of the key mobile stakeholders. Consumers will be able to select carriers and devices with greater confidence. Large customers will have the ability to reach service level agreements with their providers and hold carriers accountable for service quality. Governments and carriers will have access to robust end-user data that can be used to fill in gaps in coverage and expand coverage in rural areas.

As users’ voices become louder in wireless measurement, the future of broadband becomes brighter. Public safety and consumer satisfaction increase, government RFPs are more informed, and enterprise and government contracts are more equitable. Seek participation in end-user testing and in supporting wireless methodology standards to build a better wireless future together.