Quality of Service (QoS) in Mobile Wireless Networks

Written by Kris

Topics: Technology

What is this Quality of Service? Well, Quality of Service is what each one of us, knowingly or unknowingly applies in our day to day life. For ex, last week-end we had decided to go to a movie and we had paid a decent amount for the ticket. Actually the money paid was slightly on higher side, but that was a recently released movie and that too on weekend. So, fundamentally demand-supply rule costed us that little extra money. Coming back to the movie story, at the end of the movie we felt like the movie was not worth the money we spent (the actual movie name is not a concern here :-)). So, essentially what we were saying is that we paid for a service, we had certain expectations of the service (ie, movie quality) but at the end it failed to meet our expectations. We normally demand the value for the services we buy. The same applies anywhere. We buy a brand new mobile phone, we expect it to function well with all features that it promises. We go to restaurant, we expect the service attendant to be  prompt and attentive. Anything wrong we get angry and we either leave or blast at the attendant or the restaurant manager (of course,  there are some of us who have infinite patience and do not blast or complain, but the basic sense of judgement of Quality of Service exists in each one of them!)

Now, everyone one of us agree that the Quality constitute the fundamental aspect of every business. It is even more so in today’s fiercely competed businesses. In today’s mobile wireless networks scenario, there is a fierce competition between operators. With data demands on constant raise, thanks to the introduction of new innovative devices, access technology improvements, key advancements on the enabling technologies front, the ARPU is on decline. In order to continue to be competitive, apart from the need to introduce innovative services, broadband plans, the Quality of Service (QoS) is also a very key differentiating factor.

Lets quickly look at the key drivers for the QoS for mobile operators:

  • Operators proving superior Quality of Experience (QoE) enjoy significant competitive advantages
  • According to a textbook research on communications, 82% of the customer defections are due to product or service related issues which the operator is not able to handle effectively
  • Bad feedback propagates easily! (recollect the movie story above, we had actually went on and told at least dozen people about the quality of the movie!, you can imagine the cascading affect!!). Every customer who is not satisfied tells many other people against the service. This build negative image in the market
  • Many people simply leave the operator if they feel the service is inadequate, they do not even complain. For every person who calls for complaining, there are 29 others who never call.
  • End user QoE management is an important aspect in the network building

Keeping these points in consideration, a mobile network operator would keep in mind of the end user quality during each step of the mobile network building. ie, from the network planning, cell planning, coverage planning, procuring networks elements from OEMs, network integration, back-haul strategies and network optimization steps.

To help operators provide QoS in their networks, third generation partnership project (3GPP) provides requirements at the outset for QoS in 3GPP networks. We will see what requirements 3GPP poses in-order to provide end user quality of service in coming posts. For now, it is suffice to understand that service quality in networks do not happen by chance. They are carefully thought, planned and provisioned.

Ok, well, so far so good!. But, in regard to mobile wireless networks, how do we define the Quality of Service in a non-abstract way? How do operators ‘plan’ for the end quality of service? How is the quality of service monitored?  It is not very straight forward to answer all these question as this is one of the complex issues that every operator faces. As we delve deeper in to the technicalities of the topic things would get clearer. For now, lets focus on the first question. From the user perspective, Quality of Service (QoS) is actually ‘perceived’ rather than ‘measured’. So, it is usually in an abstract way. It is usually conveyed with phrases like ‘the quality is good’, ‘the coverage is good’, ‘the signal levels are not good in 3rd floor’,’there are lot of coverage holes’,’my call gets dropped often’, ‘voice breaks’, ‘voice quality is bad’ etc. This is the way the user ‘experiences’ the service. So, it is rather called ‘Quality of Experience (QoE)’ (actually, there may be some techie users who are concerned with what speeds that connection offers by measuring the data rates, but it goes only that far). Operator cannot really use this data alone to understand what QoS his network provides, but this data provides basic sense of how their network is performing.

In forth coming blogs we will further explore above mentioned topics like what guidelines 3GPP provides for QoS realization in UMTS/LTE networks, how they are actually tralized in a network implementation.

References:

1. QoS and QoE Management in UMTS Cellular Systems – http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470016396.html

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