As technologies advance, service providers are continuing to evolve their offerings. In the past few years, we have seen more and more traditional CATV providers including wireless phone service as part of a “triple play.”
These service providers operate a Managed Service Operator (MSO) network for their native wireless service offering and partner with a Managed Network Operator (MNO) to offer ubiquitous wireless service to their customers. MSOs are leveraging the 3.5 GHz spectrum to deploy CBRS/LTE or Wi-Fi for their wireless infrastructure. CBRS and Wi-Fi deployments typically use small, lower power cells that are primarily deployed in dense urban, high traffic areas. The MSO then partners with an MNO to offer a seamless wireless experience when their customers go outside their CBRS/Wi-Fi coverage areas.
Key questions for implementing a seamless user experience
Implementing this service raises some key questions for the MSO:
What are the challenges in offering a seamless consumer experience? How do you quantify how seamless the experience really is?
What is the true subscriber experience at transition boundaries between the MSO and MNO networks? Is there a delay in transitioning between these two logical networks? How long is that delay?
What are the typical data speeds that consumers enjoy on the CBRS/LTE network vs. the speeds that the same consumers receive when on the MNO partner network?
How do you optimize this user experience such that customers remain on their CBRS/Wi-Fi network as long as possible and conversely, acquire them from their MNO partner as soon as they can?
The MSO will want to force a handover to their home network as fast as possible and keep their customer on the home network for as long as possible, but only if the subscriber experience is not comprised.
Let’s discuss some real examples of these challenges. Suppose a pair of MSO customers are using the Google Duo application for a video chat. Google Duo automatically switches between Wi-Fi and cellular networks by using the QUIC protocol over UDP, rather than through a slower, connection-based, TCP protocol. Suppose a different pair of MSO customers are using Facetime for video chat. Facetime runs on Apple devices and can also switch between Wi-Fi and cellular using a proprietary technology.
In both examples, the handovers that occur at the MSO/ MNO boundaries are driven by the algorithms employed by the individual application. The actual subscriber experience will be different and is heavily dependent on the optimization of these applications for the MSO. In both cases, the MSO will want to force a handover to their home network as fast as possible and keep their customer on the home network for as long as possible, but only if the subscriber experience is not comprised.
Gain insight to the user experience during transitions with Umetrix Data
Spirent’s Umetrix Data solution helps MSOs quantify the user experience of their consumers so that optimization decisions can be made in the best interest of the MSO. Test cases are configured on a cloud-hosted server and pushed to commercial devices running a Umetrix Data mobile application. The test cases are typically configured to download files using a TCP protocol, or stream content using the UDP protocol from a cloud-hosted Umetrix media server.
Test cases can be run repeatedly as users cross between the MSO (home network) and the MNO (visitor network). During transitions between the two logical networks, Umetrix Data captures the number of data interruptions that have occurred and the actual data interruption time (in seconds) for each occurrence. With this degree of detail, an MSO can assess whether the handovers between the networks are happening as per their expectations or need further optimization. With Umetrix, an MSO can quantify over a large sample size what the minimum, average, and maximum data interruptions are at these transition boundaries. An example of real data interruptions from an MSO/ MNO network boundary is shown below.
These results from live tests indicate that the average data interruption times for this implementation range from just over 1 second to 3 seconds, and the maximum interruption was as high as 9.1 seconds, which is a significant amount of buffering if a user is streaming at that time.
Insight is the key to superior performance
It is far better for an MSO to have insight as to what users will experience during transitions in advance of implementation and throughout network operation than waiting for complaints to roll in. In this highly competitive market, a superior user experience is essential to reduce customer churn and differentiate service.
Watch our brief video for a demo of exactly how Umetrix Data examines boundary transitions and can present key performance metrics to optimize the experience for the user and the benefits to the MSO.