Posted: December 5, 2012

Piotr Pietrzyk, Managing Director of TMI company, had the pleasure to speak with Thierry Jacq, Business Marketing Manager at Astellia about LTE deployments, SON, HetNet, the Internet of Things and their respective challenges.

Q: Could you briefly describe Astellia’s value proposition and your role in the organization?

A: Astellia is a pure player, dedicated to 2G/3G/4G mobile network optimization. Our probe-based solution covers all network interfaces, from radio access to core. Astellia provides unique expertise by delivering products and services to monitor, troubleshoot and optimize network performance.

I am part of the product marketing team where we address the various needs of mobile operators through product development and innovation. I am particularly involved in Astellia’s LTE projects.

Q: How is Astellia helping operators to overcome some of the challenges linked to LTE?  

A: Operators on all continents are addressing LTE in one way or another: from planning, field trials to launch of extensive commercial networks. When deploying an LTE network, operators are contracting one or several equipment vendors. It is important to assess and benchmark these vendors and measure their equipment efficiency through Astellia’s independent KPIs.

During friendly user tests, Astellia is providing dashboards focusing on friendly users’ perceived QoE. This information is of utmost importance for top level management when deciding to open up their LTE networks to their customers.

As from day one LTE subscribers demand a better quality experience than on HSPA. This means that operators will have to monitor and troubleshoot their LTE networks right from the beginning in order to guarantee the best possible customer experience. In this context, mobile operators, able to get a deep understanding of network and end-user behavior, will stay one step ahead of the game, increasing subscriber loyalty and monetizing network infrastructure. Astellia delivers this intelligence through its Nova Analytics 4G LTE solution, recently showcased at the LTE North America conference in Dallas.

Q: How are voice services being provided on LTE networks?

A: For the moment, most operators are introducing their LTE network with mobile data services only and rely on Circuit Switch Fall-Back (CSFB) for voice. Making a voice call brings quite some challenges today, since CSFB procedures can involve 2G, 3G or LTE networks relying on equipment coming from different vendors. This is a clear source of problems which need to be monitored closely. For instance, a subscriber is surfing the internet with his smartphone hereby using the LTE layer. When receiving an incoming voice call the handset has to switch to the 3G layer. A seamless handover will be key to a positive customer experience. Astellia brings unique KPIs such as time to switch from LTE to 3G layer, hence involving LTE and 3G monitoring.

VoLTE will be the next step, but we see that its integration in operators’ LTE roadmaps is delayed with at least 6 months since it raises many technical challenges.

Q: Talking about optimization, troubleshooting, what is your opinion about Self Organizing Networks (SON)?

A: At the moment there is a lot of buzz around Self Organizing Networks and they can become a real game changer with the promise of large OPEX reduction.  SON features are expected to be introduced gradually in LTE networks, starting with the “Automatic Neighbor Relationship” feature. In the coming years SON will facilitate network operation and optimizaton, but it will have to be carefully managed, monitored and optimized. Astellia provides monitoring of SON procedures, KPI dashboards to verify SON efficiency and troubleshooting capabilities to investigate quality regression impacting subscribers.

Q: Is HetNet the answer to coverage and capacity constraints?

A: The goal of HetNets is to offload traffic from the MacroCells and to broaden coverage in confined areas with high traffic density at a lower cost. This enables to improve subscriber’s experience, increase loyalty and potentially reduce churn. But these HetNets are complex and difficult to operate, in particular when it comes to interoperability between the different layers and technologies.

We see that operators are adopting different approaches as to introducing for instance Femto cells: home coverage for the consumer market, Femto cells for corporate premises or Femto cells targeted at specific congested hot spots like airports, tradeshow centers, subway…

Q: By the end of 2020 there will be around 50 billion connected devices. What challenges are you foreseeing for the Internet of Things?

A: At the moment LTE is being used by operators as a super 3G network: better services to connect people on the move. Video will be one of the first killer applications, but cloud services such as file sharing and cloud gaming will certainly get their piece of the pie quickly.

Over time more and more business-oriented solutions will be introduced. For example, an LTE module embedded in a HD video camera to perform live broadcasting of journalist’s coverage considerably simplifies the setting up of the connection since a laborious satellite connection is no longer needed.

Another growth area is the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market. When M2M services are being generalized to nationwide services like for instance electricity distribution, it will become mandatory to implement M2M 3GPP standards.

 

About Astellia:

Astellia is a leading provider of service assurance solutions that helps mobile operators monitor and manage network QoS and customer experience.

Astellia has been operating on a global scale for more than ten years, collaborating with more than 180 mobile operators and equipment vendors worldwide. Astellia guides its customers in optimizing their network performance by assuring an end-to-end monitoring of their multi-technology networks. This allows operators to deliver top Quality of Service (QoS) and to guarantee an optimal Quality of Experience (QoE) to their subscribers.

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