The implementation of VoLTE offers many benefits and mobile operators are pursuing opportunities with VoLTE to increase revenues, optimize network efficiency, improve operating models, and deliver better voice quality services to end users. Case in point here in North America, VoLTE calls now make up 80% of all voice calls on the T-Mobile US network.
The circuit switched network was thoughtfully designed to support and optimize the voice experience and has well served the test of time. To fully realize the promise of 4G/LTE, operators are now embracing 3GPP standards and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) in particular, to gain the efficiencies envisioned with VoLTE. Nevertheless, assuring fault-free calling for customers is challenging.
The hard truth about “soft drops”
From extensive experience deploying large-scale VoLTE implementations, Ericsson identified some common issues arising as operators scale their VoLTE base and operations:
- There is a significant increase in voice quality issues experienced by customers, mainly reported as garbled voice (clipped, distorted, or choppy audio) or one-way communication (only one of the parties receives audio).
- The frequency of “soft drops” increases in which one of the parties terminates the call due to poor quality and may or may not initiate a call back.
- Voice quality-related complaints to customer care rise and negative postings on social media may become pervasive.
The operator’s customer care and network operations organizations are often not prepared to handle the increased frequency of these types of complaints. They lack the visibility needed to discover and resolve “soft drops” due to the fact that network nodes can only report on more “normal” dropped calls, for example those dropped during handovers. Customer-initiated terminations never appear in any network node statistics.
A key challenge for operations personnel lies in the complexity of isolating the specific root cause. The needed ability to perform end-to-end correlation of data across all network domains in the core, radio and IMS domains at granular user level is simply lacking. As a result, complaint resolution time is too long, operational efficiency is poor, and many complaints remain unresolved. In addition, overall customer satisfaction related to network quality plummets to the point where some customers will move to alternative providers or at the very least, shout out their dissatisfaction on social media.
The full potential of VoLTE is not realized and return on VoLTE investments remains unfulfilled.
Big data analytics for improved VoLTE
When launching new important services like VoLTE that have a high impact on the experience of a user, it is critical to be able to know the actual experience delivered to each individual user and to understand the reasons why the quality was not at the expected level. Service providers are often struggling to monitor these services end-to-end at the level of granularity needed. Up to now, the right tools have simply been lacking.
Ericsson Expert Analytics, a big data analytics tool that measures end-to-end service quality in real-time, is helping mobile operators to proactively identify and resolve customer impacting issues related to VoLTE calls. Ericsson has successfully deployed the solution for T-Mobile US across their nationwide network of more than 72 million subscribers to drive customer experience to an entirely new level. Now 80% of T-Mobile customers are being served over the VoLTE network (with the goal to serve 100% in the future)—all enjoying better service quality.
Deliver on the promise of VoLTE
Ericsson Expert Analytics correlates data from multiple sources and analyzes the information in real time to see both the user experience and the network cause per session. IMS-based services such as VoLTE are a powerful use of the system.
The main benefits with these new insights are to make sure VoLTE delivers on its promise to deliver the best quality to the fullest extent. Having uncovered insights that were previously invisible to the operator can reduce the mean handling time for complex problems with simplified root cause detection and automatic generation of next best action recommendations.
Ericsson Expert Analytics enables mobile operators to improve their VoLTE return on investment by:
- Enabling proactive incident generation to fix the issues before the customer perceives degradation, thereby reducing complaints.
- Providing one consolidated and correlated view of every VoLTE session, allowing faster drill-down into root cause analysis, reducing resolution time.
- Improving NOC resolution rate, reducing the escalation of tickets to expensive network engineering resources.
- Providing suggestions for corrective action and closing the loop through monitoring fixes.
As VoLTE implementations continue to increase, service providers should take proactive steps by investing in tools that will assure the quality of experience of these essential services.