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How MNOs Can Win the Game of Phones

by Nicolas Carré, Director of Product Management at Guavus, a Thales company

I’m a huge fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones. I faithfully watched every episode of every season. Throughout each season, Sunday night was a much-anticipated respite for me, as I dove into the lives of enthralling characters who were beautifully written, carefully casted and artfully portrayed. Season-ending episodes always delivered with high drama, thrilling action and mind-boggling cinematography and CGI; but what the show did most effectively was leave you wanting more. Anticipation of the next season would last about ten months until finally the newest season opener would air. And the show would never disappoint. 

So, when fans learned they would have to wait twice as long as usual for the eighth and final season to begin, one meme began to appear across the internet and social media: “The longer they make us wait, the better it will have to be.”  

The Promise of 5G 

We’ve all been waiting for 5G for quite some time. And during that time, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have not hesitated to tell us just how excited we should be about it. And they’re not wrong.

As compared to 4G, 5G will have exponentially higher capacity and speed, and lower latency, the lag between action initiation and response. And because it is almost instantaneous in sending and receiving signals, 5G is expected to offer mobile internet speeds topping 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), about 100 times faster than 4G. For example, a 5G user could download an HD feature film in under five seconds. 

From Industrial IoT to Entertainment and Gaming, 5G is expected to improve or enable the largest range of industry verticals than any other generation of cellular networks ever impacted. Interestingly, even basic telephony, the oldest service ever provided on a mobile network, is impacted with the Voice over New Radio (VoNR). VoNR will provide enhanced voice quality at higher SLA standards that were not possible before. 

But for MNOs planning to roll out a 5G VoNR network, there’s a catch. 


A brief history of the “Gs” 

The transition from what is essentially dubbed 1G back in the 80’s all through 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE can be defined as an evolution from the use of the analog signal to a digital signal to meet the communication demands for higher bandwidth, frequency, functionality, and performance. Legacy 2G, 3G, and the 4G LTE networks currently co-exist within mixed networks.  

While digital signals offer stability and higher throughput, in instances where there is service degradation on IP networks, there is a fallback technology known as Circuit Switch Fall Back (CSFB), wherein an LTE device falls back to 3G or 2G voice and SMS services to complete the call or to deliver the SMS text message when the 4G network is out of range. CSFB has become the principal global solution for voice and SMS interoperability in legacy networks, primarily due to its stability, inherent cost, magnitude of deployment, and power advantages of single radio solutions on the device side. This technology has saved 4G LTE stability and performance because analog signals can be a reliable fallback if the digital signal degrades.   

While circuit switch is a viable fallback option for 3G and 4G services, 5G VoNR is a different ball game. 5G VoNR was designed as a digital voice service to fulfill the idea of an all-IP, VoLTE, and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) network. It cannot fall back on legacy analog signals to alleviate call quality degradations. In short, there is no CSFB for 5G VoNR. It can only fall back to 4G VoLTE, but not to 3G or 2G. Since 4G VoLTE does not provide Circuit Switch connectivity, voice/SMS services in 5G can only be provided via IMS service.  

Many operators the world over have started decommissioning their legacy networks to facilitate the rollout of 5G. This means that all resources are being strategically utilized to meet these costs as well as bandwidth and frequency spectrum demands.  

“The reason the carriers would like to get rid of old legacy tech is to free up that wireless spectrum,” said Ian Fogg, vice president of analysis at mobile analytics firm OpenSignal. “If you switch off older tech in most markets, most countries, your spectrum license allows you to use that with newer networks like 4G and 5G.” 

How to win the customer over 

It’s clear that we expect a lot from 5G. One thing that we don’t expect is that while the data services will be augmented in quality and functionality, our voice experience will degrade.

As we discussed in the last blog post, voice experience is a key driver of Net Promoter Score (NPS). MNOs need to secure the VoNR service quality and ensure that customers’ VoNR experience doesn’t degrade while more consumer and enterprise customers, as well as more data services, are piling up on their 5G network. The people responsible for the voice service quality will not be able to afford making decisions without considering the customer experience in delivering the most basic function we know from a telephone.  

Artificial intelligence, machine learning (AI/ML), analytics and automation will be pivotal for calculating indicators that help predict the NPS. Scoring the voice experience in real time for every customer and identifying service experience degradation using anomaly detection models will be unavoidable to anticipate the customers at risk, qualified as Detractors. The voice experience degradation will need to be resolved in the shortest possible time and prioritized considering how many customers are exposed.

High quality in mobile voice services is table stakes and only operators that proactively and adequately equip themselves for the transition will win in this game of phones. 

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About the Author

Nicolas Carre Guavus

Connect with Nicolas Carré

Nicolas Carré is the Director of Product Management leading the service and device analytics product lines at Guavus, a Thales company, and pioneer in AI-based big data analytics for MNOs.

Nicolas has spent more than 15 years in the telecom industry, mostly working with CSPs on customer-centric mobile service adoption and device trend analysis. The learning experience from addressing these challenges is Nicolas’ primary source of inspiration for designing analytics products that enable CSP business and operations teams with customer-centric solutions.

Prior to Guavus, Nicolas gained valuable experience as a Data Architect and was involved in building several startups from the ground up – including Neuralitic, Inc., which focused on mobile subscriber analytics and was acquired by Guavus in 2012.