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App Coverage white paper


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As smartphones and tablets became the access devices of choice, mobile user behavior has undergone a fundamental shift from being predominantly voice-centric to data-centric – or, more accurately, app-centric. To provide for this, operators need new ways to assess performance and the quality of the user experience that enables operators to build and manage their networks in the most efficient, targeted and profitable way.

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App Coverage white paper

  1. 1. rethinking network performance for smartphones The explosive growth of smartphones and app usage bring new challenges to mobile operators worldwide. App coverage is an approach to meet those challenges by translating users’ expectations into network performance targets. ericsson White paper Uen 289 23-3212 | September 2013 App coverage
  2. 2. app coverage • A new world emerges 2 A new world emerges A new generation of mobile devices emerged in 2007, characterized by a combination of large touchscreens and mobile broadband connectivity.These smartphones transformed the mobile- user experience and sparked a surge in the volumes of mobile data generated around the world. In 2009, the volumes of mobile-data traffic surpassed voice traffic for the first time. Now data traffic is 10 times greater than voice. As smartphones and tablets became the access devices of choice, mobile-user behavior underwent a fundamental shift from being predominantly voice-centric to data-centric – or, more accurately, app-centric. Today, operators are faced with users’ expectations for instantaneous, reliable access to their apps, wherever they are. To provide for this, operators need new ways of assessing both performance and the quality of the user experience.These things are not only meaningful to the typical user, but also enable operators to build and manage their networks in the most efficient, targeted and profitable way.
  3. 3. app coverage • A new indicator of user experience 3 A new indicator of user experience Well-performing mobile networks not only lead to satisfied and loyal customers, they also lead to higher data volumes per user. Mobile-phone users place high expectations on voice services: reliability and availability are taken for granted. Expectations are becoming just as exacting for data too. Figure 1 illustrates the effect on mobile-user behavior of load times for a typical web page, using research on usability [1].The social-media experience is similarly influenced by how quickly the requested pages are rendered on screen. A 2012 study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and AkamaiTechnologies [2] found that internet users start abandoning attempts to view online videos if they do not load properly within two seconds. As time goes on, the rate at which viewers give up on a given video increases. The quality of user experience has always been important for operators. However, with the rise of mobile-broadband and smartphone usage over the past few years, the meaning of user experience has changed dramatically. Ultimately, for every operator, success depends on the quality of user experience.This influences everything from brand reputation and customer loyalty, through the opportunities for partnering and revenue-sharing, to the ability to generate a sufficient return on investment. In response to these challenges, a new approach to network performance called app coverage is proposed as an indicator of the mobile-broadband experience. App coverage is the probability that the network will deliver sufficient performance to run a particular application at a quality level acceptable to the user. 0.1s0.1s 1s1s 4–8s4–8s 10s10s Immediate response Immediate response Limit for users’ flow of thought to stay uninterrupted Limit for users’ flow of thought to stay uninterrupted Users’ visual attention starts to shift away Users’ visual attention starts to shift away Limit for keeping users’ attention/focus Limit for keeping users’ attention/focus Figure 1: Effect of web-page load time on mobile-user behavior.
  4. 4. app coverage • The ecosystem: devices, apps, networks 4 The ecosystem: devices, apps, networks There are already more than 2,000 different smartphone types supplied by over 100 different vendors, and over 2 million apps available in different application stores. This ever-expanding array of capable devices and apps puts high demands on the mobile-broadband networks. Devices, apps and networks all have to work well together for the user experience to be a good one. Device technology is advancing all the time. Three years ago, high-end smartphones with four-inch screens, 1GHz processors and WCDMA/HSPA 7.2Mbps support were considered state-of-the-art.Today, we’re seeing the introduction of high-end smartphones with 1.5-2.0GHz quad-/octa-core processors, which support downlink speeds of up to 100Mbps over LTE. Some of these handsets have screens measuring five inches or more, with double the pixel density of the previous generation. There is also a corresponding increase in the performance of high-volume, low-end and mid- range smartphones.This year, we have witnessed, for the first time, shipments of smartphones exceeding those of feature phones.This marks a fundamental change in the purpose and adoption of smartphones on a global scale. This expansion of smartphone ownership and use is a key driver of traffic growth over mobile-broadband networks worldwide. As new apps that utilize the capabilities of these smartphones emerge and are adopted by users, they will fuel further demand for better app coverage. Music and video streaming over mobile networks is increasingly popular. Web browsing has evolved into social media, and using mobile broadband is now the most common way of staying in touch. While all categories of mobile data are predicted to show significant growth over the coming years, the highest growth is expected from video traffic. Around half of all mobile-data traffic will be video by the end of 2018, according to Ericsson’s market analysis. Providing a good user experience will always involve a balancing act between networks, devices and apps. It requires attention to many aspects of the network and related systems.
  5. 5. app coverage • App requirements and network considerations 5 App requirements and network considerations There are already over 2 million apps available for download from the major application stores and marketplaces, and the numbers are growing constantly. It is challenging to deliver sufficient performance for each and every app everywhere, all the time – or even to know what they all require. A successful approach involves understanding the requirements of the most popular app types, and setting targets to deliver a sufficient quality of user experience for the most widely used applications throughout the coverage area. Apps that involve streaming media, such as music and video, are predominantly dependent on downlink throughput rates. While streaming apps tend to use a variety of mechanisms to smooth variable network performance (adaptive codecs, local caching and buffering), if downlink throughput is not high enough, time-to-content increases along with the risk of the media freezing during the actual streaming process. Web browsing and social media are also dependent on downlink throughput, but for these types of applications, latency is also key owing to the way network protocols interact with system signaling. Web pages are not static documents; they are rather built dynamically – usually consisting of many objects – and latency is additive. While downlink throughput and latency are factors to be considered for many apps, real-time services such as videoconferencing need symmetrical uplink and downlink throughput, making the delivery of good uplink performance all the more important. For example, environments such as stadiums and arenas exhibit a much higher than average uplink-to-downlink application ratio, with fans uploading photos and video clips to their social-networking sites. Capacity is also a major issue affecting user experience and – in the mobile-broadband networks built and operated today – capacity cannot be separated from coverage, as they trade off the same network resources. The dimensions of data-service quality – uplink and downlink throughput, latency and capacity – are dependent on radio performance in the form of output power and receiver sensitivity. These dimensions are also sensitive to obstructions to radio propagation as well as fading and interference. A cell that can offer 40Mbps downlink at its center might only support a few hundred kbps data speed at the cell edge of the coverage area. Mapping app coverage and the corresponding user experience within the coverage area can be complex. Many factors need to be considered, including the app’s distance from either the base station or small cell, along with other factors including the local terrain, the size and composition of buildings, and the interference from other cells or external sources. Special considerations apply to buildings where penetration losses and high capacity requirements for data applications potentially drive the need for dedicated indoor systems and coordination between macro cells and small cells. Figure 2 illustrates the concept of how throughput and the corresponding applications can potentially vary within the coverage area without the benefits of macro-cell improvement, cell densification and small cells. Improve network performance for target app coverage www HD Figure 2: A conceptual view of potential app coverage.
  6. 6. app coverage • App requirements and network considerations 6 The app performance experienced by any given user is also influenced by the number of other active users in the cell and the demands their apps place on the network at any given time. Significant variance in radio performance means KPIs for managing user experience cannot be restricted to peak or even median downlink throughput speeds. Providing a good user experience requires planning radio-network designs with site-to-site distances that will deliver the targeted performance. Finally, a major portion of mobile traffic either starts or ends indoors, making indoor coverage an especially important aspect of the delivery of good app coverage.
  7. 7. app coverage • App coverage applied 7 App coverage applied A fundamental question for operators should be: “How can we enable the best user experience for as many users as possible, anywhere in the network, given the apps and devices in use today?” In addition to monitoring network performance, operators must be increasingly aware of the usage of both devices and apps in their networks. Given this awareness, an operator also needs to gauge how fast the demands on the network are increasing, and finally build this knowledge into the network plan. Originally, mobile networks were built to deliver access to voice services across a defined coverage area. The main indicators for determining service quality included measurements of network availability, speech quality and dropped-call rates. In essence, the processes used by operators to manage network quality for voice can be employed for mobile data – with a major difference.Voice services involve well-known and static KPIs. Delivering data services for use with many apps requires decisions about service levels that must be continually revisited as the apps evolve and present new requirements. Improving and maintaining the quality of user experience is a continuous process. Operators will need to adapt continually as mobile devices, apps and network capabilities all develop in parallel. The advantage of an app-coverage focus is that this approach enables the integration of coverage, capacity and quality into a holistic view of network performance, allowing the operator to deliver apps that meet users’ expectations. An approach to building app coverage into an operator’s quality processes could look like this: 1. Assess: Determine current devices and application types in use in the network. 2. Target: Choose values for the targeted application coverage in terms of the probability of the app being available with sufficient performance for the user. Selecting app-coverage targets will include the consideration of various factors – for example, uplink and downlink throughput, latency and capacity for the apps/devices in use. 3. Implement: Use the target-reference values to determine and implement the improvements necessary, if applicable, to deliver the desired app-user experience. 4. Verify: Statistically verify that data sessions in the system reach the target KPIs. 5. Repeat: Continue to measure the app coverage and identify improvement areas as necessary to maintain the targeted level of app coverage. Figure 3 gives an indication of downlink throughputs experienced today, based on an analysis of Ookla Speedtest measurements collected around the world [3]. Today’s radio mobile-broadband network technologies are capable of delivering very high 0.10.1 MbpsMbps %% %% %% %% %% %% %% 9494 7878 1717 8282 5555 55 9494 7777 2727 9090 5858 77 8585 5454 88 9595 7878 3131 8484 4848 55 11 1010 Western Europe Western Europe Central and Eastern Europe Central and Eastern Europe Middle East Middle East Source: Based on Ericsson’s analysis of results provided by Ookla 2013.Source: Based on Ericsson’s analysis of results provided by Ookla 2013. AfricaAfrica Asia Pacific Asia Pacific North America North America Latin America Latin America Figure 3: Proportion of Ookla Speedtest measurements with a given downlink throughput or higher (March 2013).
  8. 8. app coverage • App coverage applied 8 throughput and low latency. The ongoing challenge is to deliver bandwidth that enables a high probability of getting sufficient performance throughout the network. An effective way to improve app coverage is to start by optimizing the existing radio infrastructure, and then to move progressively from macro to micro using efficiency measures to determine investment priorities: Improve: Tune and optimize the radio network to gain maximum spectrum efficiency; upgrade system software to the latest release; review parameter settings and deploy software features to maximize the performance of the current radio-network infrastructure, introduce low-band HSPA and/or LTE; deploy fiber in the backhaul and transport network to boost backhaul capacity. Add more spectrum. Densify: Add capacity to the macro network; upgrade content and application servers; deploy antenna integrated radios to simplify expansion to new and existing macro sites. Add: Deploy embedded small cells coordinated with macro network along with integrated Wi-Fi, or distributed indoor radio solutions to boost capacity, coverage and uplink performance. In summary, app coverage integrates all aspects of network performance – including radio- network throughput and latency, capacity, as well as the performance of the backhaul, packet- core and the content-delivery networks. Ultimately, managing app coverage and performance demands a true end-to-end approach to designing, building and running mobile networks. High-performing mobile networks not only ensure satisfied, loyal customers, but also lead to higher data volumes per user. Operators that can establish, demonstrate and promote a superior user experience will become the leaders in driving customer satisfaction, loyalty and lifetime value, and this will also bring about new business opportunities. App coverage is an approach to understanding and meeting user needs in today’s world of smartphones.
  9. 9. app coverage • references 9 References 1. Nielsen, J., Usability Engineering, Chapter 5. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, 1993. 2. Krishnan, S. Shunmuga and Sitaraman, Ramesh K., 2012. University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Akamai Technologies. Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior: Inferring Causality Using Quasi-Experimental Designs. Available at: 3. Ericsson, June 2013. Ericsson Mobility Report. [online] Ericsson. Available at: © 2013 Ericsson AB – All rights reserved