10 lessons Mobile Operators learned when we measured their 4G Customer Experience

4G has to be used to be believed. And over the past 6 months we’ve had the job of performing 4G Customer Experience studies for Mobile Operators at various stages of 4G readiness, from pre-launch customer experience assessment through to commercially launched networks. Here is what we all learned, using information from our ‘new LTE customer experience study package’.

  1. With 4G, the mobile network is no longer the performance bottleneck defining the mobile user experience. In our experience the servers of websites a user accesses are becoming the current bottleneck of 4G mobile data user experience. Facebook and other internet brands have to keep pace with their huge popularity by deploying enough (fast) server infrastructure to satisfy their users. Right now, IP packets are transferring across the 4G networks faster than many internet brands are processing them.
  2. Using our Customer Experience Indicator (CEI), 4G is a 3 times improvement over 3G. For those with a more technical interest; we observed typical TCP connection times across 4G networks of less than 50ms, with HTTP response times averaging less than 200ms. DNS lookups averaged 80ms. Users achieved 50Mbps peak download speeds. Doing a google search will show instances of higher speeds being achieved in 4G networks. That’s great. However it’s important to stress that the Ciqual measures are of actual user experience; not artificially generated speed tests designed to max out a broadband link. We measure the actual experience users achieve as they are using the internet.
  3. And this has led 4G users to change their mobile internet habits. 4G is being used as an always-on connection to replace their fixed-line by some users. Users kept open their home-based 4G connection (typically MiFi/dongle/router users) for days at a time. It became the de-facto internet connection in their household.
  4. More numbers… our studies showed that, on average, customers used 4G for twice as long per week compared to 3G uses in the same country. Customers actively used their 4G connection for an average of 18 hours per week. In pre-commercial 4G networks we are seeing early-adopter users taking (more than) full advantage of unlimited internet bundles. Extreme users have downloaded over 200GB some weeks. Single downloads of over 1GB are commonplace.
  5. We identified 1% of users who have extreme downloading profiles. This 1% of users has been measured downloading over 40% of all downloaded data on a 4G network. Fair use policies will be crucial from the outset in 4G to ensure the minority do not take advantage of the network to the detriment of other users.
  6. This leads to a new challenge for 4G Network Planners. The ‘extreme downloaders’ are almost always stationary, and therefore monopolising the resources of a single cell site. Mobile network planning has placed the mobility of users as a crucial component when planning the network. If (as we have seen) a significant number of customers use 4G while stationary, managing hotspots of network load will be crucial for the customer experience of all users
  7. Which bring us to what are people using 4G for? No prizes for guessing that Bit Torrent accounted for the majority of traffic, with known video streaming sites such as YouTube also dominating the results. We live in a visual age.
  8. 20-30GB/month of inclusive data is required to meet the needs of the average 4G user. That’s our assessment from analysing the amounts of data routinely downloaded by 4G customers. You may be surprised to know that 33% of this data was in the upload direction, compared with 11% of data being in the upload direction in our 3G studies. Social Media and sharing videos and pictures is changing the balance of downloaded versus uploaded traffic. Remember at the beginning of 3G when uploaded data was not charged for as it was so insignificant? No chance of that in 4G
  9. 4G is far superior to all previous mobile internet services. So when users have a poor 4G experience they’ll really notice the difference and be quick to complain. On lightly loaded 4G networks with early-adopter customers, hardly anyone calls to complain. This calm in the 4G Call Centre won’t last forever. On 3G, around a third of call centre calls were related to poorly performing service. The Mobile Operators need to tool up their Call Centres for the next wave of customer issues.
  10. Mobile Operators need to be ready with their commercial 4G service as soon as the pre-launch testing with friendly users is complete. We’ve seen instances of friendly users churning to the 4G services of a competitor as soon as the 4G pre-launch testing is finished. Users’ churning before your 4G network goes live? No better indication of how good 4G really is.

CIQUAL Launches new Study Package to measure end-to-end 4G Customer Experience

Would you like to discuss a 4G Customer Experience study of your users? If so, get in contact at info@ciqual.com