Never mind the Bandwidth, what's your Latency?

For a functioning mobile service, next to price, the Quality of Service (QoS) remains one of the biggest contributors to poor customer satisfaction.

With the projected growth in 4G (LTE) in 2013, analysts expect an estimated increase in subscribers to soar from 105m to 220m by 2014. One of the biggest benefits and operator selling points of this new technology is the positive impact on our mobile multimedia experience, changing the way we can watch our favourite artists, TV shows and films. This positive impact will in turn generate new and more lucrative revenue sources for mobile operators as they continue their quest to deliver ubiquitous media services.

Our new experience is said to provide us with less buffering, better audio quality and showing streaming services with reduced lag. Well, that’s what the experts say – but is 4G making the positive impact on your viewing experience you thought it would?

Or do you still find yourself watching that spinning buffering circle of doom for what seems like an eternity to then finally give up – do you call the call centre about your experience or are you one of the ‘silent majority’ that moan and complain to friends and then just give up, watch it at home and eventually change operators only to find that they’re all the same?

In a recent survey carried out by Virgin Media Business, 71% of consumers said they had no idea about what data speeds they should be receiving with their current provider but turning it around, does their operator know what speeds their customers are actually receiving and does speed alone actually reflect a true measure of the customer experience? Our results show that average network measurements are irrelevant; operators need to know the experience you're having watching Youtube, right here, right now.

If you are a mean Youtuber, a Tweeter or a Facebook addict, at this moment, even with all the new updates in technology, operators cannot tell whether you have a smiley or frustrated face when you try to use social media and watch video on your mobile device.

In our recent study using a group of panelists, we collected measurements from our on-device application, 'My Connection'. These end-to-end, real time network measurements were correlated with subjective user feedback as they used the service to determine if their personal feedback about their actual customer experience matched the promise of the underlying network performance and more importantly what the user perceived to be a good and acceptable experience.

The graphs below show our results:

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The key result we found, is that the customers perception of their user experience varies based on which application type they are using as they place different demands on the network.

The study confirmed that correlating just throughput or speed is not sufficient as the latency (delay) and packet loss impact some applications more than others. For example, the tweeter’s user experience is good while the YouTube user is frustrated due to network delays. This end-to-end correlation is impossible unless operators start to measure the round trip performance from the user device to the service, as the real time measurement captures the exact state of the underlying network when the user is using the service. How will these metrics impact mobile video advertising completion rates for OTT players? Well, we can’t spoil you with more of our secrets all in one day…..

With Ciqual’s on device application, the real time correlation of service and end-to-end network performance enables the user to have realistic expectations of service quality based on current network performance. To avoid calls to the call centre the mobile user needs to be better educated on what is possible from the network and which services can be used where, without getting frustrated.

EE have recently confirmed that they have tallied up 318,000 4G customers (2.3% of their post-paid mobile customers) in their first 5 months of trading in the UK. So why are some customers deciding not to change over to 4G yet? Yes there is the fact that the UK has long binding 2 year mobile contracts with people having to wait these out to switch and of course, 4G might not yet be available in certain areas OR is it the fact that some consumers are happy with what 3G is offering?

In the majority of cases our results show that a good 3G network with low delays (<400ms) and reasonable throughput (>1M/s) is more than adequate to deliver an excellent customer experience even with high definition streaming video so why would consumers switch and pay more for a service they cannot use to its full potential? Perhaps the real selling point for 4G is that based on our measurements it consistently outperforms 3G on latency with measured delays typically half those of the 3G service (for more information on this, see below for our whitepaper)For years on fixed line networks throughput has been associated with the measure of customer experience.

These results clearly show that for a mobile network throughput alone is no longer a valid proxy for true customer QoS and the industry needs to adopt the combination of latency and throughput as a better measure of customer quality of service (QoS).

In order to learn more, contact info@ciqual.com or download our white papers.

CIQUAL’s ‘My Connection’ is available for download from Apple App Store and Google Play.