China Mobile starts index to show LTE quality

Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

Network experience can go down as well as up. China Mobile borrows from stock markets to set up network experience index

China Mobile is borrowing from indexes that follow the performance of company shares in stock markets to create a unified system to measure telecoms network experience.

The company’s network experience index (NEI) – developed in a project with Huawei – takes “tens of thousands of counters and thousands of performance indicators” to create a set of straightforward numbers to show how well 4G LTE networks are performing, according to Cheng Bo, deputy general manager of China Mobile’s Sichuan provincial division.

“We used the stock market, where there are many indexes. We tried to learn from that,” Cheng told a Huawei conference in Wuzhen, China, last week.

The NEI takes into account a number of factors such as call set-up time, call completion rate, web browsing time, network delay and video playing success, and gives each one of five ratings, from excellent to not acceptable.

China Mobile also allows its customers to download a mobile app so that they can see the performance of the network as they use it.

But the company is also using the information gathered to measure the customer experience, especially at major public events. “We need to increase customer experience at these events,” Cheng told Huawei’s Operations Transformation Forum.

He quoted results that show improved performance in several key areas since November 2015, when the system was introduced. LTE coverage has increased from 98.15% in Chengdu, the main city in Sichuan, to 99.19%. The rating for video has increased from 3.1 out of 4.0 to 3.9 out of 4.0, he added, with video latency down by 48.6%. 

“All the numbers went up substantially. The NEI enables us to identify potentially weak coverage areas and we can identify hot spots.” The company aims to allow each LTE customer have access to at least 5Mbps at any time, he said. “Now, 97% of cells have achieved 5Mbps.”

At the same event Wu Jie, assistant vice president at China Mobile in Zhejiang, said that the company had introduced another series of tests to measure experience with voice over LTE (VoLTE) services. “This year Zhejiang province was the first in China to have over one million VoLTE users,” she told the Operations Transformation Forum.

“We have the largest user numbers in the country and the largest daily traffic,” she said.

China Mobile, working with Huawei, has set up seven key indicators to measure VoLTE services. Gaps in voice calls, caused by packet loss, are among the most complained about, she said.

“All this requires more coordinated effort,” said Wu. The company has developed what it calls a VoLTE health index to show how the high-definition voice service is performing. “We want to think more from the perspective of the user,” she said.

China Mobile is considering rolling out the innovation across its other provinces and may offer it abroad, said Wu.