NTT's 2020 Global Network Insights Report found that as businesses move applications to multi-cloud environments outpacing on-premises infrastructure spend.

Telcos need to enhance quality of their 4G networks to tackle RAN congestion

From video traffic volumes to tackling RAN congestion and encryption and to India’s 5G opportunities, Indranil Chatterjee, Senior Vice President of Products, Sales & Marketing, Enea Openwave, answers pertinent questions posed by Voice&Data, at a time when telcos are facing increased stress on their networks.

Few excerpts:

V&D: The current networks are running at capacity and in some cases overcapacity leading to acute congestion and user experience issues. How are Indian telcos coping up with this?

Indranil Chatterjee: Traffic volumes with high-resolution videos are growing exponentially, as mobile internet makes its way to even larger populations. Approximately 70 percent of data consumption is streaming video traffic – amounting to more than 1.65 billion hours per month – and Indian subscribers are making full use of seamless video quality and cheaper data rates.

India has the world’s highest data usage per smartphone, averaging 9.8GB per month and this number is expected to double by 2024 as high definition (HD) mobile video consumption continues to climb.

India has the world’s highest data usage per smartphone, averaging 9.8GB per month and this number is expected to double by 2024 as high definition (HD) mobile video consumption continues to climb. Telecom operators are experiencing a surge in demand for mobile data. Once 5G is widely deployed, video is forecasted to remain central to most new applications, and the pressure is on telcos to deliver flawless user experience.

Indian operators are forced to run their networks at more than 90 percent capacity. As a result, capacity constraints are stressing many mobile networks, causing acute congestion and impacting the operators’ ability to deliver quality service. Considering that mobile subscribers now consider video quality more important than voice quality, operators could face increasing churn if they don’t take control of their networks and maintain mobile quality of experience (QoE).

Fueled by the large-scale deployment of 4G networks and low-cost unlimited data plans, there has been a 56-fold increase in overall mobile data consumption in India in the past four years.

V&D: Video is the most important element of the mobile experience for subscribers and mobile video streaming is skyrocketing in India. In your opinion how is this evolving?

 Indranil Chatterjee: Unusual surge in traffic has been generated by myriad streaming services like Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Hotstar & TikTok and nearly half of all video streaming content is HD. Netflix is growing rapidly in India, and the over-the-top (OTT) player has announced a pioneering mobile-only subscription plan to capitalize on the demand and to satiate the growing appetite for video streaming – particularly on mobile devices.

Fueled by the large-scale deployment of 4G networks and low-cost unlimited data plans, there has been a 56-fold increase in overall mobile data consumption in India in the past four years. Since the introduction of 4G in 2016, the average cost of wireless data per subscriber has reduced by 95 percent in India. India has the cheapest mobile broadband prices in the world. Mobile data plans allow Indian users to skip wired internet altogether and make mobile broadband the backbone of Digital India, with 1.2B mobile subscriptions. This puts countries like India, which until recently had comparatively low internet penetration, on a more level playing field with the rest of the world. The opportunity created for Indian mobile network operators cannot be overstated.

Downloading and streaming on-demand is the new norm and is shaping how the internet is used globally. This is having a knock-on effect in regions like India, where mobile markets are maturing at a rapid pace.

Around 81 percent of global businesses now position video as a core part of the marketing strategy, with roughly a quarter of them publishing new videos at least weekly. Downloading and streaming on-demand is the new norm and is shaping how the internet is used globally. This is having a knock-on effect in regions like India, where mobile markets are maturing at a rapid pace. Likewise, it is straining networks to the breaking point.

As HD mobile video traffic continues to climb, mobile operators need to allocate up to four times more bandwidth than needed for standard video. As a result, networks may be stretched. Considering that subscribers now say mobile video quality is more important than voice calls and 5G is at least a year away, operators also could face increasing churn if they cannot maintain mobile QoE and take control of their networks and subscribers. We believe artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies could gain maturity in helping mobile operators plan and manage some of these challenges. 

An important challenge for telcos in India is increasing levels of encryption. Currently, on 4G networks, between 60 and 80 percent of traffic is encrypted.

V&D: Operators are struggling to manage RAN congestion and increased encryption. How can Telecom Operator’s manage the congestion created by encrypted traffic? 

Indranil Chatterjee: An important challenge for telcos in India is increasing levels of encryption. Currently, on 4G networks, between 60 and 80 percent of traffic is encrypted. Data originating from OTTs such as YouTube are layered with encryption protocols like QUIC. As such, when mobile users want to stream video on demand or browse the internet, encryption darkens the network for telecom operators, meaning they cannot see the types of data moving over the network and are incapable of managing subscriber QoE.

As OTT players continue to deploy advanced levels of authentication, more stress is placed on operator networks to transfer data quickly. Unless operators have the ability to manage encrypted traffic, subscriber QoE will be unmanageable. Also, it is important for telcos to enhance the quality of their 4G networks and employ efficient and cost-effective solutions to tackle radio access network (RAN) congestion and its potential impact on QoE.

Operators in India can achieve an immediate return on investment (ROI) by deploying traffic management tools that ensure the ultra-efficient use of radio resources and maximize network capacity. This can be achieved without sacrificing the end-user experience. A good example is QoE-aware optimization of video streaming traffic that delivers a buffer-free experience for subscribers, while also reducing network stress. 

V&D: Anticipating that 5G could be game-changing, what are the new opportunities 5G presents to Indian telecom operators?

Indranil Chatterjee: As 5G networks support the promise of faster mobile networks with higher capacity and lower latency, spending on entertainment and media across the world will grow at a faster rate than ever before, particularly in India. 5G will stimulate completely new user experiences, including augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications. Indian operators are increasingly allocating more resources to meet these demands while focusing on 5G preparations and planning new services and product offerings for 5G networks.

5G presents an amazing opportunity for Indian telecom operators to re-architect the mobile core network and benefit from lower total cost of ownership. 5G also presents a perfect opportunity for mobile operators in India – and worldwide – to commoditize all 5G network functions. The key is a 5G common data layer that is open, cloud-native, simplified, and allows operators to solve the problems of vendor lock-in by liberating the state from vendor applications.

Effective handling of video traffic and to ensure QoE on 5G mobile networks, mobile operators have to ensure that networks are designed with the flexibility and speed required to deliver compelling consumer experiences.

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