Wired and wireless operators are juggling an unprecedented number of simultaneous transitions in their networks: from purpose-built hardware to virtualized network functions and software-defined networks; from highly manual processes to DevOps and automation, and ever-faster speeds across the network as a whole. Cable companies are moving into the wireless realm, and mobile network operators are rolling 5G fixed wireless access to deliver broadband to the home. 4K video content is being rolled out, and 8K is on the horizon.
Delivering high-quality services that run smoothly and well in such a rapidly evolving network environment is a difficult proposition, to say the least.
“These are major transitions, yet CSPs want consistent service delivery across them – and this is not trivial,” said Wesley Hicks, senior product manager at test, monitoring and analytics expert EXFO.
This is especially true for video, which both dominates traffic flows and is becoming central to service providers’ market current and forward-looking strategies. Early 5G fixed wireless access deployments, for instance, are emphasizing their streaming video service capabilities to attract customers. Cisco predicts that video IP traffic will account for 82% of all IP traffic by 2022, a compound annual growth rate of nearly 30%. Network “busy hour” traffic is growing even faster. Cisco expects busy hour internet traffic to grow by 37% annually through 2022, due primarily to underlying patterns in video consumption: People come home from work and school, and they start streaming.
Service providers want those viewers to be watching their content, via their networks. This is shaping the current content wars. Traditional cable and IPTV providers are competing with over-the-top services, while a high-stakes battle over popular video content is being waged across the industry to gain new home broadband and video customers. Meanwhile, some of those very content brands (such as AT&T’s HBO) are taking their content directly to consumers through streaming video applications.
So, consumers today are faced with a plethora of choices in video services, which are accessed from a variety of screens. They are also much more aware when their devices are connected via Wi-Fi versus mobile networks versus wired networks, and they are paying attention to those networks’ impact on their interaction with their chosen video services. To quote Hicks: “Video is a bandwidth- and latency-sensitive service that is accessed across the spectrum of network connectivity and creates an immediate impression on the consumer of the quality which a network can provide.” This impression of the network can stay with the consumer if their access and experience of video services is limited in any way by delays-to-start, buffering, blockiness, or low-quality video resolution. With video services as a key factor in customer relationships, CSPs need to up their game in proactive monitoring and quick trouble resolution to build customer loyalty.
Given those demands, CSPs need a comprehensive strategy for network and service visibility, with video QoE as a top priority. Such a strategy must evolve as quickly as CSPs’ networks, enabling them to ramp up virtualization and supporting convergence and the launch of new services even as traditional approaches to assurance, such as carefully planned network routing, fall by the wayside. Active monitoring has to be implemented for real-time, end-to-end insights into network and service performance and ensuring SLAs. Passive monitoring, on the other hand, gives CSPs the data they need to assess quality of experience and conduct deep dives into post-event and root-cause analysis, while building a detailed understanding of customer usage patterns and application performance.
A balanced and evolutionary approach of active and passive monitoring, combined with advanced analytics and automation, can help CSPs leverage how they operate their networks today, while putting them in position to successfully manage their complex network and service transitions of tomorrow.
“We have industry-leading expertise and the best mix of active and passive solutions to help CSPs in assuring video QoE,” said Hicks.
For more information, contact EXFO here.
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