Creating great mobile experiences
Elevate your value proposition for mobile experiences with easy-to-understand quality ratings using standardized quality of experience (QoE) models.
Great mobile experience quality starts with excellent video streaming.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) who are furthest along the 5G deployment journey rely on three classic metrics – population coverage, radio bars and speed tests – when quantifying the reach and quality of their mobile network. However, while most consumers are familiar with these metrics, they are less clear about what they mean for the expected quality of a specific experience.
Going forward, there is an opportunity for MNOs to communicate the quality of vital experiences to consumers differently – a journey that starts with delivering excellent video streaming.
Mobile experiences are the next opportunity for MNOs
The job of building out 5G networks is yet to be completed, and an experience-centric approach is recommended to allow MNOs to communicate differently with consumers and drive network evolution toward what they value the most.
Networks need to evolve to deliver the expected experience quality
The quality of a mobile experience is the sum of the application and network quality. The mobile industry is about to evolve beyond speeds and feeds to focus instead on the combined experience values.
How well do leading mobile networks support experiences today?
Video streaming is not an endgame, but a suitable starting point for quantifying experience quality. In the US, 6 out of 10 video streams are of excellent quality, positioning video streaming as the first experience to focus efforts on.
Elevate experience quality and expand into new experience-centric offerings
Once MNOs have established a clear focus on mobile experiences, the next step is to improve existing experiences and make networks ready to handle more demanding experiences. Experiences currently offered, such as mobile video and video calls, can be expanded to include cloud gaming and extended reality in the future.
QoE ratings all stakeholders can understand
Current methods for rating the experience quality are insufficient and need to evolve into something that all stakeholders can easily understand.
There are two main challenges facing MNOs. Firstly, consumers don’t understand what a speed test result means beyond the fact that faster is better, and, secondly, they struggle to translate a result into an expectation of an experience. You cannot measure experience quality with a single measure as you need multiple quality indicators and models that bring them together.
To effectively rate the quality of a mobile experience, it is necessary to collect a variety of quality indicators that are unique for different experiences. Presenting individual quality indicators complicates quality interpretation further and there is a need for a consistent approach of presenting results across experiences.
An experience-centric approach with simplified QoE ratings is intuitive and easy to understand for all stakeholders, and using five quality levels – excellent, good, fair, poor and bad – is simple and effective.
Standardized QoE models make results comparable
QoE models play a central role in bringing multiple quality indicators for a given experience into a single result. This result is the base for QoE ratings. To enable experiences to play a central role in consumer offerings, and to guide network planning, there is a need for results that can be compared between network operators, technology providers and measurement providers.
Standardized models that are transparent and easy to understand for every stakeholder in the mobile ecosystem lead to trustworthiness. In standardized models, a clear set of quality indicators are used as a base and their weight in the overall QoE rating is clear to all stakeholders.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) has launched P.1203, a QoE model for the quality assessment of streamed media. The model converts the underlying quality indicators into a Mean Opinion Score (MOS) on a 5-point rating scale of estimated quality, with 1 being bad and 5 being excellent.
The development of models for new experiences is an extensive, multi-year initiative, but the ITU-T has developed standardized models that can be leveraged today.
Streaming video as the starting point for QoE strategies
Ericsson forecasts mobile data traffic growth for six different application categories: video, social networking, audio, web browsing, software updates and file sharing. Looking one level deeper, there are applications like video streaming, cloud gaming and mobile video calls.
As a starting point for a mobile experience journey, we have selected video streaming as it represents 74 percent of global traffic in mobile networks in 2024 and the standardized QoE model is mature and ready to use.
The video resolution defines the upper limit you can reach for video streaming, with experiences degraded by resolution variations, start delays and buffering causing unwanted pauses. The impact of all four parameters is visible to consumers.
The QoE model work carried out for mobile video streaming serves as a role model for how QoE models can be expanded to address other experiences. The main differences will be in which quality indicator to use for a given experience and how to combine these indicators into an overall result.
Five video streaming QoE insights from the US
Average experience quality of mobile video streaming in the US
Of mobile video streaming experiences in the US, 62 percent were rated as excellent, 25 percent as good and 13 percent as fair, poor or bad.
The national average for excellent video streaming quality varies between 11 and minus 21 percentage points across the best- and least-developed networks. There is good consistency in experience quality across dense urban, suburban and rural areas within an MNO’s network base.
Overall, there is potential to improve the quality of 4 out of 10 video streams nationwide. Excellent video streaming quality represents a solid baseline for expansion into more advanced experiences.
Metropolitan areas with three network providers offering similar experiences
The experience qualities in this market were close to the national average of 62 percent, with little variation between the three networks, varying between 4 and minus 2 percentage points.
In a market like this, there is limited potential to use network differentiation with competing MNOs as a marketing tactic, but network investments are important when evolving the network and closing the experience gaps as fast, if not faster, than competitors.
Metropolitan areas with large experience quality deviations
Ericsson’s research found 2 markets with 42 and 51 percentage point differences between the best- and least-developed networks.
The network provider with the best network can invest in marketing to capitalize on market share gains from their network advantage. Network providers lagging in experience quality must play marketing defense against the competition, while proactively investing in their network to close the experience gap.
These types of markets challenge nationwide marketing campaigns and allow the market to open up for defensive and offensive market strategies, executed on local market (metropolitan or county) levels. The same offense and defense applies to network builds.
Experience quality distribution in sparsely populated areas
There is a significant spread in experience quality from low single-digit percentages to close to 100 percent at the other end of the scale in sparsely populated areas. This makes it hard for both MNOs and consumers to predict which experience quality they will get across different areas.
This highlights the work still needed in sparsely populated areas to deliver consistent mobile video streaming experiences. Ericsson’s research did not find average mobile experiences in rural areas worse than densely populated areas, but they vary substantially between counties.
Sizeable advantages to explore near-term
Ericsson’s research found that more than 50 percent of Americans live in areas with a higher-than-10-percentage-point difference in excellent video experience quality between the best and the second-best network providers. These gaps can be explored to refine marketing and network strategies.
In turn, this will allow network providers to secure market shares and optimize investments to lay the groundwork for more demanding experiences in the future.
The outlook for mobile experience quality
The journey does not end with the three fundamental parts of our vision: Adopt a mobile experience focus, introduce simplified QoE ratings and use standardized QoE models for mobile video streaming.
Once the foundation above is in place, strategies used by MNOs are expected to cover three additional aspects.
Firstly, MNOs and application developers can collaborate more deeply to deliver better quality for existing experiences, leveraging the capabilities of standalone architectures, network slicing and open network APIs.
Secondly, the increased value and opportunity to quantify QoE gains paves the way for business model innovation. These business models span former application and network borders.
Thirdly, mobile video streaming is not an endgame, it is the starting point for more advanced experiences. Standardized models are under development for mobile cloud gaming and mobile video calls, and the real value will be unlocked for larger capability lifts in the network to support experiences like augmented and virtual reality.
MNO stakeholders that will benefit from this report
Aside from MNOs, the insights in this Ericsson paper are of interest to four diverse groups of stakeholders:
- executive leadership, finance and strategy
- business development, marketing and sales
- network planning and operations
- innovation, partner and ecosystem management
Detailed interests for each of these groups can be found at the end of the paper. Great mobile experiences start with excellent video streaming, and where it ends is something Ericsson will continue to support MNOs with, at every stage of the journey.