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Network experience: Why performance partnerships are crucial

Telecom is entering a new era, where technology partnerships will be key to unleashing the rapid innovation of 5G. This is something that Vodafone and Ericsson have been doing for quite some time – from driving Artificial Intelligence and new cognitive network design and optimization capabilities, to delivering new techniques to understand and improve network performance. We explore the journey below.

Head of Network Design & Optimization

Network experience: Why performance partnerships are crucial
Source: Vodafone Deutschland

Head of Network Design & Optimization

Head of Network Design & Optimization

As people and things become increasingly connected, we are seeing rapid changes in the way we do business, consume content, and connect with each other. These shifts mean that new opportunities emerge in unpredictable ways and in unexpected places. But it also means that networks and operations must be capable, agile and high performing to keep up with this pace of change.

We understand why many telecom organizations find it difficult to stay ahead of this dynamic environment. After all, it is entirely new territory for traditional telecom. In this era, the performance of networks, services, processes, and operations are all equally important to ensure a well-functioning network that can effectively cope with the growing complexity while delivering the best network experience possible. This is the foundation to increase revenues and improve customer satisfaction.

Vodafone and Ericsson started a performance partnership journey back in 2013, where Ericsson’s Network Design & Optimization experts worked jointly with Vodafone to deliver on a single but crucial strategic vision: to improve network performance, ensuring that Vodafone effectively provides the network experience demanded by subscribers. This collaboration continues today with a renewed focus on achieving an industry-leading wireless experience, delivering home mobile broadband speeds on par with the best in Europe.

To deliver on this vision, the methodology we jointly apply is simple but effective:

  • Understand what matters: as user expectation is a moving target
  • Measure what matters: through user experience performance
  • Improve what matters: by optimizing existing assets
  • Invest where it matters, when it matters: In terms of network, technology and competence

The importance of benchmarking

German subscribers value quality in all aspects of life, including mobile connectivity. One of the most definitive ways to measure and ensure that these quality expectations are met is through network quality benchmarking.

For Vodafone and Ericsson, the ‘Connect Test’ network quality benchmark formed one of the key measures of the partnership’s success already from a very early stage. This important benchmark focuses on customer experience across both data and voice services, as well as different landscapes such as railways, roads and cities. In partnership with Vodafone, we strengthened the focus on network performance and by 2016, our joint work yielded a remarkable network quality improvement by 68 percent. In doing so, Vodafone became the first local service provider to deliver net score improvements in the Connect Test benchmark, using 2013 as a baseline.

As figure 2 shows, even though the criteria to score points gets harder every year, Vodafone has consistently delivered an improved network experience year on year, reaching in 2021 all-time high result – 91% in the Connect test.

Connect test scoring from 2018 to 2021.

Figure 2: Connect test scoring from 2018 to 2021.

Following the breakthrough success of the Connect Test, Vodafone-Ericsson performance partnership expanded focus to include other key quality benchmarking analyses such as Chip, ComputerBild and OpenSignal. Through a broader benchmarking base, we have been able to evaluate network quality in a way, which is much more expansive – for example, through active test devices, along roads, and using anonymized crowdsourced data.

In addition to benchmarking, another important delivery has been to meet Vodafone’s Governmental Population Coverage Obligations. In 2019 alone, we delivered a major joint achievement by ramping up deployment capacity by three times, making it possible to fulfill Bundesnetzagentur (German regulatory office) requirements on time (Figure 3).

Vodafone Germany and Ericsson partnership journey

Figure 3: Vodafone Germany and Ericsson partnership journey

Innovating to improve network experience

Through the deployment of novel and innovative methods, we have also jointly explored new ways to understand how network performance affects Vodafone's customers beyond traditional benchmarking. In 2017, for example, we applied neuroscience to monitor the brain activity of a set of Vodafone subscribers to discover how they really experienced poor network performance. This was the first time that a service provider had applied neuroscience to understand customer behavior and in turn, provided another basis on which to improve user experiences further.

In another groundbreaking initiative, in 2020, we incorporated the use of artificial intelligence and big data technologies to proactively identify weak spots and prioritize actions to address them. The success of this initiative was followed by further rollout of Ericsson cognitive technology portfolio to bring a new dynamic to Vodafone’s network design and optimization. This includes the deployment of a fully virtualized drive test, for example, which is faster, more a sustainable solution and more representative of their subscribers’ user experience. Here, big data technologies are applied to analyze network-crowdsourced call trace data from all locations, while AI-powered geolocation analyzes every subscriber and device everywhere, with surgical precision to boost speed, scale and accuracy.

Cognitive technology within the network certainly has the power to transform not only Vodafone’s network operations, but crucially also their customers’ experience. Through the application of cognitive optimization technologies, Vodafone can now exhaustively analyze and diagnose the entire network in minutes, with thousands of variables evaluated for each cell. These deployments will be effective in identifying network quality issues early and enabling proactive resolution ahead of user experience degradation, making sure that local subscriber quality expectations are exceeded.

Our outlook and ambition

This past year has proven that stable and reliable mobile connectivity is a critical backbone of society, enabling us to stay connected even when meeting physically has not been possible. Despite the massive shifts in traffic hotspots, from city centers into residential areas, we have continued our work to ensure that Vodafone can deliver an outstanding network performance to its subscribers.

As Vodafone continues to transform its operational model, becoming increasingly agile and efficient, Ericsson will be there to continually inject the latest innovations, curbing complexity and delivering a superior network experience.

Today, we truly know the value great connectivity can bring to our homes, our work, and our societies. Reflecting on that, I hope that our performance partnership continues to flourish as we explore and adopt the latest innovations to deliver the best network for a long time to come.

Learn more

Vodafone partners with Ericsson to deploy Europe’s largest commercial 5G Standalone network

Vodafone and Ericsson move mobile network drone delivery closer to reality

Find out more about emerging network cognitive technologies.

Read the opinion of Ericsson CTO: To deliver cognitive networks, we are building human trust in AI

Find out more about tomorrow’s adaptive intent-based networks

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