How a healthy network leads to healthy ROI
To keep up with exploding demand for bandwidth, broadband operators are spending significant amounts of money on their networks. Of course, they want to see a healthy return on that investment, but with traffic growing many times faster than revenues, that can be a challenge. How do you close the gap? Where do you invest to increase revenues or reduce cost
A healthy network, like a healthy body, performs better: you get more out of it, more efficiently. So, a healthy network leads directly to a healthy ROI. Operators look at network health from two perspectives: how it affects the customer experience, and how it affects network operations. Both require an analysis of the current state of the network to establish a baseline set of KPIs against which improvement actions can be devised, prioritized, and measured.
But it’s hard to know which of the hundreds of network KPIs are the critical ones telling you if the network is maximizing its potential or frustrating customers. A good health check service should do that for you and give you a clear indicator that shows progress. An even better one will give you a benchmark against other network operators, so you know if you’re off the pace or out in front.
It’s not as simple as capacity: the network must be engineered with multiple factors in mind to sustain quality services. And over time, of course, those factors change. New technology is introduced, services change, and customers’ demands change. This has been especially pronounced in the last few years. Gigabit services for homes and businesses have arrived. 5G mobile transport across FTTH networks is on the rise. And the COVID pandemic has had a seismic effect on usage patterns: daytime traffic, upstream video, latency sensitive app usage, to name just a few. Networks must adapt accordingly, so health checks are never a one-off exercise.
By identifying the most relevant indicators for your objectives, you can then tailor your optimization activities. This could range from tactically fixing individual issues up to a full-scale optimization program. Any approach should take into account your strengths and capabilities and provide a continuous cycle of plan/do/check/act to reach the desired outcomes. The health check indicators keep you focused on what matters most.
Optimization activities are phased, starting with ensuring that nodes are configured as expected and that line quality (copper or fiber) is not impaired. The next phases depend on your business objectives, competitive landscape, and network observations. Processes will usually be a focus area, ensuring those that are creating network inefficiencies are fixed, kept under control, and remain efficient when scaling. This requires operational discipline and automation. After that, more optimization steps can be added until the law of diminishing returns makes the investment difficult to justify, which is why it’s so important to be able to run health checks to measure progress and stay on the right optimization path.
Case by case
To help with your thinking, we thought it’d be useful to share the experiences of some of our customers choosing our Network Health Index and Network Optimization Services. We’re seeing four broad use cases emerge.
First is internal benchmarking, where a customer with multiple networks is looking at consistency and defining network optimization goals and KPIs for the whole group.
Second is periodic (say, annual) benchmarking to show progress and identify new opportunities.
Third is to use a health check service to validate a network improvement plan. We have several customers struggling with customer satisfaction levels. They’ve performed their own analysis and welcomed our outside opinion to see how they could improve their plans.
The last case is turnkey, where operators rely on Nokia's services to both identify and take action to improve their network quality or improve their processes to reduce operational costs.
Across the more than 50 health check projects we’ve worked on, some of the most revealing indicators we’ve found are:
70%+ access nodes don’t use available security mechanisms
60% of copper lines not fully using their physical capacity due to poor line performance.
40% of central office nodes without control card redundancy and uplink protection.
20% of fiber paths with low optical power
The indicators do not correspond with what most operators think about the health of their network. Network nodes are not always engineered for maximum service availability, poor line performance creates a discrepancy between assumed and actual coverage and speed capabilities. With the acceleration of fiber rollouts, deploying a fiber network is not enough to have a future-proof network. If the optical power budget on optical paths is low—like in 20% of our observations—then this will be problematic. And last but not least, with 70% of access nodes suffering from poor application of available security mechanisms, it’s clear operators need to think security across all parts of the network.
These issues were holding our customers back; there’s a good chance they’re affecting you, as well.
Our Network Health Index assessment service identifies these problems, and our Network Optimization Services fix them. We don’t measure only traditional performance related parameters: we also integrate design compliance and operational aspects of the network which typically aren’t covered. This gives a more complete view and representation of network health and how to improve it.
Just one example is a major Asia-Pacific service provider who encountered several problems when they first introduced an IPTV service. Quality issues with the fiber passive network, inadequate network design and traffic modelling to support IPTV services quickly became apparent. This resulted in service quality issues slowing down subscriber uptake and usage of the IPTV service. With the recommendations and support from our health check and optimization services the service provider significantly improved video service penetration, video service usage and quality of experience, and customer complaints reduced dramatically.
We’ve put other similar network fitness plans in place that have:
Grown revenues by maximizing network capability.
Decreased customer churn by optimizing network quality.
Driven operational excellence through enriched monitoring, reporting, and troubleshooting capabilities.
The right coach
You can set your own network fitness regime. But like the best athletes, top performance also comes from partnering with an experienced coach. Nokia’s network health and optimization services are built on our experience with 300 fixed broadband customers worldwide, including some of the fastest, most reliable, and most profitable networks in the world.
Our health checks cover more than 200 data points on things like network availability, configuration, and security. The beauty is that they take all 200 parameters and calculate a single, simple index—your Health Index—that provides a clear focus for continuous improvement and your benchmark against other networks. That’s unique in the market today. The next step is a personalized optimization plan tailored to your specific needs and priorities, pace, resources, and expertise. We cater for incremental, intermediate measurement points to validate progress and fine-tune your program to get you on a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, while a healthy network leads to healthy peace of mind