Mobile Device Reliability – Learn or Churn

Let’s face it – wireless can’t match wireline for voice reliability. How many times have you experienced dropped call while in a moving car or train? How many times have you been unable to make a call while the person next to you continues with his or her conversation? And who did you blame? Your device, or your network operator?

Consumers are definitely in charge with many choices for mobile devices and network operators. They have shown a willingness to pay for the latest features and capabilities. However, consumers will not accept flashy features at the expense of performance and basic functionality. Consumers expect to be able make calls from anywhere, at anytime. There is no margin for churn as a result of poor mobile device quality and network reliability. This means all devices launched must be tested in a new, more real-world way.

In the GSM and UMTS world, device testing has historically centered on the need for industry standards certification. However, the limitations of those test standards in addressing basic industry challenges are becoming increasingly obvious. Seven years into 3G UMTS deployment, one would think common issues like establishing and/or maintaining a call during cell selection/reselection and handoffs between 2G and 3G boundaries would have been addressed. Shockingly, this is not the case.

To eliminate these issues, call reliability performance needs to be thoroughly assessed under a wide range of realistic usage scenarios. It is now economically feasible for operators and device manufacturers to fully test device performance in the laboratory, under real world conditions. This new way of testing reduces the need for expensive and time-consuming field trials.

Test conditions range from a best case that represents standing under a cellular base station at 3 a.m., to real world scenarios in urban environments, where handoffs, low signal strengths, fading, noise and interference all add to the challenge of making and maintaining call reliability. Data sessions must also be thoroughly tested, since consumers expect voice and data services to play well together with no noticeable issues.

As the above comparison of four different commercial UMTS devices’ call setup performance indicates, there is wide variation in performance and no such thing as a perfect device. In this example, devices A & B clearly outperform devices C & D under most conditions - perhaps by enough to determine whether a user remains a loyal, high ARPU consumer or becomes a defector to another operator.

In today’s competitive market, brand matters. Whether it’s the phone brand or the operator’s brand, basic call reliability plays a big role in determining whether the brand is highly-regarded or badly tarnished. It’s time for the industry to bring wireless reliability up to wireline levels.


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