Hand in hand with the ever increasing demand for more network capacity and the soaring popularity of applications, particularly in real-time, mobile operators in mature markets are also facing a virtually flat subscriber penetration for the next five years. To win new customers, mobile operators are left with no other option than to beat the competition by providing better services and a higher quality of experience from a true end-user perspective.

In this respect, the most decisive concerns for mobile network operators are:

  • Network performance/capacity compared with competitors’, so as to better serve existing successful applications
  • Network readiness for future applications (third-party or own)

Network performance/capacity compared with competitors’

Concerning network capacity, investments are inevitable. And to keep costs to a minimum, optimizing existing macro cell site grids is often in favor of installing new sites. There are various technological approaches to enhance macro networks such as carrier aggregation and higher order MIMO (e.g. 4×4); straight-forward optimization approaches include antenna tilt optimization and higher sectorization. In any case, measuring and verifying the current performance is key to designing and deploying network expansions.

Mobile operators need immediate insight into the network capacity available to end users. To timely and cost-efficiently conduct such tests and measurements, Rohde & Schwarz mobile network testing developed an innovative network performance test that reflects users’ real-world behavior: the patent-pending R&S®DATA-NPT.

The testing solution is a very compact and resource-saving implementation of a new measurement procedure. It simultaneously measures the maximum data capacity and the minimum continuous connectivity in a mobile network. It provides what operators need most:

  • Data throughput at given locations (drive test/walk test routes)
  • Check of minimum connectivity/detection of areas with outages
  • Real-world behavior (what a user can expect at a given location using the most common protocol TCP)
network performance

Screenshot of network capacity test results, including capacity peaks and connectivity load floor, provided by the Network Performance Test procedure from Rohde & Schwarz mobile network testing

Network performance from an end-user perspective

The R&S network performance test (R&S®DATA-NPT) overcomes the disadvantages of traditional capacity testing: instead of completely downloading fixed files or specifically tailored packet blocks, it uses plain file uploads and downloads for a defined period of time (a few seconds). With this, the R&S®DATA-NPT realizes a predictable intrusiveness also in cases of unknown existing network load, channel conditions, or position in the cell, etc. Moreover, the procedure focuses completely on the aspects of mobile network performance from an end-user perspective, including the accurate geographical dimension, a parameter that OSS and SON algorithms cannot provide.

Being independent both of the different radio access technologies and any third-party services hosted on the Internet, the network performance test provides reliable and reproducible measurements without special preparations and prior knowledge about the network. Simple and easy to configure, the R&S®DATA-NPT is a new flexible measurement concept that combines freely configurable test cases. Using the network performance test to estimate network capacity and compare with competitors saves time and money; it evaluates solely the network impact on end-user data throughput with predictable intrusiveness.

Network readiness for future applications (third-party or own)

Modelling the “unknown future”: the test is also very useful for predicting the behavior of new applications that have not been launched yet. Thanks to its highly flexible configuration, mobile operators can emulate any kind of resource usage of an application and pretest it in the network. This results in faster time to market of new apps and reduces risks for their own network.

The test was first launched as a software option in the mobile network testing solution Benchmarker II. Over time, it will also be available in other Rohde & Schwarz mobile network testing products, including the smartphone-based solutions from the QualiPoc product family, for example, Freerider III.

Download the Application Card “Network Performance Test” here.