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AITI release details about the quality of cellular mobile data services

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AITI release details about the quality of cellular mobile data services
14/02/2014

 

This week’s article focus on the quality aspects of cellular mobile data services and is a continuation to the last week’s article ‘AITI releases details about the quality of cellular mobile voice services. Here, AITI shares the performance details relating to cellular mobile data services together with recent information on facilities now available for better customer services.

 

Performance of cellular mobile data services

 

 

Cellular mobile data services provide a convenient option for anytime-anywhere connectivity. This kind of flexibility has therefore resulted in rapid growth in the number of connections and growth in the consumption of data services in the past few years. While the rate of growth of consumption in this category is reported to be over 80 % at the global level, one study has indicated the growth rates to be around 72% in Brunei Darussalam. The high usage of mobile communications can be seen on a daily basis where users are busier than ever on their mobile devices.

  

This trend is expected to continue especially with the introduction of new applications and smart devices each year. Apart from other applications, a greater part of this growth is attributed to distribution of multimedia content such as video over cellular mobile networks. Each such application requires certain resources available for a good user-experience so the overall demand multiplies very fast. As an illustration, a single smartphone can generate as much traffic as 49 basic-feature phones; a tablet as much traffic as 127 basic-feature phones; and a single laptop can generate as much traffic as 227 basic-feature phones.

 

As the number of users and resulting consumption has grown rapidly, managing the quality of services becomes even more important. Unlike fixed broadband services, the average user experience in this case remains highly dependent on the presence of other active mobile users in the neighbourhood. For example, if there is only one user in the range of a cellular site, the user experience, especially the speed, should be better. As the number of active users grows in that location, the resources get shared and it ultimately results in lower speed experience for all users. But the services by one service provider remain independent from the services by the other. In other words, it is similar to peak-hour traffic on the roads where too many vehicles may slow down each other. Even then, the vehicles on one lane may move faster than the others.

  

The second factor that influences the speed experience is the strength of cellular mobile coverage. The areas with relatively weak coverage, for example, new housing areas and remote locations would experience lower speeds. The third key factor that determines the speed is the technology deployed by the service providers. For example, service provider may promises the download speed up to 3.6 Mbps, 7.2 Mbps, 14.4 Mbps or higher on the basis of the existing networks. As each application requires a certain minimum speed for good experience, consumers are also required to make use the appropriate handsets that may support such speeds.

 

In order to benchmark the average speed per user, test measurements on an extensive scale has been carried out by AITI for the first time in 2013. This exercise simulated an average user moving at medium speed from one location to another during the day. AITI collected the data from nearly 310 kampongs all across the country. Figure 1 shows the results of average data download rates for the two local telcos across the 4 districts in Brunei Darussalam. The average speed measured in the download direction for the two service providers (named as telco-1 and telco-2 for illustrative purposes only). Further, the average speed measured for telco-1 is over 750 Kbps and for telco-2 is over 250 Kbps. Under similar conditions, the user who remains stationary experiences higher average speeds by at least 20 to 25%. However, instant speed may be different at each moment and hence, average values are more important. For example, the top speed measurement during three month long exercise was over 8800 Kbps or 8.8 Mbps at a certain location and time.

 

 
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Another look at Figure 1 indicates that average values differ from district to district. For example, in case of Temburong, the average value is beyond 1000 Kbps or 1 Mbps in one case. This is mainly because there are less of active subscribers in this location. The results from the other two districts also reflect a similar trend.

 

 

Keeping in view the rising trend towards service consumption and the results available for 2013, the service providers are taking steps to set-up additional radio base sites to improve network coverage as well as capacity in identified locations. While carrying out improvements using existing sites is faster, the setting-up of the new base sites also depends upon the ready-availability of land resources at suitable locations. Apart from the new sites in planning, other initiatives such as introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) data services, Wi-Fi Hot-spots, optimisation of existing networks also play a complementary role to improve the user experience.

 

Customer Services relating to data services

 

 

For a good quality experience, consumer oriented services also play an important role in association with the technical performance of the services. While subscribing to any telcos cellular mobile voice and data services, consumers look for quick and transparent service procedures including the subscription process, requesting changes in tariff plans, billing and resolution of consumer complaints. In 2013, an assessment has been made regarding the complaint statistics at the level of service providers and several contributing reasons were identified. While the service providers have worked on the introduction of new service features, consumers are advised to make use of available facilities to help themselves and avoid bill-shocks.

  

To assist consumer awareness, efforts have been made by the service providers. For example, DSTCom has introduced the online ‘DST Mobile Broadband Self Help Portal’ where user registration takes less than a minute. By making use of this service, the customers may not only subscribe to additional packages but may review their monthly consumption for a maximum of last 12 months. Moreover, this self help portal also provides the break-down of monthly consumption for around 10 service types such as browsing, WhatsApp etc.

  

A DST user can also use short code (*400#) for postpaid and (*100#) for prepaid connections to keep track of consumption on an almost real time basis. However, it is advisable to check the consumption during international roaming services after a period of two to three days as such details are not relayed in real time by overseas service providers. Further, postpaid users who use international mobile roaming service may not get instant information if their consumption goes beyond the defined credit limits.

 

Like-wise, certain facilities are now available for fixed broadband consumers as well. For example, using ’e-Care’ online portal, TelBru customers may seek enquiry, submit complaints and provide suggestions. All submitted communications may be tracked later using the ticket reference number. By using ‘e-Bill’ the customers may view the past and current bills online and can make online payments through TelBru’s e-payment services. The customers may register for these facilities anytime through the website and it may take about two days for customer verification at TelBru’s end. Moreover, TelBru has also made available ‘e-Bill‘ as mobile service application at App Store or Google Play Store to ease the access for smartphone users.

  

In another move to safeguard consumer rights, AITI has also required the service providers to share the essential information with consumers on minimum charging blocks. This refers to the minimum size of the data usage that is included for generating monthly bills for the consumption of data services. For example, if a user sends only one online message that takes 70 kilobytes and the minimum charging block size is 50 kilobytes, the overall consumption would be (50 + 50) kilobytes i.e. 100 kilobytes. If charging block is re-sized to 200 kilobytes, the same usage of 70 kilobytes shall count as ‘200 kilobytes’ per instant.

  

While the service providers make their own efforts, consumers may also practice self-monitoring of consumption for individual or household use. There are various popular applications such as Cucusoft Netguard remain available for free-use and hence, data service consumption may be tracked on regular basis for any type of broadband connections. AITI, however, does not endorse any particular products or applications and all information provided is for voluntary use only.

 

It is hoped that the information shared would help in creating a better service environment by closer integration of regulatory practices, operational measures and consumer awareness. The next press article in this series shall focus on the introduction of Code of Practice for delivery of quality telecommunications services in Brunei Darussalam.