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AITI releases details about the quality of cellular mobile voice services

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AITI releases details about the quality of cellular mobile voice services

 AITI releases details about the quality of cellular mobile voice services

To continue from last week’s article ‘AITI releases the quality status of fixed line services’, this week’s article  shares the details about the quality of cellular mobile voice services. This series of articles aims at enhancing consumer knowledge to allow them for making informed choices.  In Brunei Darussalam, the cellular mobile service is highly popular among consumers as shown in the high mobile penetration rate at around 115%.  This means that there are around 115 working cellular mobile connections per 100 persons.


The information presented here is based on extensive independent tests conducted by AITI during 2013. In all, around 310 kampongs out of 360 have been covered in a period of three months to collect over a million samples. Hence, the result shown is a good reality check on the quality of cellular mobile services in Brunei Darussalam.
Coverage of GSM (2G) and 3G services


The status of nation-wide coverage for GSM (2G) and 3G services is shown below in the form of various pie charts as Figure 1.  Taking Belait district as an example, it is found that around 38% of its kampongs have good 3G coverage, 18% have fair 3G coverage, 15% have 2G coverage only, and the remaining 24% of its kampongs have practically no coverage.






The charts shown above provide the near-complete picture of cellular mobile services in all four districts irrespective of any particular service provider. Certain areas such as Kampong Ayer where AITI’s test vehicle could not access via land and a few security protected areas have been excluded during the exercise in 2013. It is AITI’s target to include these areas in the regular monitoring exercises for 2014 through the use of boats and appropriate test kits for areas such as Kampong Ayer.


Coming to the case of respective service providers, the broad pattern of outdoor coverage has been shown in figure 2. Taking Tutong as an example, it is found that overall area-coverage for GSM services is around 85% in the populated areas. Similarly the overall area-coverage for the two 3G service providers is close to 52 % and 58% respectively.  The results are benchmarked against the target of 80% coverage in urban and 60% coverage in rural populated areas.


A general assessment of the coverage for cellular mobile services indicates that adequate coverage is not available in all rural areas. The major barriers as identified are difficult terrain features, limited number of permanent residents living in each kampong to make it commercially viable for service providers and overall scattered distribution of the population.  Apart from rural areas, the issue of adequate coverage is also identified in some urban areas. At one hand, the users in the denser urban locations may experience difficulties due to peak capacity limitations at certain times or peak period of the day. On the other hand, the new housing development areas may experience limited coverage during the development phase where facilities and sufficient mobile base sites are limited or yet to be built.
Taking all such assessments into account, AITI collaborates with the service providers and other stakeholders to address the identified gaps through various means. It may include action-plans on addition of new mobile base sites, optimisation of the network capacity by making use of additional spectrum resources and adoption of new spectrum allocation policy for introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in Brunei Darussalam.
The consistency of voice services
Since the cellular mobile services are highly popular for day-to-day communications, some users may also experience the issues such as need for repeat dialling before the call is through or sudden drop of the voice call in-progress or unclear voice heard from the other side. The user experience may differ according to location, time of the day and mobility of the user.  In order to address such concerns, several measurements have been performed during the monitoring exercise and the available results are shown in the charts given below.   

As we can see from the chart for Call Failure Rate in figure 3, it explains the broad position that out of every 100 attempts made by the average user to make a call, how many instances would require the repeat dialling. For example, the results from Brunei-Muara indicate that the number of such instances remain lower than 3% against the KPI-line marked at 5% value. However, in case of Tutong and Belait, it is near 5% level. This is mostly experienced in the locations with relatively weaker coverage. The movement of user from one location to other location also contributes to it as the mobile network is required to follow the each user continuously. Hence, certain acceptable margins are universally allowed on technical grounds and are reflected as KPI-line.

Similar measurements have been performed for assessment of instances related to sudden call drops. As shown on the chart for Call Drop Rate in figure 4, it is found that it remains well within the KPI-line value (i.e. 2% for urban and 3% rural areas) for Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait. However, it is above 3% for Temburong. In other words, average number of call drops in Temburong is above 3 per 100 calls. It is partly due to non-continuous coverage since the populated areas are quite scattered and the terrain in Temburong is highly forested.  Further, lower number of calls in this area also contributes to the higher average.

A comparison of the corresponding figures for call failure and call drop rates for 2012 and 2013 indicates an overall improvement. However, slight degradation has been observed this year during- the speech quality measurement.  As shown in figure 5, the speech quality is measured on the scale of 0 to 5 where higher value indicates the better quality.  The value below the score of 3 means that the clarity of voice heard over the mobile device may be below desired level for some users. It shall depend again on the instant location, time and speed of movement of the user.
Given the assessment review in 2013, AITI plans to continue with such assessment exercises on annual basis. This would help address the customer expectations while managing the optimal utilisation of resources. All action-plans such as addition of base sites, capacity augmentation at identified locations and deployment of LTE services which have started during 2013 shall continue in 2014 and beyond.  Here, AITI also wishes to express its thanks to the respective stakeholders for their continued cooperation throughout this period.
Next week, AITI will share more insight on the quality of service for mobile cellular broadband and the related consumer services.