Hunting interference to reduce churn and drive profits

April 21, 2017 // By Kashif Hussain
A continuous decline in revenue is one of the biggest challenges currently weighing heavily on the minds of mobile operators. In a recent report, McKinsey estimated that revenue and cash flow of telecommunications companies has dropped by an average of 6% a year since 2010. Therefore, it is no surprise that mobile operators are seeking new ways to cut costs and alleviate the squeeze on margins.

But cutting costs is not the only challenge faced by mobile network operators – they are also dealing with the increased pressure from subscribers. Customers have increasingly less patience for poor network service, with another McKinsey study listing network quality as the second most important decision factor when selecting a mobile plan. As one of the main reasons behind subscriber churn, operators need to realise the potential of Quality of Service (QoS) as a key differentiator in the market.

Greater efforts to identify the sources of performance issues in the network can provide operators with much needed network efficiency, as well as, helping operators to gain a competitive edge.


Increasing network interference

The elimination of RF interference from radio access networks (RAN) is one area that can improve QoS and provide much needed savings for operators. With the ever-increasing proliferation of radio frequency (RF) spectrum, RF interference issues are becoming even more pronounced. In fact, an estimated 71% of mobile operators now have a regular problem with interference. This in turn negatively affects transmission coverage and network capacity, resulting in dropped calls and other quality of experience issues for operators and their customers. And if not located and fixed straight away, interference can negatively impact CapEx and OpEx.

But hunting for interference can be like finding a needle in a haystack. And the process is costing European operators valuable time, money and potentially customers. Up until recently, the equipment used to scan for interference was heavy, clumsy and even involved engineers using wheelbarrows to search for the source of interference.

Engineers would also spend days, if not weeks, locating the source of interference. And reflection, diffraction, scattering and multipath can cause confusion in isolating the offending interference source. This can result in a significant amount of troubleshooting time, which can prove to be even more complicated in urban environments.

The time and cost spent to isolate a complex interference source is far from efficient with respect to resource and potential customer churn. And with increasingly crowded airwaves, interference is only going to become more prevalent in networks.