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|Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos|
Over the past few decades, every passing generation of cellular mobile connectivity has allowed us to enjoy enhanced content quality as well as the power of mobility with the ability to consume data anytime, anywhere for work, study and play. Video is increasingly embedded in all forms of online content and becomes the main driver for the exponential growth in mobile data traffic. Video traffic in mobile networks is forecasted to grow by around 30 per cent annually through to 2025, accounting for 75 per cent of mobile data traffic from slightly more than 60 per cent in 2019.
In addition, the current pandemic has led to another wave of data explosion as people all over the world spend more time at home. The dramatic changes in human behaviour have caused measurable changes in the usage of both fixed and mobile networks worldwide. Even as more people increasingly study and work from home, online education, virtual training, and virtual meetings are becoming the new reality.
In times of crisis, information and communication are crucial. Mobile networks are an essential part of the communication backbone that is enabling health workers, public safety officials, and critical businesses to stay connected. The world’s networks are proving that they can deliver the performance and reliability to support both consumers and enterprises.
Given that many countries are facing lockdown situations and more and more people are working from home, traffic patterns are seeing unprecedented changes in the usage of both fixed and mobile networks worldwide. Traffic is shifting from city centres and office areas to residential and suburban areas. Network load shifts geographically as people work from home. We are also seeing an increase in voice traffic across 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in many markets including Vietnam.
Ericsson’s study indicates an average 20 to 70 per cent increase in voice traffic across networks with more and longer voice calls being made. People are spending more time online at home and as a result are generating more traffic per day. Most operators are experiencing a 10-20 per cent increase in data traffic on the mobile network, with streaming services also contributing to the data increase.
Some of the ways by which technology providers such as Ericsson are balancing capacity and performance of networks is by reviewing hard- and software capabilities and deploying emergency licenses wherever required. The network features are reviewed to ensure that the planned capacity is fully activated.
Network replanning and end-to-end redimensioning activities are focusing on network design, capacity, performance, and traffic, and are carried out by Ericsson’s engineers to ensure that the customer experience is not compromised. AI-supported capacity planning enables the operator to proactively identify and act on network bottleneck issues. Application-based traffic handling is managed through service-aware configurations.
Ericsson has deployed tools and modules on its networks that enable our customers to handle emergencies in an efficient manner. Ericsson’s operations allow customers to succeed in ever-evolving situations, such as emergencies, including improved efficiency, customer experience, and innovation, underpinned by AI and automation. The virtualised drive test module leverages the geolocation of call traces to provide comprehensive digital maps for analysis, reporting, and proposal of changes. Furthermore, Ericsson Expert Analytics or similar existing probe solutions can be used to identify the applications that require attention and intervention to prioritise actions across all networks.
Ericsson’s Network Intelligence solution enables networks to be predictive instead of being reactive. AI-driven applications work around the clock to provide the network stability needed for service continuity and an optimal end-to-end performance. Automation allows for the elimination of network failures through the predictive identification of potential anomalies, performance degradations, and failures. This helps improve customer experience through greater network resilience as well as reduced downtime.
According to Ericsson’s network intelligence report, leveraging AI tools in network operations can lead to reducing network performance issues by up to 60 per cent while decreasing negative critical incident handling by up to 35 per cent.
So, how are service providers responding to COVID-19? We are seeing telecom service providers making the necessary changes in their data plans - either increasing the “bucket size” or allowing unlimited data for a short period of time. Some operators are also offering unlimited national calls. And even as they respond to the current situation with speed and agility, some service providers are already planning to advance their investments in the networks to boost capacity to tackle the data upsurges the networks are experiencing.
As the telecoms industry globally is working together to handle the pandemic, the heroes are our network engineers and field maintenance staff who continue to work relentlessly to restore the network in case of failures and ensure connectivity at all times, despite the challenges and difficult circumstances.
Let’s continue to come together and acknowledge the power of 4G and 5G mobile broadband connectivity.