|Asia-Pacific I 2003
|Quality of Service – The Key to India’s Markets
|Mr. Viraj Pradhan
|Senior Business Director, South-Asia Communications Business Unit
|Tektronix (India) Limited
Mr V Pradhan has over 12 years of professional experience in the T & M industry, related to telecommunications & semiconductors. In his current position at Tektronix, he is responsible for the Communications T & M business in South Asia. At Tektronix, he has worked closely with key telecom organisations such as the Siemens, Ericsson, Reliance, Hughes Software, Lucent Technologies, Bharti Mobiles, Hutchinson Max, Tata TeleServices, Bharat Electronics, C-DoT, Indian Telephone Industries, apart from other telecom operators in the private sector and several other research & development labs, helping them evolve feasible and effective solutions to their telecom challenges. He has also presented in the past technical papers at various, prestigious forums like the IBC and the Convergence India, Supercomm Asia, on topics which includes SDH, Protocol Analysis, Quality of Service (QoS) in mobile networks, amongst others. Viraj holds a degree in Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics, with specialisation in Telecommunications and a Master’s degree in Marketing & Finance.
The growth of competition in India’s market has cut margins and made revenue protection, churn reduction and optimisation of services increasingly important. The tools an operator has to maintain and build market share have become increasingly limited. Price cutting draws a quick competitive reaction. Technology is available to all and is costly. Good customer care, though, builds loyalty. The ability to maintain high service quality is a key weapon in the fight to maintain market share and please demanding customers.
In the telecommunications industry, sound business results are determined not only by increasing revenues and lowering cost of operation. Optimum usage of network assets is equally vital, along with providing high-quality services to customers. How can the business increase its ability to provide the highest possible Quality of Service (QoS)? The Telecom Industry is in a growing phase with increasing investments in all the following categories: – Basic Services – Cellular Services – National Long Distance – Internet Service Providers – Cable Net providers. We are witnessing market pressure for enhanced data delivery, telephony services, global roaming, Internet access, email and even video. Consequently the communications industry is again in transition, towards a third generation of digital systems offering the bandwidth to meet these demands. With long-distance call market, both international and domestic becoming more and more competitive, we need to keep pace with change and make sound decisions in building and maintaining network information, quality, competitiveness and customer satisfaction. Test solutions enable service providers to meet their subscribers’ expectations; and they enable equipment manufacturers to deploy today’s standards and develop tomorrow’s technologies. How do you measure success? Sound results are critical to any business. Increasing revenues, lowering costs and achieving greater operating efficiencies are substantial contributors to success. In the telecommunications industry, optimum usage of network assets is an equally vital requirement. However, achieving success in these areas alone will be very short lived unless high-quality services are provided to the customer base. Quality of Service (QoS) is exactly what enables a company to attract and retain a growing, loyal customer base to secure the future. Quality of Service testing incorporates concepts, methods and tools to quantify the effectiveness of systems and operations and to measure the level of customer satisfaction that the networks provide. While QoS does not yield a single figure of merit for a network, its component parameters deliver vital insight into how well the network is performing and how well it is serving the needs of subscribers. What’s at stake? Growing customer demands for more and better services, improved technology, and clear, reliable performance pose major challenges to telecom network operators. Many operators are augmenting or replacing network infrastructures with newer, more complex technology. Fierce competition is increasing the need for a higher, more reliable level of performance. Higher costs of network assets and operations are pressuring to improve efficiencies, reduce overhead, and eliminate errors and fraud. We are also seeing the symptoms of discontent. Customers are ‘churning,’ jumping from one network to another in search of better services. Operators are establishing stricter quality standards for their suppliers to ensure end-to-end satisfaction. Operating costs are rising as network operators strive to maintain or increase service levels. Billing errors and fraud are becoming more significant. From the business strategy standpoint, analysis of current operations has become more critical to effective planning for new assets and service relationships. Sound business decisions require complete, solid, and reliable information. India’s Telecom Today The number of operators in each circle for cellular services has increased to four whereas there is no limit on the number of operators in the basic services. Similarly the national long-distance market is now opened and we have players like Reliance, Bharati, Tatas, HFCL, etc offering networks parallel to those of DOT/BSNL and MTNL. From a consumer perspective, this is great news but a real challenge as far as the operators (be it cellular, basic, national long distance, Internet service providers or cable net providers) are concerned. Each operator would like to be perceived as a leader in its target markets, recognised for high quality products/ services and technological innovations. Each operator (in any of the above categories) needs to attract and retain a fair share of customers who are essential for survival. In short the needs of the Telecom Operators can be listed as: – Revenue protection – Customer churn reduction – Reduction of fraudulent network usage – Revenue generation – Improved and focused marketing activities – Billing accounting/ interconnection management – Cost reduction – Optimisation in the provision of the services – Streamlining of O&M activities. An operator can choose various models/ techniques to attract and retain its customers. Some of these models are: Economy or price based Incentive based Technology based Brand awareness Relationship or customer care based. At the end of the day, the objective is to be able to drive and sustain the growth of communication networks and Internet technologies. Experience has proven that though each of the above models has its pros and cons, the bottom line for success always focuses on the ‘Quality of Service’ of the network and the customer perception. In India too this phenomenon is turning a full circle. While in the beginning, attracting consumers was the topmost priority for an operator, today retention of its larger clients is a focused activity and the topmost challenge. No amounts of economy or price incentives or technology-based offers have succeeded unless the same is backed by an assurance or perception of quality. This desired quality of service is essential for retention of its major clientele and can be achieved by investing in test and measurement solutions / systems. Earlier the assumption was that test and measurement products are maintenance tools only. Today they are the key to differentiate oneself and one’s service in the tightly packed competitive crowd. Recently, there has been a tussle between cellular operators in Bombay and Delhi. A short while ago, when there were just two operators in each of these cities, both operators had their pockets of strength and revenue. Now, with the introduction of the third cellular and the fourth operator, the dynamics of the game have changed. The third operator has been observed to use the ‘Economy or price based’ model to grab its market share. As a result, the earlier two incumbent operators have responded by reducing their tariffs from Rs 4/= (approximately) per minute to Rs 1/=(approximately) per minute. The new operator has again lowered its tariff to grab market share. Now the questions are: Are the incumbent operators willing to drop their price once again? Is this sound business sense? This is where business sense will prevail and use of other techniques and models will eventually take place. Once again, the bottom line will be the quality of service offered by the operator and the customers’ perception. One has to acknowledge that while price does play a part, it is not the end of all the means. Telecommunications is the nerve system of any business or social community or organisation. The quality of telecommunications is a prime (though hidden) need of all consumers. Now main questions are, what do you mean by quality of service? And how does a network operator ensure that he offers quality service to his consumers? There are various aspects to this of quality of service problem. Since operators rely on their existing networks for steady revenue they must devote critical resources to maintain network performance and profits. Network monitoring systems have been designed with special features to automatically measure and detect performance problems and report data, enabling operators to more easily maintain the profitability of networks. These measurements provide a constant view of the service being provided to subscribers and roamers and quickly disclose QoS degradation in order for operators to take immediate action, minimizing impact on users. In addition, the application immediately alarms network planners to QoS issues via specific parameters set by the software tool. This allows operators to assess dropped calls experienced by visitors to the network. QoS: The bottom-line Excellent Quality of Service enhances the company’s reputation and attracts new customers. Satisfied subscribers increase their usage and sign up for new services. Satisfied customers remain loyal to the company. The challenge as an operator of fixed or mobile networks is to provide quality services to customers and at the same time to keep the business sound. An operator must work with solutions that: – Help identify the best carrier partner – Provide visibility of the entire network – the key for centralised management and troubleshooting – Help to reduce billing losses with accurate CDR data – Increase roaming revenues – Help conquer churn – Increase revenue by decreasing fraud – Increase service usage – Allow insight into the smooth operation of their network and give an opportunity to exceed their customers’ expectations – Help plan an effective network.