Irfan Salam

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Opinion: The benefits of moving from NOC to SOC


With the growth of MBB (Mobile Broadband) surpassing expectations, operators and CSPs (Communication Service Providers) are finding it tough to manage and ensure customer experience in real-time. People are using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, streaming videos, and opening multiple websites at the same time on their mobile phone, and often complaining about poor speed and coverage.

Due to changing market dynamics – such as the emergence of MBB – complexities are increasing for service providers. Almost every day, hundreds of applications are being launched supporting many different connectivity protocols and offloading scenarios for operators. Most operators still rely on network metrics provided by NOC (Network Operations Center) to understand how the network is behaving and monitor the end-user experience. Operators needs to fix issues in advance before customers report them, which requires applying new predictive analysis techniques to avoid losing valuable customers to competition.

I have a firm belief that customers will be the kings of telecoms in the near future. Customer dissatisfaction and lack of action from operators will soon be a thing of past. Operators need to reach-out to customers faster than ever before and resolve issues before it begins to impact them economically (in the form of churn) and through word of mouth (via social media or people perception.)

On top of this, operators are facing heat from OTT and messaging players like WhatsApp, Viber, and Hike, so they need to find new ways of addressing issues faced by the customer.

Figure 1: QoE is the single most important factor for service providers

Reports suggest that customer experience will decide the future of telecom services. QoE (Quality of Experience) will be the single most important factor affecting customers’ loyalty towards CSPs. According to Forrester Research, surveying enterprises in Europe and North America, 86% said that customer experience is a top strategic priority. When asked why, 76% said that it is to differentiate them in order to have a competitive edge.

The benefits of moving from NOC to SOC

To overcome these complexities, many CSPs are moving from a Network Centric view (NOC) to a Service Centric view (SOC) of their network. SOC provides a real-time view of the each service the customer is using such as Facebook, YouTube, Skype, web, or voice calls. If the user is facing an issue in some particular application, at a specific location, with a certain device, or during a set time of the day, all of these can be addressed by using SOC. This way, CSPs can effectively manage services that generate more revenue. Social media feeds and Voice of Customer (VOC) feeds integrated into SOC will provide an even better picture of overall customer experience .

Figure 2: Moving from Network metrics to Service Key Quality Indicators (SKQI)

SOC also provides proactive assurance, faster time to solve issues, increased productivity, and a better understanding of how customers are using mobile services in general. It also helps to show which apps are most popular, customers’ perception about the network, and how behaviors are evolving over time.

Challenges with implementation

Moving from NOC to SOC it’s easier said than done as it involves complex real-time monitoring of hundreds of gigabytes of data every few minutes. This data subsequently needs to be collected from different data sources, processed, and correlated to provide a service-level view of the network. This also involves data mining over huge data sets that may not be related, and implementation of Big Data solutions to effectively manage a SOC.

Having a new breed of engineers with the required skill set is also a challenge as SOC is still a new concept – although in developed telecom markets like the US – CEM professionals are already creating a niche market for themselves.

Futuristic approach

No doubt the world has moved beyond the analysis of bits and bytes moving across the network and network KPI’s. Customer experience and service-oriented approach is the next wave of revenue generation for telecom companies. We’ll soon be seeing SOC entering into wireline technologies such as VoIP, IPTV, and broadband.

With a clearer understanding of real-time and changing customer behaviors, companies can optimize revenue and cost models to maximize profitability, and the customer will also benefit.


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