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Written by Nils Posegga | July 3, 2019

Impressions from managed services team benchmarking Africa

We have extended our traditional business focus from supplying mobile network testing solutions to being a fully-fledged managed services provider of benchmarking campaigns. In April 2018, Rohde & Schwarz created the managed services team to run large-scale benchmarking projects such as the one commissioned by the South African MTN Group.

Team benchmarking Africa

Besides figuring out logistics, infrastructure, topography and climate, the team needed a standardized test methodology; one that unifies the various available methodologies and transparently describes what is being scored and how. In recent years, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has been carrying out activities to standardize a common methodology in the technical report ETSI TR 103 559.

In parallel to the ongoing ETSI discussions, we have already implemented the new methodology – known as Network Performance Score (NPS) – in our analytics software platform SmartAnalytics. The first large project applying the NPS in accordance with ETSI TR 103 559 was successfully delivered in 2018, after benchmarking 62 operators in 17 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Managed services team in Africa

Testing in African countries can be very challenging, as the infrastructure cannot be compared to what we are used to in Europe. To avoid the rainy season in certain countries, we had to plan very carefully. However, sometimes all odds are against you, and the ground team ended up stuck in the mud without mobile coverage for almost 48 hours.

Ground team stuck in the mud
The ground team stuck in the mud; luckily, no equipment was damaged.
Major connecting route along which MNT benchmarked mobile services.
Major connecting route along which MNT benchmarked mobile services.

Our planning typically includes all the major connecting routes. As it turned out, the road in the images above was the main route; or better said the only available route. After two days in the dark, we were very relieved to hear back from the ground team who had managed to free the vehicle and get cellular service. And, luckily for us, the measurement equipment remained undamaged. In such situations, excellent project management skills and strong local partnerships are required to stay on top of the situation and project timeline; and to ensure that service delivery is on time and in high quality.

Managed services customer benefits

In Africa and the Middle East, our customers benefited from our longstanding experience in well-developed European markets. Moreover, our equipment is designed to withstand the most extreme temperature ranges and has been reliably used in Canada or Russia at -40ºC and in Dubai at +45ºC. Even if the market situation in Africa differs from the one in Europe or the Americas, the technical challenges are very similar.

Operators in Africa are now more focused on quality and customer experience. Solutions and best practices applied in European markets are immediately applicable to African markets.

By comparing a network’s local performance with other African and European markets (using the harmonized methodology of ETSI TR 103 559), network operators get an idea about realistic targets that can be achieved with the technology in place. Moreover, they can turn the delivered gap analysis and systematic deep dive analysis into applicable actions to improve network quality and network performance.

Next benchmarking campaign in planning

To verify the success of the actions taken by operators in Africa and the Middle East, the managed services team is currently planning the next round of benchmarking measurements. Continually executing benchmarking campaigns allows trending for NPS results and underlying KPIs.

Apart from gaining confidence in successfully preparing, executing and delivering large-scale projects, the experience also provided valuable feedback for product development and interdisciplinary collaboration. At the end of the day, the high-quality measurement solutions from Rohde & Schwarz mobile network testing (MNT) and our highly professional and motivated managed services team enabled the delivery of this turnkey managed services project.

Please find more information about the NPS and SmartAnalytics on our website.

The ETSI technical report TR 103 559 is available here.

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