Some UK operators pushing out Android OS updates over their cellular networks are doing so without notifying users that the download will take them beyond their monthly data allowance.
A number of Android handsets running on older versions of the platform received updates to version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, last week. However, when the notifications were pushed out, they were typically done so over cellular networks, and users who were not connected to wifi networks at the time had the 250MB-plus download taken out of their data allowance.
For many users, this took them over their data limit, and they are now experiencing a throttled service, with the operator slowing down the rate at which the handset accepts data.
O2, the UK arm of Telefónica, admitted that the updates that it pushes out count towards the user’s data allowance, but said that the onus rests on the user to alter their connectivity settings before accepting the download, to ensure that it does not take them over their limit.
“We recommend that customers who don’t want to use up their data allowance get the update via wifi or the desktop app,” the operator told Telecoms.com. “It’s pushed out by us but you can choose when to download it.”
Vodafone said that Samsung users had been receiving the update for the past two weeks via Kies, Samsung’s device firmware update portal. However, the operator is now pushing the update to its users over-the-air, but stressed that it does notify users that they should download it using a wifi connection.
“The update is more than 250MB, so as a user, whenever you receive an update stating that the new version is available, you will also be notified that the upgrade is larger than 250MB and told to update over wifi, otherwise you may incur charges from your operator,” a spokesperson said.
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The typical Apple iPhone 4S user is equivalent to two iPhone 4 users and three iPhone 3G users in terms of data demand, according to a report released Friday.
Network optimisation firm Arieso, reported the findings in a research paper following a similar study carried out by the firm in 2010. The company’s CTO, Michael Flanagan, who briefed telecoms.com on the report expressed some surprise at the headline finding – that the iPhone 4S is the hungriest handset on the market – especially given the rise of Android over the past 12 months.
The study was carried out on the data demands of over 1.1 million distinct subscribers over a single, 24 period in a Tier-1 market with a mixture of urban and suburban morphologies, focusing on popular devices which were represented by at least 1000 subscribers. The iPhone 3G was chosen as a “normalised benchmark,” although the study found that different users and different devices exhibit very different demands on the network.
Android is picking up the pace however, according to the findings, the Google Nexus One by HTC has twice the data calls per subscriber compared to the iPhone 3G. By way of comparison, the iPhone 4S shows 54 per cent more data calls per subscriber than the iPhone 3G. Greater ease of use arguments may apply to both devices here but Flanagan also warns not to discount the operating system and related, potentially excessive, signalling demands of the smartphone on the number of data calls. Something that remains a topic of on-going study by network operators.
The HTC Desire S revealed a dramatic 223per cent increase in uplink data volumes per subscriber compared to the iPhone 3G. Increases in uplink data volumes are largely expected to be due to corresponding increases in user generated content, and the Desire S may be significant in its implementation of higher speed HSPA+ connectivity on both the uplink and downlink.
Data downlink volumes are still rising of course. The iPhone 4S showed an increase of 176 per cent in downlink data volumes over the iPhone 3G, quantifying the importance of the metric for purposes of network planning and optimisation. Flanagan notes that the device appears to unleash data consumption behaviours that have no precedent.
Indeed, following on from the 2010 study, Arieso’s latest analysis reveals that so called ‘extreme’ users are becoming even more extreme, with just one per cent of subscribers now consuming half of all downloaded data. The vast majority of these are dongle users treating their connection as they would fixed line broadband but 33 per cent are smartphone users and the remaining three per cent are tablet users. Usage in these cases tends to be stationary rather than mobile, so Flanagan suggests that these users might be prime targets for femtocells, or in some cases, just getting rid of.
On a related note, Flanagan suggested an application of such data mining, which operators can and should be doing on a regular basis, in helping them recommend devices to customers. “Say a certain customer comes in to upgrade his device to a smartphone and tells you where he spends most of his time. The operator looks on a map and sees the usage profiles for that particular area. The result might mean some devices are more appropriate ones for this person to move towards than others. It’s an informed piece of advice and can be used to manage expectations at the point of sale.”
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Alcatel-Lucent’s software defined networking (SDN) subsidiary, Nuage Networks, has announced that it will be providing its Virtualized Services Platform (VSP) to global hosting firm OVH. The deployment of VSP in data centres across Europe and North America will deliver “OpenStack as a Service” to OVH.
In an official statement, the OVH Group outlined its primary business motivations for opting for a data centre-based SDN solution. The company will be investing heavily in innovative network solutions, such as VSP, with the aim of optimizing operating costs and delivering competitively priced services.
With the SDN architecture running across the data centre, OVH hopes that the “OpenStack as a Service” offering will enable customers to access dedicated Cloud infrastructure. As a consequence, OVH claims that its cloud data centres can instantly and dynamically determine resources required for a requested application in accordance with established policies.
“The Nuage Networks SDN technology allows us to offer our customers cloud services in a more dynamic way, giving them the capability to reduce their time-to-market with a programmable and automated networking environment,” said Octave Klaba, CEO and founder of OVH.
SDN solutions, when applied through the data centre, allow service providers to benefit financially and operationally through a combination of decreased expenditure, increased flexibility, management and control functionality, as well as delivering reduced time to market service provisioning.
Sunil Khandekar, Nuage Networks CEO, believes that Nuage Networks are well positioned to deliver SDN to service providers like OVH. “We are excited to work with OVH in support of their dedicated cloud initiative, which will allow them to deliver attractive and innovative cloud services to their European and international customers, while making their infrastructure more agile, responsive, and cost effective,” he said.
The announcement from Nuage is not the first time we’ve seen an SDN vendor working with a cloud service provider. Earlier this year, Juniper Networks concluded a project with Cloud Dynamics to provide its SDN controller “Contrail” across its series of data centres. As SDN continues to mature, more announcements of similar partnerships are almost certain as we move towards 2015.
Network performance specialist Empirix has acquired real-time analytics firm Verios Software & Systems for an undisclosed sum. Combining the two product suites, Empirix said it aims to create a service operation centre management suite that will analyse and troubleshoot wireless network customer experience from end-user devices to the core network in real time.
Empirix monitors end-to-end network performance visibility by analysig customer behaviour by application in real time to reduce operational costs, maximise customer retention and grow top-line revenue.
The company was acquired in 2013 by private equity firm Thoma Bravo as the first step in an aggressive strategy to take advantage of growth opportunities in the network services industry. As the number and type of mobile devices increases, a true, real-time view of transaction activity in the radio access network is becoming crucial to providing a first-rate customer experience, the company said. And Verios, with its real time, scalable analytics solution, is a natural fit with Empirix’s IntelliSight offering, the buyer said.
IntelliSight is a big data, analytics platform that provides a multi-dimensional vision of which applications, services and devices users prefer; what usage trends are emerging; and how to optimise ROI on infrastructure investments.
The integration will enable mobile service providers to identify and focus on their most profitable customer segments, most notably roaming customers who are likely to have service issues on the radio access segments of wireless networks.
“The radio access network is a vital, expensive and often unpredictable link in the mobile network. Verios provides insight that enables network operators to enhance service levels and predictability of service for their customers,” said Empirix CEO John D’Anna. “Verios’ solution provides complete visibility into radio access network operations, down to the individual user. Integrating that functionality into our IntelliSight platform will enable wireless providers to know exactly what their customers are experiencing, when and where. At the strategic level, that intelligence will help providers target their investments at the areas most likely to yield more revenue.”
With retail operations in eight countries and a growing portfolio of telecommunications services, Carphone Warehouse is currently Europe’s largest independent mobile retail outfit. Paul Scullion, head of business intelligence at Carphone Warehouse explains how the company is using a combination of big data technologies to help improve retail customer service and eventually, help telcos improve their offerings.
“We have a vast amount of data but at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily call it ‘big data’,” Scullion says. “The majority of our information is transaction-based. But when I think of ‘big data’ it’s all about the [high] velocity of the data; it’s about dynamic data, and the kind of analysis you do with that data.”
But, as Scullion explains, the company has made significant progress towards using old data acquired through traditional BI and capturing new data to do the sorts of things most would normally associate with big data, as hackneyed as the term may be.
A few years ago the company moved away from its Oracle-based data warehouse and adopted Netezza, which is hosted in an IBM datacentre (Netezza was acquired by the company in 2010). He says the data warehouse improved performance significantly because of the way it cuts up the data being targeted processes small bits in parallel before sending the results back.
“The performance over Oracle was epic. We had queries that took an hour or Longer with Oracle that now take less than a minute,” he says.
The company, which partners with Accenture for many IT initiatives, uses Informatica’s ETL platform and has recently adopted MicroStrategy’s mobile analytics and dashbooarding tools, which Scullion helped roll out to all 6,500 UK sales representatives at Carphone Warehouse.
Each sales rep has an Android-based tablet available to them, and it is increasingly becoming the central platform through which a wide range of internal data is accessed. Scullion believes is has the potential to improve sales staff engagement, and makes it easier for the company to support them.
He says some dashboards enable the retail staff to see their sales performance, including the product mix they’re generating, how they’re faring relative to other colleagues. In the main dashboard there’s 7 KPIs per colleague, and each has a ranking and an overall ranking so colleagues can see how they are faring relative to others.
“We are trying to put other supportive applications on that same device, so that retail staff have just one place to go for their internal news and systems rather than needing to navigate a series of back-office terminals and applications, and we are looking at potentially moving our MicroStrategy mobile dashboard platform out into the cloud so that we can benefit from the vendor’s economy of scale.”
Where big data can generate big value
In the UK the tablets are also used to help customers navigate the wide range of device and tariffs available to them, which is where Scullion says the company is really starting to get into big data. Through a series of questions retail staff help customers drill down into how they intend to use their devices, and what it is they’re looking for from a network operator.
“Historically the mobile industry has been a bit bamboozling for customers. They feel like they’re being pressure-sold to by a used car salesman,” he quipped. “But the sales journey tool that we use makes it really transparent for the customer. And critically, we record every step in that journey.”
“What we’re able to do is look at that complete journey, record every step in the journey, every button pressed, every bit of data entered, for journeys that end in a sale but more importantly for ones that don’t end in a sale. And what we’re trying to do is look at where in the process certain pressure points put customers off,” he says, adding that the company is looking to do the same thing with its online sales channels.
Scullion says that many customers come into Carphone Warehouse stores with a preference for certain networks, but after being guided through the tariff options often change their minds, ending up with a different operator for a variety of reasons.
And that data, as one might suspect, is extremely valuable to mobile operators. With telcos looking to big data to boost long-term customer retention among other reasons, and mobile markets becoming more and more competitive, it’s clear there is rapidly increasing demand for this kind of information – particularly high-volume, multi-channel, multi-operator retail outfit like Carphone Warehouse.
“Certainly the insights we’re gathering on decision-making throughout that sales journey could be used to improve the options networks provide. They could help operators come up with more attractive tariffs; they could also be used to help explain why they may be losing so many customers to another operator,” he says.