Top 5 Challenges in OTT (Over the Top) Service Assurance

Managing OTT Traffic Growth

network traffic

The proliferation of smart devices, Smartphones, tablets, pcs, and wearables (Apple Watch, Fitbit) has changed the way people consume media. Consumers now expect to receive the services they want, wherever they are, whenever they want them, and on any device. While that sounds straightforward enough, assuring that the menagerie of apps are delivered with a quality of service to the variety of consumer devices and distribution formats is anything but easy for Service Providers! This post will explore the top five challenges to OTT service assurance for which Service Providers must understand in order to remain competitive.

It sounds simple. Just tell me what OTT applications are running over my network. Isolating each OTT application makes it possible to measure the traffic levels and understand when and where particular applications are stressing the broadband network. But recognizing the signatures of OTT applications is not always transparent. And, an increasing number of OTT applications are encrypted, such as Skype, which can prevent complete monitoring of those applications.

Managing OTT Traffic Growth
OTTs are increasing broadband traffic on both mobile and fixed networks, which allows operators to upgrade customers to higher value packages but this increase is also forcing the operators to upgrade their infrastructure. “Mobile operators however, are missing out on value added services as they have not been able to keep up with the services and apps offered by the OTT companies,” said Paul Budde, senior analyst at research company BuddeComm. Neha Dharia, analyst at Ovum, commented that Ovum estimates that in 2013, “the MEA region lost over $1 billion from SMS revenues alone due to the popularity of OTT players such as WhatsApp.”

Either you do nothing, as most operators are doing, or block them as it so happens in the United Arab Emirates or you neutralize them, which is illegal in the US given Net Neutrality.

User Experience
The average subscriber doesn’t discern between an OTT application and a hosted service provider application. Subscribers will blame a bad YouTube or Netflix experience, for example, on their network service provider. Service providers can ignore OTT application user experience at their own peril!

So, what are the relevant KPIs for OTT applications?

KPIs for OTT applications primarily fall into four categories regardless of whether the OTT application is voice, video or data:

  • Service Accessibility
  • Service Availability
  • Service Integrity
  • Service Retainability

For starters users must be able to access the OTT applications, authorization and authentication procedures must perform correctly or else users cannot access the application. OTT services must be available as obvious as that sounds. Service Availability KPIs encompass Success/Failure, Error rates, for Incoming/Outgoing calls. What is the quality of service (or service integrity)? For voice and video applications what is the MOS and what are the associated packet impairments (Jitter, Latency, and Packet Loss)? For data, what is the latency, success/failure/error rate? And finally, Service Retainability Operators need to look at Duration, Cause Codes, and Dropped calls/sessions (Bearer related, policy related, etc.).

As mentioned above encryption does challenge and limit the ability to completely monitor these applications.

Manage the Revenue Loss
OTT applications hit service providers in the proverbial pocket book by decreasing revenues from their voice and SMS. OTTs are particularly disruptive to operators who follow a traditional business model, basing their revenues on these two services. However, some operators aim to overcome the effect of OTTs and are trying to look for new solutions to increase their revenues from OTTs.

Tracking individual OTT apps provides invaluable intelligence for the service providers who want to manage this revenue loss. Tracking volumes is usually possible even with encryption.

Assuring Monetization
The aim of a service assurance solution is to supply Network Operations and Engineering with time-sensitive, actionable intelligence based on the traffic carried across their networks so that they can drive a better return on their infrastructure investments, reduce the tangible risks associated with downtime and ensure a high-quality user experience. With OTTs there is the service or application and the associated advertising with the service. The service integrity or quality of service is paramount but also assuring that the advertisements that appear becomes very important to realizing those incremental revenues.