Quality of experience: why does it matter to capacity service providers, and what affects it?
In recent years with increasing competition, quality of experience (QoE) has become more and more important to service providers. Subscriber loyalty hinges on that crystal-clear HD call or glitch-free video streaming, and poor QoE can lead to loss of reputation, decreased customer loyalty and ultimately missed revenues.
Connectivity providers, from SD-WAN providers delivering connectivity services to enterprise customers over the public internet, to ISPs, will be familiar with the need for QoE, which in turn depends on Quality of Service (QoS). It is a common misconception that low bandwidth is responsible for poor QoS, leading to service providers advertising high bandwidth rates and customers using it as the foundation for buying decisions.
In fact, the biggest cause of poor QoS is high latency.
It leads to slower loading webpages that are ineffective, as users tend to give up quickly on sites that don’t load properly or are delayed. Latency and packet loss also have a negative effect on the behaviour of different applications, leading to higher abandonment rates. As a result, businesses and consumers switch from service providers whose networks have high latency.
Poor QoE has a direct impact on revenue, loyalty and reputation
QoE information is widely available to consumers, to enable them to choose service providers based on their needs. Many of the world’s largest content providers such as Netflix, YouTube and Google provide public rankings of ISPs in each country, ranking by how quickly the ISP can successfully reach and deliver the desired content to customers. Customers often refer to these rankings when choosing ISPs, and being at the top of the ranking has a clear competitor advantage. It is to be noted that these rankings are developed on the basis of latency, rather than bandwidth.
Specialised ranking websites are widely available, providing information on latency in uplink and downlink speeds. Speed test websites assess connection quality to see how fast a certain provider can reach another specific destination or internet exchange point in another part of the world. Those with high latency and low download speeds are penalised with poor rankings, resulting in churn, loss of reputation and loyalty.
Optimal routing will address poor QoE
What creates high latency and ultimately poor QoE? Rather than low bandwidth, the culprit for high latency is suboptimal routing. Suboptimal routing profoundly impacts upstream and downstream loading times for customers, and is the primary reason for high latency. Packet loss, too, can be caused by poor routing, and is the most common reason why data does not reach its final destination successfully.
QoE problems caused by poor routing is a major problem for many providers. It has been estimated that out of every 25TB of traffic transferred via the internet, 9TB is not routed optimally. On top of that, 84% of packet loss is also caused by sub-optimal routing. As a result of this, best-effort internet is no longer appropriate for many enterprise, streaming and telepresence applications.
Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is the most common protocol used by routers to choose the path to a packet’s destination: it is based on identifying adjacent networks and using the least number of networks to get data from one point to another. BGP routing often does not select the quickest or most successful routing option, as no provision is made to test the latency of the route or the links in a route, often leaving service providers to grapple with high latency and throughput to desired destinations.
Routing can be improved by establishing public peering connections with problematic destinations that require numerous hops over major networks, resulting in direct transfer of data packets with minimal delay. By minimising the number of hops between two parties, a direct path is established. However, establishing direct interconnections over major IXPs on a global scale is a complex process. Establishment of a global IXP connectivity can become expensive. An alternative to this is utilising a remote peering provider that will take care of the administration with global IXP’s, make sure you don’t need a router in the IXP datacenter and ensure you have a low latency connection to them.
To minimise loss of reputation and decreased customer loyalty, service providers need to put QoE and routing optimisation at the forefront of their business model. The use of ranking services and speed tests are putting ISPs in the spotlight, and those that don’t improve their QoE will ultimately lose out. In order to address QoE, providers need to look at and monitor their routing infrastructure to ensure the quickest and most optimal route is taken for data to reach its end destination successfully.
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