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O2’s self-optimising network will learn from customers

O2 upgrades its mobile network with features that learn from customer behaviour to optimise network coverage and performance

O2 has implemented new features on its UK mobile network designed to analyse the activity of customers in real time and make changes to the network on the fly to optimise their experience.

The mobile network operator (MNO) has set up two partnerships with self-optimising network technology firm Cellwize and customer experience management specialist Empirix to add a number of features.

O2 said it had previously tended to look at its network from the detached point of view of the engineers employed to run it, but now wants to put the customer at the centre of its operations.

“Network engineers talk in very technical language that is very difficult for customers to understand,” said O2 UK chief operating officer (COO) Derek McManus. “But as people’s usage of technology has grown their expectations are rising – especially since 4G arrived.

“The growth rates we are experiencing mean we have to bring what customers are really experiencing into what we do,” he said.

The Cellwize technology analyses the O2 network in a given geographical area to extract anonymised data on how it is being used – up to 70,000 data points for any one action.

It can then adjust capacity parameters, coverage and signal levels by automatically tilting O2’s antennae to best meet the needs of customers.

O2 believes the technology will bring it substantial cost savings and reduce workloads for its engineers, who previously took days to adjust its antennae and had to contend with the difficulties inherent in accessing O2’s network sites.

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In Edinburgh, where it has been testing the system, the ability to hold a call has improved by close to 40%, according to the operator.

Meanwhile, the Empirix service, which has previously been used by O2 to track the experience of its business customers, is now being extended across its consumer customer base to try to understand the day-to-day experience of an O2 customer using the network and to use that data to make further tweaks.

O2 is currently undergoing its own five-year, £3bn network modernisation programme that has seen it roll out 4G services in 575 towns and cities, as it strives to meet its goal of 98% indoor and outdoor population coverage by 2017.

O2 is planning a number of other enhancements to its network, including the repurposing of its DCS-1800 spectrum – previously used mostly for 2G services – to boost 4G capacity, and the launch of a voice over wireless (VoWLAN) service, which it hopes to debut alongside 4G voice (VoLTE) services in 2016.

It is also developing a service to better manage the transition between Wi-Fi and cell networks for devices logging onto its 12,000 hotspot national Wi-Fi network.

The MNO remains on track to achieve the bulk of its overall aims regardless of whether or not its planned acquisition by Hutchison Whampoa’s Three network is waved through, said McManus, who was otherwise unable comment on whether or not O2’s network was ready to deal with the possible impact of an enlarged post-merger customer base.

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