5 Best Practices to Deploying Reliable VoWi-Fi Services

The race to deliver anytime, anywhere services is on. Users have made it clear that they want voice, video calling, TV and streaming video services on their terms. Now, the industry is re-aligning to deliver a new generation of “anywhere” services, with mergers and acquisitions and the roll-out of new technology.  

Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) is a critical element of service providers’ strategies, enabling users to access high-quality voice services inside office buildings and homes, throughout Wi-Fi equipped metro areas – potentially anywhere with a Wi-Fi hotspot. However, as with any new technology, there are unique challenges to rolling out VoWi-Fi services – challenges that occur during both the pre-launch and post-launch operational phases. 

Over the past few years, Spirent has worked closely with early pioneers rolling out VoWi-Fi devices and services. Based on our experiences, we’ve developed a set of best practices for evaluating user experience to help ensure a successful launch and on-going operation of VoWi-Fi services. 

1. Measure What Matters (i.e. The Experience!)
Historically, the industry has taken a functional approach to evaluating pre-launch devices and services. However, as network, device and service layer complexity have skyrocketed, it’s become impossible to test every possible function in a realistic way to ensure excellent performance at launch. Furthermore, with increasing competition, devices and services need to get to market faster and with less expense. As a result, continual expansion of functional tests is both unsustainable and increasingly ineffective.

Instead, we recommend simplifying pre-launch device and service evaluation by focusing the majority of testing on the user’s experience of the service layer. When specific user experience issues are identified, detailed functional tests can be performed to help isolate root causes. However, for this approach to be effective, all the key factors that drive user experience need to be evaluated with a quantitative and repeatable approach. In our experience, any critical factor that isn’t carefully evaluated will typically lead to the emergence of a problem over time.

Key VoWi-Fi User Experience Metrics

2. Take a Service-Centric Approach
Our experience is that both handoffs and cross technology network connectivity can have a significant impact on VoWi-Fi experience. That’s why it’s critical to take a service-centric approach to VoWi-Fi and evaluate experience across all the types of network connections your customers will typically use. Typical scenarios for evaluating VoWi-Fi devices and services include:

  • Wi-Fi to LTE handoff
  • LTE to Wi-Fi handoff
  • Wi-Fi to LTE/3G calling
  • Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi calling
  • Wi-Fi to PSTN calling

Furthermore, we recommend measuring user experience before, during and after handoff events. Our general experience is that new technologies often exhibit handoff issues.

3. Compare to Alternatives (Customers Will!)
The uptake of any new service is largely driven by how well it works relative to other alternative options, whether they are competitive or legacy services. For VoWi-Fi, alternatives include VoLTE, Over-the-top (OTT), fixed line and legacy 3G services. Our experience is that service quality is constantly changing due to a variety of factors such as increased loading / traffic, coverage enhancements, new technology and optimization efforts. Therefore, it’s critical to assess VoWi-Fi experience prior to launch and also on a periodic basis once it goes live. 

4. Get Realistic
In our experience, loading and access point performance can have a dramatic impact on the VoWi-Fi experience. In particular, we’ve found that packet loss due to network congestion is a leading cause of degraded speech quality and conversational speech delay. Therefore, we recommend evaluating VoWi-Fi services in realistic environments including both loaded and unloaded and single user and multi-user scenarios. 

5. Measure Experience Continuosly
Once VoWi-Fi services are launched, network-based measures often fail to capture the real-user experience. Furthermore, the factors leading to degraded experience are often sporadic; making segmentation of the root causes extremely challenging. By continuously evaluating services in the live network using real, unmodified devices, we can precisely measure experience from a true user perspective. By making active VoWi-Fi calls between key points in the network, for example between geographic centers containing IMS infrastructure, we can effectively segment which parts of the network may contribute to specific issues. 

Some of our early measurements on commercial VoWi-Fi networks show that handoff, inter-network connectivity and Wi-Fi loading are factors that influence VoWi-Fi user experience. To learn more about the VoWi-Fi technology, recommendations for launching high quality VoWi-Fi devices and services and real world measurements of VoWi-Fi experience, watch our webinar on “Assuring the Successful Launch of VoWi-Fi Devices and Services.”

Click here to learn more about Spirent’s User and Service Experience solutions.

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