Communications Monitoring Centre

Communications Monitoring Centre


Quality of Service (QoS) refers to all the requirements a telecom service needs to meet consumers’ implied and stated expectations of a service they are receiving. QoS is characterised by the combined effect of the service, network elements, terminals and infrastructure. Quality of Service is one of the most important consumer-facing attributes that Mobile Network Operators have to deal with. It essentially has to do with consumers being able to complete calls, have calls set up on time, avoiding call drops, congestion and similar attributes applicable to their voice and data experiences.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) regularly monitors the performance of service providers alongside the extensive benchmarks for the QoS parameters stated in their licence conditions. This performance monitoring exercises are conducted quarterly to enhance communications services. The Authority tests all networks to measure compliance with stated QoS indicators for voice and data services. This is important because the NCA as a referee must ensure that consumers get value for money, and that the services provided by operators measure up to appreciable standards.

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Mandate of the NCA on Quality of Service (Voice and Data)

The NCA is mandated to ensure that telecommunications operators deliver the required quality of service to enhance quality of experience of users. The National Communications Authority Act, 2008, mandates the Authority to regulate and monitor licensees and holders of frequency authorisation. Also, section 6, subsection 2(b) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (ACT 775), provides that the Authority shall specify the means to enforce a licensee’s compliance with its stated quality of service standards.

Previous Approach to Measuring Quality of Service (Voice and Data)

The Authority by its mandate used the following approaches as the means to monitor and enforce theircompliance with stated Quality of Service obligations: – Submission of monthly QoS reports by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Broadband Wireless Access Service Providers (BWAs) – Field Test (Drive Test) Monitoring of 2G and 3G services in all district capitals with system inability to test CDMA technology used by a previous operator.
Gaps Which Required the Authority’s Action

With this approach, a gap analysis of the aforementioned approaches presented certain deficiencies which necessitated the need for further intervention, and other complementary solutions for that matter. The following deficiencies and gaps were noted and had to be curbed;

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1. The Authority’s reliance on reports from operators and complaints from service users to ascertain  service performance.
2. Network performance reports from the monthly QoS reports were purely declarative and in most cases did not reflect experience of users in a geographical area.
3. Inability of the Authority to independently verify monthly QoS reports from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
4. Inability of the Authority to have near real-time oversight of MNOs’ performance.
5. Having holistic or full visibility of MNOs’ network with regard to their network availability and reliability.
6. Inadequate decentralisation of drive test systems as means of service performance assessment in given geographical location.
7. Drive tests were previously done randomly.

The Current Approach to Quality of Service (Voice and Data)

The existing approach presented the need for additional solutions and augmentation of existing solutions, which can best address the challenges that affect the monitoring regime.
The under listed are the interventions/new approaches adopted by the Authority to improve QoS monitoring and compliance:

Improved Field Drive Test Systems
Hitherto, field test monitoring in the regions were performed with equipment allocated to the Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale offices. Irrespective of the above, there was the need to decentralise monitoring to unmonitored areas and also upgrade the existing Drive Test system with better functionalities to test 4G services. The Authority therefore acquired seven (7) NEMO Drive Test equipment as an upgrade and also to cater for other regions with the objective of effectively decentralising monitoring. Seven (7) NEMO Drive Test equipment are effectively deployed in Accra (2), Kumasi (1), Takoradi (1), Tamale (1), Sunyani (1) and Bolgatanga (1). Unlike the existing drive test systems, NEMO offers the Authority a single interface for full CDMA testing, the capability to test technologies (i.e., 2G, 3G & 4G) across all spectrum, support testing for up to 21 devices simultaneously, as well as a user-defined customised reporting template functionality. There are plans to resource all NCA zonal offices with adequate testing equipment and trained officers for scheduled and emergent field testing. The existing equipment can also be upgraded to test Over-the Top (OTT) services.
Network Monitoring System (NMS)
The NCA has acquired the Regulators Performance Management (RPM) system as the QoS Network Monitoring Solution. RPM is the novel NMS solution that handles the task of interfacing all the Operators or Service Providers Operations Support System (OSS) irrespective of the equipment vendor, collects performance data records and creates KPI reports that renders a given network performance against Licence obligations. The NMS uses counters from the OSS to provide a realistic vision of the Operator’s performance from network perspective on near real time basis from all MNOs and also Surfline Communications Limited. It complements the consumer perspective measurements from the Drive Test monitoring system. It gives a continuous monitoring (24x7) oversight with cost savings advantage to the Authority. So now the NCA has the capacity of measuring the KPI of any service provider. The Authority is also able to generate reports on network performance within minutes as compared with the previous regime.
Billing Verification System (BVS)
The Billing Verification System (BVS) involves a process where test runs are done against the tariffs published by the MNOs. These tests are done to verify that tariffs on all services are within specific targets and every billable mobile activity a consumer engages in is accurate. NCA staff additionally undertake these tests on various plans and packages from all MNOs. The tests cover various attributes including duration of call, cost of call and credit balance after each call. The BVS is also used for quality-of-service testing of mobile money transactions.