interview


Grameenphone: “Caching is one optimisation initiative high on our agenda”

K.M. Tariquzzaman, Deputy Director & Head of Planning, Design & Dimensioning Technology Division at Bangladeshi telco Grameenphone, speaks about the mobile data challenge facing Bangladesh, and the network optimisation initiatives Grameenphone has implemented to ameliorate this challenge.

Can you provide an overview of the Bangladeshi market and its mobile data challenge?

Bangladesh is a market with lots of potential for mobile services. Currently we have a total of over 87 million mobile subscribers, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the total population. Future growth will come mainly from rural areas.

The key reason behind this remarkable growth over the last one and half decade is the insufficiency of fixed infrastructure compared to the consumer need for communication.

The mobile phone has become a necessity item here, rather than a luxury. This huge success of mobile telephony together with stiff competition has resulted in very low tariffs for communication services. With extensive countrywide coverage, it is possible today to get connected to the Internet using a mobile phone from anywhere in the country.

Together with the huge potential come some challenges as well. Despite numerous talks around 3G, we are still operating our network on 2G. On the one hand, this gives us enormous challenge to operate with a reasonable performance and on the other hand, it doesn’t fulfil our customers’ ever increasing demand either.

One of our unique challenges is to make sure we can provide data packs with low volume cap so that these are affordable to our customers and we can effectively prevent “bill-shock”. This leads to high transactional demands on our service fulfilment systems and, being a predominantly prepaid market, on real time rating and policy enforcement.

What are the network implications of rising demand for mobile data in Bangladesh?

Voice is still the king and will remain so for us in the foreseeable future. Our strategy is to offer the best possible data experience without hampering the voice experience.

We strive to make sure we are efficient both upstream and downstream of our data service value chain. Although smartphone and tablet penetration are not that high yet, it is growing steadily, and we are committed to giving our customers a better user experience based on their device choice.

2G technology has its own technological limitations and it is a huge challenge for our planners to meet customers’ demand for data services and to maintain the network quality KPIs.

Also, in order to ensure affordability, we have to put a lot of effort into data policy and optimisation, even though we are at a relatively early stage of data service maturity in global terms.

The rising demand of mobile data is also forcing us to increase backhaul capacity and move towards IP technologies, in order to remain cost effective. It becomes very important for us to make sure that all these efforts are correctly orchestrated in order to achieve the best cumulative gain possible.

What traffic optimisation initiatives has Grameenphone undertaken to deliver a better customer experience?

We have implemented a number of techniques to make best use of our resources and make our customers happy. Caching is one of the optimisation initiatives that we put high on our agenda.

We are doing it in multiple places and in different ways in order to make sure we are getting the full benefit of caching in terms of reducing content appearance time and upstream throughput.

We are also doing overall data optimisation by content adaptation and transcoding to reduce load on our upstream pipe and radio resources, and improving customer experience by giving them more content with the same throughput.

Although we are doing Web optimisation for the time being, we are to starting to optimise video, as we see video as being one of the fastest-growing types of Internet content, and a large portion of our customer experience on mobile data is built around it.

What role will mobile offloading take in Grameenphone’s strategies?

The main alternatives of mobile data off-loading are wifi and small cell technologies. How much we can capitalise on wifi technology depends on the regulatory guidelines, but we see it as a very promising option to offer best user experience.

Standalone wifi solutions have been around for many years, but the best user experience comes when this is integrated with a mobile subscription.

The boundary between picocell and femtocell is blurring more and more each day, and we will see the potential of these technologies when 3G networks are deployed.

For 2G, we are exploring picocell solutions on a limited scale, and for 3G, small cells will play a major role in offering in-building solutions of various scales.

 

 

Tariq is speaking at the Broadband IP&TV Asia 2012 event, taking place in Malaysia on 15th-16th May. For more information and to register, please visit http://asia.broadbandworldforum.com

 

 

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