Martin Geddes did an interesting presentation in Future of Broadband workshop. The ITU has the following write-up on that workshop
Eye-opening, evangelical and extremely well attended: this afternoon’s Future of Broadband workshop was all about exploding established concepts on how telcos should go about improving both customer experience and their bottom line.
Ranking broadband in terms of speed is the standard approach, but speed is not the only thing that matters in this business, according to Martin Geddes of Geddes Consulting, running the workshop in conjunction with Neill Davies of Predictable Network Solutions. He illustrated his point with a series of examples drawn from customers accessing broadband at different speeds – but with unexpectedly different experiences.
Slower broadband, whether over cable, satellite or fibre, in many cases offered a better quality of customer experience than the faster variant. Why? Variability, or rather lack of variability, is the key. A stable service, even it is slower, enables POTS-quality VoiP, whereas a highly-variable, faster service delivers a less satisfactory customer experience – and, by definition, an unhappier customer.
“The hidden secret of networking is that the network delivers loss and delay between packets,” said Geddes, “There is more to broadband than speed or capacity: with many customers wanting lots of different things at once, we also need an absence of variability, and that is what we call stationarity.”
Looked at from the network operator side, there are two key areas to consider: what is driving the cost of broadband and pushing capex sky high, and how to retain and increase your customer base to bring in the revenue. The answers, it seems, are not immediately obvious.
To start with, the knee-jerk telco reaction of pouring capex into infrastructure upgrades and increased capacity is simply not the way to ensure good quality of service and happy customers. Demand for broadband is highly elastic, expanding to consume whatever supply is on offer and creating a “jack-hammer effect” – which produces variability. Paradoxically, increased investment in bandwidth may be behind that very poor service which leads to customer churn and the panicked assumption that another upgrade is necessary – an “investment cycle of doom.”
This is a deep systemic problem in the industry investment machine. Rushing to premature upgrades masks the real core issue, that of quality of service. The presenters demonstrated this in heaven-hell model, where full network capacity and happy customers is telco heaven – and the converse, unhappy customers and underused network, is of course telco hell. Getting the balance is not easy, as increasing local networks pushes down the quality of experience for applications with strong stationarity requirements – exactly what the customer is after.
For Martin, there is a tiny root cause of this: all current packet-based infrastructure relies on it being idle and keeping queues empty to ensure good quality. So your assets must stay idle to keep your customer. The solution lies in thinking about how to reframe both this problem, and the exact nature of the resource the operators are selling.
“Don’t make packets move for their own sake, but focus on customer experience. Change the resource model,” urged Martin. “Throw away the bandwidth model and thought process.” Efficiently allocating resources to customers is more important than bandwidth. Increase capacity, but only in a very targeted way. In other words, meet heterogeneous demand with a differentiated product.
This, then, is how to ensure a future of broadband heaven: understand that quality of experience is a function of loss and delay. Characterize your supply requirements properly. Work out what customers are after, certifying fitness of purpose for a particular, actual customer demand rather than a generalised one-size-fits-all concept. And, in the words of the workshop presenters: “Don’t sell bandwidth – sell differential experiences.”
His presentation is embedded as follows: