Test network probes Beijing roaming

A test company is using a network of probes distributed around the globe to test how well mobile operators’ calls are being handled at the Beijing Olympics.

The idea is to give mobile operators a way to measure the quality of service their customers are getting from the two local providers, China Mobile and China Unicom. According to Frank Hufschmid, head of sales for service assurance solutions in Asia Pacific for test services company JDSU, with 205 countries competing, up to 800 networks have been trying to roam to the local networks during the Games.

Hufschmid said that some of its customers had been subscribing to the RoamerNet service since before the Games, so that they could understand the roaming performance in each of the ten Olympic cities in China before the influx of hundreds of thousands of participants, tourists and officials.

“It allows them to create a baseline of how their services were working before, during and after the Games,” he said.

The RoamerNet system can inject test calls bound for Olympic cities into mobile operators’ home networks, and then measure the number of calls that were successfully connected and the quality of those successful connections. It can also reveal if there are problems with intermediate networks that are carrying the calls between the home network and its Olympic termination.

The service works for voice, SMS and data calls.

“We’ve got probes across the road from the Birds’ Nest stadium where the tourists are and we’ve seen a percentage more unsuccessful connections to the Internet due to congestion,” said Hufschmid.

Customers who took on the service before the Games have been able to use the comparative statistics to renegotiate their roaming terms with their local partners.

According to Hufschmid, roaming connections are usually made on a ‘best effort’ basis – networks will try their best to connect a call. With the right performance data to hand, though, overseas operators have been able to go back to the local providers to get preferential treatment for their calls or better pricing at the same performance.

The GSM Association is now working to develop standardised measures of the quality of roaming services, in order that mobile operators can make better contracts with each other.

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