O2 deploys Service Operations Centre to improve network

O2 has revealed it will use Nokia’s evolved Service Operations Centre (SOC) platform to monitor the quality of service in order to optimise its network.

Nokia’s eSOC monitors multiple data sources such as networks nodes, billing platform, social media posts and an operator’s contact centres to identify trends that can be analysed and used to make decisions that will improve service.

It also includes Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities that will eventually be able to recommend courses of action or even predict potential pressure points.

“The idea is to make customer led decisions rather than network led decisions,” said Brendan O’Reilly, O2 CTO.

SOC and customer experience

It will also be possible for the SOC to automate changes to the network by interacting with Self-Optimising Network (SON) technology, but in the early stages of this project there will more of a human element.

SON analyses customer call, text and data information to see if there are any software-based decisions that can be made to improve capacity or network quality, such as the remote tilting of antennas.

Nokia’s platform is designed to be easy to use, with the company tasking economists, graphic design experts and psychologists, among others, to develop the interface.

“All operators have a Network Operations Centre (NOC),” added Tim Smith, head of Nokia Software Europe. “[NOCs] are there to monitor the status of a network, raise alarms and to take action. But customers don’t buy the network, hey buy the services on top. So, monitoring the network quality is increasingly essential – hence the SOC.

“Nokia’s approach to the SOC is fundamentally different. To understand the quality of service that customers are getting you need a variety of sources.

“Each of these platforms speak their own language and don’t speak to each other. We use a common information model to take all these sources and turn them into a single one.”

“Only when you have these data sources in a single language can you analyse, draw conclusions and have an idea about the type of sources your customers are having. Everyone talks about customer experience, we need to talk about customer delight.”

Customer-centric approach

The expansion of O2’s long-standing relationship with Nokia is part of the operator’s customer-centric approach designed to differentiate its offering from rivals EE, Three and Vodafone. The SOC will also be available to O2’s Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) partners such as Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile and Sky.

Although the SOC is unlikely to predict the kind of catastrophic day-long outage O2 suffered in December as that was at a network level, it would be able to predict user behaviour and traffic patterns that prevent future issues.

O’Reilly did say that that the SOC would have helped with O2’s reaction to the outage as it would have been able to communicate with customers more effectively. But the benefits, he argued, would not be limited to major events.

“Would the SOC have had an impact on the outage itself? Probably not,” he said. “But in terms of how we reacted once we recovered then yes. I believe the SOC will give us the ability to give us the ability to react at the small moments, not just the big ones.”

The success of the SOC will be monitored over the next 18 months or so, measured with metrics such as Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and customer churn among others. But it could also help with future rollouts, including 5G.

“I think it will [have an impact] going forward,” said O’Reilly in response to a question from TechRadar Pro.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.