What is QoE? A Look at Subscriber Quality of Experience for ISPs

Title image for What is QoE blog

by | April 7, 2022 | Networking

What is QoE

In the networking world, QoE stands for Quality of Experience. Specifically, this refers to the quality of service experienced by a subscriber, often simply called subscriber QoE.

Examples of good subscriber QoE include:

  • An internet that ‘feels fast,’ no matter what plan a subscriber signed up for with their Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Absence of lag, buffering or service loss during video calls, online gaming, streaming, and system updates
  • No slowing down of the internet when multiple people in the home are online at the same time

Maintaining a good subscriber QoE is important because it translates directly to higher customer satisfaction, reduced churn, and increased revenue. Happy customers don’t cancel their service or call the support line. They’re also more likely to post good reviews and refer the ISP to their friends, neighbors, and family members.

Healthy subscriber QoE, however, doesn’t just happen by good fortune or accident. It’s the direct result of good practices put in place by ISPs who understand its value.

But what exactly are those ‘good practices’? For some, QoE simply means traffic shaping. A comprehensive quality of experience monitoring and optimization solution is much more than that, however.

Don’t get us wrong—traffic and bandwidth management are part of a solid QoE strategy. The true keys to proactive QoE optimization and management, however, are understanding the access network topology and the subscriber experience.

Heavy traffic on highway

QoE is More Than Just Traffic Shaping

It’s understandable that some might think QoE is simply traffic shaping by another name. After all, traffic shaping can help decrease latency and improve performance, leading to a better experience for internet users. So that takes care of subscriber QoE, right?

Well, not quite. QoE on an ISP network is about understanding and improving the service delivered to customers. Traffic management alone can’t be considered a true QoE solution. If there are problems in the underlying network such as overloaded APs, it doesn’t matter how smart the traffic shaping software is—the end quality of experience is still going to be bad. By focusing on measuring QoE and finding problems in the network, those infrastructure issues are removed so that traffic management can do its job.

The evolution of traffic management shows how the concept of QoE has changed as traffic management methods have improved. Prior to the development of Active Queue Management (AQM) techniques, traffic shaping was a highly technical process. This involved a combination of very complex technologies and many so-called “geek knobs.”

AQM Solves Your Traffic Shaping Problems

Without AQM, you’d first have to create methods to identify the huge number of applications and protocols on the Internet. Then, you’d have to constantly keep them up to date. With that classification available, the operator would then need to determine what to do with that information. This means writing rules to shape each application or category.

This is very complex to build and maintain for the vendor. It’s also very difficult for the operator to determine what to do and learn how to configure each geek knob.

With the development of tools like the FQ-CoDel algorithm, however, traffic shaping has become a hands-off, set-it-and-forget-it process. As a result, all those geek knobs and manual effort are now unnecessary.

Happy man with laptop

For an added side benefit, AQM has also effectively eliminated issues such as Bufferbloat. This means that multiple devices in the home can now be online concurrently without “stealing” each other’s bandwidth.

It’s clear, then, that traffic shaping using AQM is an effective part of providing good subscriber QoE. Proactive QoE optimization and management goes far beyond simple traffic management, however.

A deep understanding of the underlying access network technology, combined with high granularity per-subscriber metrics mapped to the network topology, is needed to truly comprehend and deliver optimal QoE. Think of it as taking a ‘whole ISP’ approach to measuring QoE.

Understanding the Access Network Technology

Tying subscriber QoE measurements to parts of the network and individual network elements is the first key to understanding the access network technology. This takes abstract metrics and turns them into something actionable, e.g. an AP is delivering a poor experience for subscribers.

The second aspect is having RF analysis tools in place that can help your ISP proactively manage the network and stay ahead of any issues with subscriber QoE. We recently launched new RF access layer scoring and metrics to help ISPs do just that.

Illustration of a network above a city

For QoE monitoring to be effective, measuring information directly from network elements is also required to understand why subscriber experience is good or bad. For example, the Preseem Poller extracts information from network devices via SNMP/HTTP/APIs and publishes it to the Preseem cloud.

The examples described above provide detailed raw metrics over a given period of time that enables on-the-fly investigation of network and subscriber behavior. These can be used to determine whether a QoE problem is in the network or the subscriber’s home. Also, they can be used to investigate areas of the network that may be delivering a poor experience, which can then be addressed.

By collecting metrics from hundreds of deployments, tens of thousands of Access Points (APs), and hundreds of thousands of subscribers, statistical models can be created and used to provide context, comparisons, and scores. These in turn produce actionable insights on everything from peak-time usage and performance to AP capacity and oversubscription ratio.

This allows ISPs to proactively target network repairs, improvements, and upgrades exactly where they’re needed to deliver a good subscriber experience.

Screenshot of Preseem AP Diagnostics

Numbers Don’t Lie: Using Per-Subscriber Metrics to Improve QoE

Measuring QoE directly from subscriber traffic provides ISPs with useful metrics on latency, loss, throughput, and jitter taken from the subscriber, AP, and tower levels. These present an objective set of facts that make it much easier to isolate, diagnose, and take action on any issues that may be happening in the network.

Collecting high frequency and high granularity metrics directly from the actual traffic for each IP address, end-to-end from the ISP core into the home and to the wireless client, is essentially the only way to truly understand the subscriber experience.

QoE metrics also empower ISPs to move to proactive management of their networks, so that they can start solving issues before the customer calls or churns.

For example, our CPE Radio Scores can identify the subscribers or radios doing the most damage to AP capacity and the experience of other users. These can then be prioritized for a fix so that overall QoE is optimized for all.

What QoE Really Means for ISPs

QoE is really a measurement of how subscribers perceive network performance. A complete QoE solution requires understanding the experience from the subscriber perspective, traffic management and optimization techniques, and a deep understanding of the underlying access network. When these are in place, traffic shaping techniques add value.

For more information on how Preseem can help you transform how your ISP manages subscriber QoE, book a demo with our team.

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