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Meaningful Quality, beyond Meaningful Connectivity

Published on October 11, 2023
Meaningful Quality, beyond Meaningful Connectivity

Having a satisfactory experience is now more important than merely being able to connect with any internet provider. Efforts to connect the 2.9 billion people worldwide who remain unconnected are meaningless without resilient, fast, and reliable connectivity.

Imagine having a phone that can connect to the internet. Sounds great, right? But what if the internet is slow and you can't do anything enjoyable or useful with it? That wouldn't be very fulfilling.

In 2020, the UN and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) established an ambitious goal: achieving universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030. Basic internet access is a necessity in a global digital economy. The United Nations (UN) has labeled it a human right, but "Meaningful Connectivity" is the new standard. This metric measures not just whether someone has accessed the internet but also the quality of the connection they have. 

Introduction to Meaningful Connectivity

In today’s rapidly digitizing world, the United Nations' ambitious goal of achieving universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030 serves as a crucial milestone. While the conversation around connectivity often focuses on access and affordability, we at MedUX believe that the transformative element turning a basic connection into a meaningful one is its quality. This post delves into the intricate concept of "Meaningful Connectivity," with a particular emphasis on "Meaningful Quality (of Experience)"—a perspective that aligns with our organizational ethos: Quality of Experience (QoE) everywhere.

               

Quality of Experience (QoE) Everywhere as part of Meaningful Connectivity

“UNIVERSAL CONNECTIVITY TO RESILIENT AND RELIABLE SERVICES. ENRICHING, SATISFYING, AND PRODUCTIVE ONLINE EXPERIENCES”           
 

So, "Meaningful Connectivity" involves having a robust internet connection that allows you to engage in all desired activities like seamless communication, video streaming, and web browsing.

MedUX is dedicated to going beyond by enabling policy and regulatory environments that extend Internet access and QoE as a key aspect of societal development. Here are some ideas from the MedUX team contributing to the concept of “Meaningful Connectivity” and the applicable analytical framework.

Quality of Experience as part of the Telecom’s Maslow Pyramid

Let’s consider Maslow's Pyramid applied to Telecoms—a model that portrays human needs at various levels. At the bottom, there are basic needs like food and shelter; as you ascend the pyramid, higher-level needs like love, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment appear.

Pyramid to connectivity

Now, apply Maslow's Pyramid to connectivity:

  • Basic Connectivity (Physiological Needs): This corresponds to the bottom of Maslow's Pyramid, where basic necessities like food and water are required. In the realm of connectivity, this would mean having any form of internet connection capable of phone conversations and text messaging.

  • Functional Connectivity (Safety Needs): As we move up the pyramid, the next need is a stable and secure internet connection capable of transmitting content such as pictures and accessing basic online information.

  • Meaningful Connectivity (Belongingness and Love Needs): This goes beyond just having any connection; it's about having a connection that enables you to engage with others, through social media, video calls, or accessing rich media online.

  • Meaningful Quality (Esteem Needs): Higher up on the pyramid, "Meaningful Quality" pertains to achieving high-quality online experiences, thanks to reliable, resilient, and fast services. It's not just about connecting; it's about feeling proud and satisfied with what you do online.

  • Impactful Connectivity (Self-Fulfillment): At the pinnacle of Maslow's Pyramid, self-fulfillment is about becoming the best version of yourself. In connectivity terms, this involves not only having a high-quality connection but also using it to foster societal development and bridge the digital divide.

We have to move beyond just having a basic internet connection (the bottom of the pyramid) to valuing the quality of our online experiences (higher up on the pyramid) as an essential part of the society development.

Multi-stakeholder discussions about universal and meaningful connectivity could be incomplete without ensuring that end-users have resilient, reliable, and fast services, delivering an enriching, satisfying, and productive digital experience. In other words, Quality of Experience (QoE) is critical in the Digital Era.

Redefining Connectivity for the Human Experience

There's a growing consensus, advocated by organizations like the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), that meaningful connectivity is human-centric and must be evaluated from the end-user's perspective. We extend this discussion to include QoE as a crucial component shaping the human-centric digital experience.

"Meaningful Quality" entails not just having a good connection but also ensuring that what you do on the internet is enjoyable and functions well. Overall, meaningful quality is essential for an enriching, satisfying, and productive online experience. It is akin to having a fast car (the good connection) and a smooth road to drive on (the quality of experience).

The Four Pillars of Meaningful Connectivity would then be:

  • Universal Access: Connectivity must be ubiquitous, ensuring no one is left behind, regardless of their geographic or societal status.
  • Affordability: Services must be cost-effective to ensure that price does not act as a barrier, i.e. leaving no one behind from a socio-economic perspective.
  • Usability: The technology should be user-friendly, equipped with adequate data plans that don't restrict usage.
  • Meaningful Quality: This is our unique contribution to the conversation. QoE metrics are instrumental in facilitating meaningful interactions and experiences online, going far beyond traditional Quality of Service (QoS) parameters.


QoE metrics offer a comprehensive view that transcends traditional Quality of Service (QoS) metrics like speed and coverage. They are required to provide a multi-dimensional perspective that incorporates metrics and KPIs directly extracted from real services and applications, offering a more authentic user experience evaluation.

We invite you to view our presentation during the ITU Workshop in Mexico, about "Trends in Quality of Service and Connectivity Assessment from the User's Perspective," organized by the ITU and hosted by the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (#IFT).           
 

 

How to measure Meaningful Connectivity and Meaningful Quality

Regulators and operators face challenges in measuring and evaluating meaningful connectivity. The network testing and monitoring industry offers several approaches to cope with related challenges. In the following, we will focus on mobile network environments based on the following three scenarios:

  • Traditional and advanced crowdsourcing methods
  •  Grand-scale deployment of hardware probes (active testing robots)
  • A multi-platform solution (combination of the above) 

Traditional crowdsourcing data can be valuable information for evaluating the status of meaningful (mobile) connectivity. This is particularly relevant when covering large geographical areas and multiple administrative divisions. However, not all crowdsourcing solutions are equally fit for purpose.

One primary distinction lies in how measurements are conducted and the type of traffic and services used to calculate metrics for meaningful connectivity evaluation.

The second defining dimension is how crowdsourcing agents are deployed to reach large geographical areas and multiple administrative divisions as per measurement and granularity needs.

On one hand, end users can initiate a speed test via a standalone application or web interface, usually prompted by either very good or very poor network conditions. On the other hand, end users can generate data naturally (without interaction) as they go about their regular activities. This is often achieved by integrating an SDK into any application they regularly use. Generally, data is gathered by extracting information from the traffic generated by the host application (active testing in the background) or by reusing traffic generated by other applications (passive testing).

However, it's worth noting that all these alternatives are non-controlled and could fall short in certain remote or rural areas or lack depth in KPIs, which can affect the overall reliability of performance and experience indicators. At the same time, the richness and soundness of metrics are limited to the traffic that can be generated either in the foreground or the background of end-user terminals.

To address this limitation, it's possible to conduct service testing by generating traffic to measure specific services and target specific geographical areas. In this approach, data samples are collected periodically in target areas and generate predefined traffic to close the geographical gap and measure real services, such as video streaming, gaming, social media, or web browsing. This provides a more representative dataset of the true end-user experience, facilitating a more detailed and multi-faceted understanding of whether connectivity genuinely enables impactful engagement in our digital society and economy.

This is where complementary measurement methods, such as grand-scale deployment of active testing robots, become increasingly important. Emulating end users' behavior with dedicated devices is vital for obtaining comprehensive information about true connectivity and quality in a controlled environment, offering required representativeness and richness.

This approach enables a thorough comprehension of the user experience at various geographical levels, contingent on deployment and use case. Robots can be strategically positioned at specific locations to monitor areas that other solutions may struggle to cover adequately. Moreover, it provides more experience indicators and facilitates the correlation of performance with lower-layer parameters and messages, unlocking network intelligence and control, planning, optimization, and troubleshooting use cases.

Considering conventional measurement methods along with their capabilities and limitations, we believe it's imperative to take a step further. Employing a combination of tools—a multi-platform QoE solution—to assess connectivity status is essential. The key lies in selecting the right platforms to strike a balance between coverage, accuracy, and depth of analysis. 

Utilizing advanced active testing tools, such as robots, standalone apps, and embedded SDKs, is crucial for gaining a comprehensive understanding of connectivity and its associated issues. This multifaceted approach allows for a more nuanced evaluation of network performance and quality. 

Conclusion 

We have just seven years to reach the goal of universal and meaningful connectivity. While access and affordability are important, the Quality of Experience (QoE) is what transforms a standard connection into a meaningful and impactful one, capable of enabling societal development and truly closing the digital divide. Grounded in our unique expertise in QoE testing and monitoring, we offer an invaluable perspective that enriches international discussions and ensures that future connectivity is not just universal, but truly meaningful. 

MedUX is dedicated to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their location or background, can access the full potential of the digital world: Experience Matters.

Multi-stakeholder discussions around universal and meaningful connectivity could be incomplete without considering Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics, ensuring that end-users are provided a truly enriching digital experience. 

We invite you to download our presentation from the ITU Workshop in Mexico, about "Trends in Quality of Service and Connectivity Assessment from the User's Perspective," organized by the ITU and hosted by the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (#IFT).        
 

MedUX stands at the forefront to empower stakeholders with data-driven insights and analytics to optimize network performance and assure an unparalleled Quality of Experience for telecom subscribers.

 

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