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Mobile Service Below Standards, NTA’s Drive Test Finds

A recent drive test study by NTA found mobile service to be below standards. Telecom authority NTA ran voice tests in various areas in the Kathmandu valley at different times that showed the operators falling short of the thresholds set by the regulator.

Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) conducted the drive tests from December 31st, 2021 to January 11th, 2022. It included performance monitoring of all three major telecom operators of Nepal – Nepal Telecom (NTC), Ncell Axiata, and Smart Cell.

Related: 2G or 3G; Which mobile network will shut down first in Nepal?

NTA’s Drive Test Methodology

NTA performed its drive test inside the capital using testing tools mounted on a moving vehicle. The tools measured several parameters on three mobile networks while repeated calls were made. The recorded data provides the key performance indicators (KPI) of the mobile network on those routes.

The tests checked the performance of all the service providers simultaneously by repeatedly making on-net voice calls. The tools were programmed as such that they connected to the most favorable network (4G/3G/2G) available for each operator.

Kathmandu map for NTA drive test
An image representing NTA’s Drive Test inside the Kathmandu valley

The test evaluated the operators’ voice performance in four criteria. Find out the results in detail below.

Call Setup Success Rate

NTA’s Drive Test showed all the telecom falling short of its threshold of 99.99% successful call setup. Nepal Telecom (NTC) averaged 89 percent for successfully setting up calls. Ncell averaged slightly better at 92 percent. But Smart Cell fared far short at 72 percent.

Call Setup Success RateNtcNcellSmart Cell
Against NTA’s threshold of 99.99%89%92%72%

Call Setup Time

The time it takes for a call to initiate after the number is dialed has a threshold of <=5 seconds but here too, the operators underperformed. Among the telcos, Ncell again came atop with an average of 6.24 seconds, and Ntc averaged 9.32 seconds. Smart Cell fared worst with 11.54 seconds.

Call Setup TimeNtcNcellSmart Cell
Against NTA’s threshold of <=5 seconds9.32 sec.6.24 sec.11.54 sec.

An instant Call Setup Time helps dialers save time on their call as the call establishes soon. But the above 5 second CST average shows Nepali telcos falling short in this segment too.

Call Block Rate

At times our call fails to establish due to congestion in the network of our mobile network provider. This is called Call Block Rate and it is measured in percent. NTA has set the threshold for this at <=2 percent but again the telcos failed to break even. In this metric, Ntc averaged 11 percent in Call Block Rate, Ncell fared 8 percent, and Smart Cell 28% meaning that telcos again failed to meet up the regulator’s threshold.

Call Block RateNtcNcellSmart Cell
Against NTA’s threshold of <=2%11%8%28%

Call Drop Rate

The metric that measures a network’s failure to maintain a call once the user establishes is Call Drop Rate. Against Ntc’s threshold of below 2 percent, Ntc averaged 4.38 percent. Ncell though fulfilled this criterion with a 1.18 Call Drop Rate percent. Smart again fell well short with its 10 percent.  

Call Drop RateNtcNcellSmart Cell
Against NTA’s threshold of 2%4.38%1.18%10%

The call interruption or abrupt end is one of the undesirable issues during a call. It determines how strong an operator’s signal strength is. Here, Ntc, and Ncell both fared fine with the latter reaching the regulator’s threshold while Smart Cell left much to desire.

Operators’ Comparison on Mobile Voice Call Service

NTA’s Drive Test shows telecom operators failing to stand up to the required threshold by the regulator. In all the criteria, private telco Ncell fared somehow better while the government-backed operator Ntc trailed. But another operator Smart Cell fell far behind in the voice call tests.

Do read: How important is Voice Call quality in Mobile networks?

More startlingly the tests were run inside the valley where mobile service is supposed to flow with breeze. This reflects a bleak translation of how it could be in other parts of the country but in its defense, such mobile service depends upon the number of users and the base stations available. But it is a must that telecom operators meet up to subscribers’ expectations and offer convenient services.

How often do you deal with voice call shortcomings on your network? You can reflect on NTA’s drive test, and below standards mobile service in the comments below.

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