China Unicom: Enhancing the user experience

China Unicom: Enhancing the user experience


  • Fierce market competition for data services;
  • Difficulties in quantifying user perceptions;
  • Difficulties in accessing subscriber data.


  • Partnered with Huawei and put in place a system that correlates QoE, KQI and KPI to quantify user perception;
  • Five key steps for timely fault location that guide resolution and optimization at the network level.


  • Premium 3G user experience under its Wo brand;
  • Complaints dropped sharply.

China Unicom Shandong has optimized its end-to-end network through an innovative and proactive approach to user perception, which has yielded rapid subscriber growth and a sterling reputation for QoE.

Data service & operational challenges

Shandong province's mobile market has grown steadily over recent years, but this growth has brought greater demand for data services. These services have become the battleground where operators compete for newly added subscribers and cultivate new revenue streams.

China Unicom Shandong (Shandong Unicom) had trouble comparing and managing service quality between different hotspots; user perceptions were hard to quantify, leading to lapses in quality control. A long E2E service chain for mobile data; service diversity and complexity; as well as varied assessment criteria for service quality and user perception, all added to their O&M management difficulties.

Subscriber data was also generally difficult to access, making it difficult to identify and evaluate data services. Currently, evaluation is performed primarily through drive testing (DT) and call quality testing (CQT), which are often performed after complaints have been filed. While these tests are suitable for finding dead spots in coverage, they typically cannot isolate the fluid conditions and traffic surges that often lead to disruptions in today’s networks; they cannot paint a big picture of what is happening on the network.

What’s more, even with network key performance indicators (KPIs), user perceptions often remain unclear.

Perception-based optimization

Shandong Unicom partnered with Huawei to explore user perceptions in depth. Shandong Unicom has put into place a correlation system for QoE, KQI and KPI, where real-world service perceptions are quantified and used to determine other relevant factors. It has established a model for QoE, KQIs, and KPIs for certain services and defined a five-level scale for QoE evaluation ranging from very satisfied to very unsatisfied; based on Huawei’s understanding of key points in end users’ service experience, it then put in place a set of KQIs for service quality evaluation; finally, combing the KPIs and KQIs, it went deeper to identify hidden root causes at the network level that affect user experience.

The process boils down to five key steps – probe & drive testing at the Uu interface; internal signal tracking and analysis at the radio network controller (RNC) layer; internal signal tracking and analysis at the Serving GPRS Supporting Node (SGSN) layer; external signal analysis at the Gn/Gi/Gw interfaces using the system quality metrics (SQM) system; and internal signaling tracking and analysis at service system gateways. By deploying equipment at these checkpoints to monitor/gather packet data and performing deep data mining and error code analysis at layers ranging from the service to the physical, Shandong Unicom has been able to locate the faulty network segments that cause service quality deterioration immediately after problems are discovered; they have also been able to provide guidance for resolution and optimization at the network level.

Improved E2E service quality

Leveraging this evaluation system, Shandong Unicom has carried out special 3G initiatives in the provincial capital of Jinan to improve user perception for MMS, WAP, FTP, streaming media services, and iPhone applications.

Its MMS completion rate has increased by 14.9%, while its InterRAU has risen by 13.9%. Web page access speed has also significantly accelerated for certain terminals, while FTP interruption has disappeared. Complaints related to 3G quality have dropped sharply, from 24 incidents in January 2011 to 13 in April of the same year; complaints per 10,000 subscribers have fallen to 1.9 incidents from 4.4, a reduction of 57.6 percent.

Through continued optimization of its network and practices, Shandong Unicom now offers a premium 3G experience under its Wo brand, laying a solid foundation for further improvements in QoE and the attraction of new subscribers.