P3 Group CEO discusses the evolution of testing and the role of crowd-sourced, device-based data

Crowd-sourced, device-based data offers new insights into the customer experience and cost savings for network planning and optimization purposes, according to Hakan Ekmen, CEO of P3.

While P3 is well-known in Europe and its data is used by network operators in about 85 countries around the world, he said, the company is currently putting particular focus on the Americas, particularly the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Part of the company’s strategy is boosting the profile of its benchmarking offerings in the U.S.; P3 has so far released four public reports based on its data, the most recent of which focused on nationwide mobile network performance and was released yesterday.

P3’s approach to benchmarking has evolved over time, Ekmen said. The traditional testing approach has made use of reference devices and walk- and drive-testing with pre-defined tests of specific services such as YouTube or web browsing, uploads and downloads.

In the past few years, he said, P3 has shifted to using a combination of that traditional approach plus crowd-sourced, device-based data. P3 has an application that operates in the background of other apps to collect information, and it is integrated with about 800 individual apps. That means the data can’t be manipulated because the app is drawing from a diverse base of applications, Ekmen said, while providing insights on the actual user experience as a customer uses their device normally.

“The data you’re getting out of the devices has to be accurate and reliable,” he said, because operators want proven evidence and the ability to identify root causes for network issues.

In addition, he said, using device-based data trims operating expenditures due to a lower cost of test by reducing drive-testing and site visits can be reduced.

Still, Ekmen said, P3 sees that many operators still prefer to rely on the traditional, drive-test based benchmarking for their networks. He estimated that about two-thirds of mobile network operators rely on drive-testing, while about one-third incorporate crowd-sourced data from devices. But, he added, P3 does see its data being used for the engineering of networks — which it sees as confirmation of its approach.

Although P3 does not make most of its data from countries around the world public, he added, “our data is in use, and this is for us a clear indication to say that the future in crowd-sourcing.”

Although P3’s public reports rely on data from smartphones, Ekmen also sees the potential for P3’s solution to be applied in an internet of things context, as it becomes more important for operators to assess the network conditions experienced by various types of devices that may not have human users.

“As long as a chip is available, our solution can be deployed,” Ekmen said.

In particular, P3 is putting energy into pursuing the automotive sector. The company opened up a 25,000-square foot Mobility Innovation Center in 2016 in Southfield, Michigan to focus on automotive-related technology development and engagements with manufacturers and suppliers. In June of this year, Samit Ghosh, president and CEO of P3 North America, was named to the Advisory Board of PlanetM, a group which promotes Michigan as a hotspot for mobility and technology developments related to automotive.

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