The constant and rapid evolution of smartphones and tablets has made the world a more mobile and connected place. We are now able to browse the Internet, send emails and upload pictures to Facebook or Instagram from virtually anywhere, thanks to today's mobile networks.
With this has also come an increased level of expectation from consumers. Slow Internet speeds or a lack of connectivity are no longer tolerated, whether this is at a high street cafe or a jam-packed sports stadium, meaning network operators are under more pressure now than ever before.
Paul Carter, the CEO of network benchmarking and testing firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS), highlighted this increased expectation when we chatted with him recently.
"People want to be able to use their devices wherever they are, whenever they want to use them," he said. "In the basements of buildings, on the top level of buildings, on the metro, on the tube, at stadiums during major events when there are 80,000 people in the stadium or when there is no-one in the stadium, people want to be able to use their devices."
Large-scale stadiums and events do indeed seem to be a key focus going forward, both for GWS and for the industry in general. Carter describes the large-scale events industry as "an ongoing major focus of the wireless operators" and GWS has carried out testing at several major events in the US, including the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the South by Southwest film festival in Texas and at the AT&T stadium, home of NFL franchise the Dallas Cowboys, with a capacity of around 80,000.
Sport stadiums are likely to become a primary target. As smart stadiums have started to be developed, being able to upload photos and send tweets from games has become more important to spectators and, again, expectation levels are greater than ever.
"Getting a capacity issue with a stadium is just not acceptable anymore," added Carter. "People want to be able to instantly upload a video or a photo."
This means that network operators have to be able to cope with potentially tens of thousands of people simultaneously making use of one single network. However, realistically speaking, things will inevitably go wrong, at which point operators need to be able to understand why.
That's where Virginia-based GWS comes in, its role being to collect information on factors such as network accessibility, reliability and sustainability, and report its findings back to network operator. If and when any negative events occur, a drill-down analysis is carried out to identify the root cause of the problem.
Depending on the level of flexibility required, GWS can carry out this analysis through a range of platforms, such as: test vehicles for large-scale testing or commercial wireless networks, a back-pack type device which allows walk and venue testing, or a new supplemental mobile diagnostic app which provides real-time performance monitoring and reporting.