Art of Analytics: Cell Storm Rider

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About the Insights

This visualization captures the journey of Sundara Raman as he rides the commuter train corridors in Sydney, Australia. Armed with his mobile phone and special software, Sundara's train ride through Sydney can be traced via his mobile phone cell tower connections, represented by the colored dots (or nodes) on the chart, as his train hurtles through the city


Its part of a new form of analytics that uses mobile phone data to study the traffic patterns caused by movement and mass congregations of people. Its primary purpose is to optimize the cell tower network to avoid performance issues and improve customer experience. However, it also supports emerging data monetization initiatives where detailed traffic flows can be used for urban planning, retail store location analysis and marketing offers.


In this analysis Sundara is looking for cell signal 'storms' that can overwhelm towers and impact performance. As crowded commuter trains run down the lines and pool at stations, they send out 100's to 1000's of signals that move rapidly across towers and can overwhelm them. This visualization is part of a series of charts that overlay tower performance data, commuter traffic volumes and tower hand offs to pinpoint cell signal 'storm surges' enabling detailed recommendations to optimize the network.


The chart also highlights specific customer experience issues caused by the transfer between 4G cell towers (darker shade dots) and lower speed 3G cell towers (lighter shade dots) and 'ping pong' impacts from the to-ing and fro-ing of signals between towers, represented by close clusters of connected towers near Lindfield, Killara, Waitara, North Sydney and Chatswood stations.


About the Analytics

This visualization was created using Teradata Aster and Aster Lens. Smartphone signaling data was collected from simultaneous use of 3G and 4G mobile phones using special purpose software when travelling on crowded public transport lines along North Shore and Strathfield Lines in Sydney, Australia. Geospatial analytics were included using the geo location data for train stations and cell towers to isolate the cell towers located within a 1km radius of the train stations.


This approach was used to measure the impact of signal propagation among cell towers within a short defined range from train stations. Color codes were added to the sigma chart on the GEXF file using Visual Basic scripts to uniformly distinguish between 4G and 3G cell tower areas. Each color signifies the network coverage area to which a group of cell towers belong. Statistics published by Sydney City Rail, covering peak time train traffic loads for each train station, were used to correlate cell site performance.


About the Analyst

Sundara is a Senior Telecom Industry Consultant by day and an aspiring Data Scientist by night. He has a Master's degree in Business and Administration from Massey University, New Zealand. He lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and two children.


Sundara is an inventor and a joint holder of an Australian patent with his wife on Computer Assisted Psychological Assessment and Treatment that applies the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). So now, if during your next daily commute you happen to catch a glimpse of Sundara, juggling his multiple mobile phones, then you will know he is not crazy. He is just using analytics to gain insights that can help his Telecom clients improve their mobile network customer experience.