ANALYSIS OF DATA MINING TECHNIQUES OF TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF MTN NIGERIA. A RESEARCH PROJECT MATERIAL ON COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The telecommunications industry generates and stores a tremendous amount of data (Han et al, 2002). These data include call detail data, which describes the calls that traverse the telecommunication networks, network data, which describes the state of the hardware and software components in the network, and customer data, which describes the telecommunication customers (Roset et al, 1999). The amount of data is so great that manual analysis of the data is difficult, if not impossible. The need to handle such large volumes of data led to the development of knowledge-based expert systems. These automated systems performed important functions such as identifying fraudulent phone calls and identifying network faults. The problem with this approach is that it is time consuming to obtain the knowledge from human experts (the “knowledge acquisition bottleneck”) and, in many cases, the experts do not have the requisite knowledge. The advent of data mining technology promised solutions to these problems and for this reason the telecommunications industry was an early adopter of data mining technology (Roset et al, 1999).
Telecommunication data pose several interesting issues for data mining. The first concerns scale, since telecommunication databases may contain billions of records and are amongst the largest in the world. A second issue is that the raw data is often not suitable for data mining. For example, both call detail and network data are time-series data that represent individual events. Before this data can be effectively mined, useful “summary” features must be identified and then the data must be summarized using these features. Because many data mining applications in the telecommunications industry involve predicting very rare events, such as the failure of a network element or an instance of telephone fraud, rarity is another issue that must be dealt with. The fourth and final data mining issue concerns real-time performance because many data mining applications, such as fraud detection, require that any learned model/rules be applied in real-time (Ezawa & Norton, 1995). Several techniques has also been applied is tackling all these issues in telecommunication companies.
Telecommunication networks are extremely complex configurations of equipment, comprised of thousands of interconnected components. Each network element is capable of generating error and status messages, which leads to a tremendous amount of network data. This data must be stored and analyzed in order to support network management functions, such as fault isolation. This data will minimally include a timestamp, a string that uniquely identifies the hardware or software component generating the message and a code that explains why the message is being generated. For example, such a message might indicate that “controller 7 experienced a loss of power for 30 seconds starting at 10:03 pm on Monday, May 12.”
Due to the enormous number of network messages generated, technicians cannot possibly handle every message. For this reason expert systems have been developed to automatically analyze these messages and take appropriate action, only involving a technician when a problem cannot be automatically resolved (Weiss, Ros & Singhal, 1998). This study is focused on MTN Nigeria.