Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Signs for Net Neutrality Piece - Google and Verizon Joint Appeal to the FCC

After we saw some other signs for agreement between network operators and content providers ("Verizon likes Skype" - here) and doubts about Net Neutrality future ("'Net Neutrality, R.I.P" - here) we get now a joint opnion editorial in WSJ from Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google) and Ivan Seidenberg (CEO, Verizon) (here) where their bottom line is "While our two companies don't agree on every issue, we do agree generally as a matter of policy that the framework of minimal government involvement should continue".

This is referring to Network Neutrality.

After all, they say - ".. the [FCC] plan focuses on increasing access to the highest-quality broadband available. That's a goal both of our companies embrace. It's why Verizon has invested tens of billions of dollars over the past five years to deploy its all-fiber broadband network, and it is why it is rolling out a new high-speed wireless broadband network that can deliver speeds far in excess of many landline networks today. It is also why Google is planning to test a one-gig-per-second broadband network that will provide up to 500,000 people in one or more U.S. communities with ultra-high-speed Internet." [Implying, I believe, to the FCC idea of investing billions of tax payer money on a new public safety network - see "FCC: Public Safety over Broadband Wireless Will Cost $16B" - here ]

It seems that for the relevant parties (not including the customers, of course) it is better to get a compromise now, rather than wait for what the unknown regulation may bring.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AT&T Wireless Data: "Prohibited and Permissible Uses"

I spent some time on the AT&T site today. A simple search for "wireless data terms" brings a document (here) with interesting information on the giant's mobile internet service. The original text (the bold typeface is in the original text) in quoted below. A nice mix of legal and technical language which says, among other things:
  • Apparently you can use AT&T mobile internet service only for browsing, Email an Intranet access - even that with some limitations.
  • Indeed "software or other devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer's connection would otherwise be idle or any "keep alive" functions" is a major concern for wireless networks, as it keeps connections alive for no reason - but who knows which applications behave in this manner ?
  • And of course "downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers, ... is prohibited"
  • What about VoIP ? Not mentioned. Neither in the "Permissible " nor in the "Prohibited ".
I expect mobile operators to provide customers with more than what seems to be a simple evaluation of the old WAP service. Wireless networks are facing many challenges but with the right systems (policy based QoS/DPI systems) MNOs should be able to provide much more.

AT&T text:


Prohibited and Permissible Uses: Except as may otherwise be specifically permitted or prohibited for select data plans, data sessions may be conducted only for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). While most common uses for Intranet browsing, email and intranet access are permitted by your data plan, there are certain uses that cause extreme network capacity issues and interference with the network and are therefore prohibited. Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; (ii) as a substitute or backup for private lines, landlines or full-time or dedicated data connections; (iii) "auto-responders," "cancel-bots," or similar automated or manual routines which generate excessive amounts of net traffic, or which disrupt net user groups or email use by others; (iv) "spam" or unsolicited commercial or bulk email (or activities that have the effect of facilitating unsolicited commercial email or unsolicited bulk email); (v) any activity that adversely affects the ability of other people or systems to use either AT&T's wireless services or other parties' Internet-based resources, including "denial of service" (DoS) attacks against another network host or individual user; (vi) accessing, or attempting to access without authority, the accounts of others, or to penetrate, or attempt to penetrate, security measures of AT&T's wireless network or another entity's network or systems; (vii) software or other devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer's connection would otherwise be idle or any "keep alive" functions, unless they adhere to AT&T's data retry requirements, which may be changed from time to time. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited. Furthermore, plans (unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/smartphone to computer accessories, BLUETOOTH® or any other wireless technology) to Personal Computers (including without limitation, laptops), or other equipment for any purpose. Accordingly, AT&T reserves the right to (i) deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network, including without limitation, after a significant period of inactivity or after sessions of excessive usage and (ii) otherwise protect its wireless network from harm, compromised capacity or degradation in performance, which may impact legitimate data flows. You may not send solicitations to AT&T's wireless subscribers without their consent. You may not use the Services other than as intended by AT&T and applicable law. Plans are for individual, non-commercial use only and are not for resale. AT&T may, but is not required to, monitor your compliance, or the compliance of other subscribers, with AT&T's terms, conditions, or policies."

Cellular Broadband One of Gartner's 10 Mobile Technologies to Watch in 2010 and 2011

One of Gartner's 10 Mobile technologies  "that will evolve significantly through 2011 in ways that will impact short-term mobile strategies and policies" is Cellular Broadband.

Here is what Gartner (Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst) say about it:

"During 2010 and 2011, the availability of multimegabit wireless broadband performance will continue to grow as mobile networks enhance their broadband performance. Continuous improvements in wireless broadband performance will increase the range of applications that no longer require fixed networking, and make cellular broadband a more effective fallback when fixed connections fail. Embedded cellular networking will become a standard feature of many corporate laptops, and will enable new types of network-connected devices and business models, such as e-books and media players". 

See the other 9 mobile technologies, many of which will also impact the use of mobile data, here.

I believe that mobile broadband will be even more substantial, not only as a fallback but as a real alternative to fixed broadband (DSL, Cable) for home users.

Monday, March 29, 2010

DPI Announcements - Blue Coat Introduces Carrier Caching Appliance

Bluecoat announced today the Blue Coat® CacheFlow™ Appliance 5000 Series solution, which "Using advanced caching technology, this new appliance helps scale service delivery to meet the burgeoning subscriber demand for online video, large file downloads and other Web 2.0 rich media content while improving subscriber experience".

See full release here.

Bluecoat has a long history of providing caching products to enterprises and service providers (the current product line name, Cacheflow, used to be the company's name 8 years ago), usually supporting caching of web pages content. The new appliance targets the high-volume traffic of video and similar traffic, with carrier class capacity (having 1 and 10GE interfaces).

While caching may improve subscriber experience, it has to be deployed with a DPI/bandwidth management device in order to realize bandwidth savings - otherwise it will just allow subscribers to download more content. For this reason we see a number of partnerships between other caching companies and DPI companies. Some examples come from the two leaders in caching - PeerApp and Oversi.

  • PeerApp Announces UltraBand Certified Partner Program (here) - "PeerApp’s first certified partner Allot Communications Ltd. is a leader in IP service optimization and revenue-generating solutions based on deep packet inspection (DPI) technology"
  • Sandvine And PeerApp Deploy In Five Networks (here) - "The Sandvine-PeerApp integrated content caching solution leverages Sandvine’s Policy Traffic Switch (PTS) hardware, detailed protocol identification capabilities and PeerApp’s expertise in multi-service, multi-protocol caching solution for video and download services.".

    Sandvine also lists Oversi as an ecosystem solution partner (here
Bluecoat has in-house DPI/QoS products - the result of acquiring Packeteer (the Packetshaper line -here) two years ago. However, this line adresses the enterprise market, due to limited capacity.

The release does not say if P2P file sharing is supported, which is the prime application supported by Oversi an PeerApp. So, either Bluecoat is trying to avoid the legal issues associated with caching copyright protected video and music or they do not support it. Nevertheless, itis still (with YouTube traffic) the main load on ISPs networks and peering links.

So how is Bluecoat going to present a full solution to the market?

Ericsson CEO: The Mobile Internet is Underhyped

" .. At the end of 2009 there were more than 4.6 billion wireless subscriptions (some people have more than one mobile service) and Ericsson forecasts that number to grow to more than 6 billion in 2015 ... But consumers are just part of the growth trajectory for wireless data, according to [CEO Hans] Vestberg. "Our vision is that by 2020 we will have 50 billion connected devices," he declares. He envisions a world in which billions of machines – from pacemakers to cash registers to electricity meters – are outfitted with radios that allow the gadgets to send a steady stream of information to computers."

According to the authoer, FORTUNE's assistant managing editor Stephanie N. Mehta - "For Ericsson a big opportunity lies not only in selling wireless gear to increase the capacity of wireless networks, but in managing and optimizing the wireless links between machines and the transmission over wireless networks to big computing centers that will crunch all that data "

And I'd add - not only for Ericsson !!

Ericsson CEO: The mobile Internet is underhyped - here

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lightreading Policy, DPI & the Mobile Packet Core Event (CTIA)

Lightreading held a panel event during the CTIA show last titled "Policy Control, DPI & the Mobile Packet Core", with experts from leading vendors (here) and an agenda (here) covering all current issues.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the event, but Carol Wilson of LightReading posted the "the five key takeaways" according to their resident experts, Heavy Reading analysts Graham Finnie and Patrick Donegan:

Here is a shorter version of the 5 points. Full story - here.

"1) Technology vendors need to better explain the potential new services and innovations they are developing, for wireless networks in particular, and service providers need to stop hiding their use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and policy-based technology

2) The biggest unanswered question? How do you define "reasonable?"

3) The debate also continues on whether it makes more sense to concentrate DPI and policy control at the core of a network in a centralized fashion, or distribute it at the edge of the network.

4) Handling video traffic using policy and DPI remains a priority.

5) Service providers and their technology vendors need to give consumers more control over policy and how it is applied to them or used to control their services. "

In view of the anticipated death of Net Neutrality (see - "FCC's National Broadband Plan: Net Neutrality, R.I.P., by Doug Hanchard" - here) I fully agree with the above points which leave each operator to deal with what he thinks is a "reasonable traffic management" (See "Net Neutrality Speculations and 3UK" - here ) with clear benefits to itself and the vast majority of his customers. I hope they will all do it with transparency and disclosure to their customers and the pubic (so I do think that some part of Net Neutrality are good !)

Friday, March 26, 2010

FCC's National Broadband Plan: Net Neutrality, R.I.P., by Doug Hanchard

We have already noticed that Net Neutrality did not make it to the FCC's National Broadband Plan. We also saw that Congress will continue to push it (see "Boucher Still Working Toward Network Neutrality Legislation - here).

However, Doug Hanchard for ZDNet, says it is actually dead: 

"..  You won’t find a single notation or specific comment about Net Neutrality. Did the FCC kill it? Did industry lobby to keep it out of the report? Were the Commissioners divided on the issue? There are several possible answers. The answer is probably all three ... Conclusion: Net Neutrality is dead on arrival. There are bigger broadband issues to solve as Dingell clearly asked, and that is where Congress will focus all of its attention regarding internet broadband services."  

See here .

Message to US carriers, MSOs and MNOs:  You may proceed with your DPI and traffic management plans!

Policy Server Market - Still Small, but Always Optimistic!

Infonetics Research released the first edition of its 2010 biannual Policy Servers market size, share, and forecast report, which tracks fixed line and 3G broadband, WiMAX, and LTE wireless policy server software. According to the report (press release here) "Worldwide revenue for policy servers implemented in both fixed line and mobile networks grew 65% between 2008 and 2009, and is forecast by Infonetics to reach $1.4 billion by 2014".

Infonetics tends to take a very optimistic approach on market growth. However this year we start to see this sharp growth, mainly due to the implementations of policy servers in the wireless market (PCRF based). In previous years, we saw these policy server in the cable market (PCMM based), mainly in North America which is dominating by few huge MSOs, therefore with a limited market.

As analyst Shira Levine says "“Wireless is clearly the growth engine driving the policy server market. Mobile operators are increasingly understanding that they can no longer build their way out of the congestion issues created by the uptake of data services, and looking to policy control as a way to not only address the strain on their existing radio access network resources, but also to maximize the value of their upcoming WiMAX and LTE deployments

Camiant and Bridgewater were quick to issue a press release (here and here) celebrating their leadership in the Infonetics report. For Camiant it comes in conjunction with its announced win at Verizon Wireless this week (see "Verizon Wireless Selects Camiant for PCRF " - here).

Back in December 2006. Yankee group predicted that "Policy Management Market to Eclipse $700 Million by 2010" (here). The report was focusing mainly on the fixed market and did not address the mobile internet market at all. It is clear that we are far away from this '06 forecast - but this challenges (as huge growth in the demand for data over mobile, limited air and backhaul capacity and even Net Neutrality which require sophistication in traffic management) should accelerate this market.

It is also important to well define the policy server market. I believe we should split it into 3 categories: 
  • Pure play policy server vendors, such as Camiant and Bridgewater Systems, selling standard (PCMM, PCRF) and non-standard compliant products. This is a clear market, easy to measure and fast growing. Nevertheless, we also have seen a number of start-ups that did not survive during the recent years (e.g. Operax or Orchestream or TAZZ Networks).
  • Vendors of networking equipment that is usually associated with policy based networking (such as DPI, GGSN or BRAS). These vendors usually have their own "policy server" which is a s/w piece necessary to operate the equipment. In most cases it is proprietary and supports only the vendor's gear. Some vendors charge for a license some include it in the cost of the network elements.
  • The larger TEMs which have a central management facility, also supporting policy provisioning to their equipment (when applicable).  
Since revenues in the latter 2 categories are harder to measure, it is really difficult to asses the policy server market size. Nevertheless, since carriers seem to adopt the standard approach, it clears the way for the pure player – and we do see a large number of new offering in this space now mainly from OSS/BSS vendors (Openet, VolubillBroadhop, Telcordia - to name a few). It will probably lead to some consolidation.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Airtel Offers "Cricket without Buffering" on YouTube

Airtel Broadband (India) offers subscribers special QoS for the YouTube cricket channel (IPL) - while "For all others site customers will get their current plan speeds."

Happy customers are also getting an automatic upgrade 2 Mbps speed, but "The 2 Mbps bandwidth is not guaranteed all the time and is dependent of traffic. Our endeavor is to provide 2 Mbps on best effort basis." and "Upgraded speed of 2 Mbps applicable only for live cricket streaming on page and not for other YouTube content".

See here.

All this requires Airtel to decode traffic (identify when someone is surfing to the specific YouTube URL) and change his/hers QoS policy (upgrade to 2 Mbps and prioritize this traffic) during that time.

Nice implementation of DPI and QoS to attract new subscribers!

Mobile Mimics Fixed (Sandvine) but Users are up to 22% Less Satisfied (NSN)

Mobile internet surveys keep coming, with the latest one from Nokia-Siemens. Earlier this week Sandvine told us (here) that mobile broadband looks more and more like fixed broadband – now we hear from NSN that we are not there yet - at least as far as users' satisfaction is concerned.

At a time when mobile broadband is set to grow at a scorching pace, these findings are a wake up call for the industry,” said Jürgen Walter, head of Business Solutions, Nokia Siemens Networks. “Indeed, with the increased availability and use of smart devices, operators cannot afford to lose any opportunity to make the experience on their networks comparable to that of their fixed-line counterparts’.”   (full release - here).

Main findings (due to the clear interest of NSN in upgrading operators’ infrastructure, please take this with a grain of salt ..):

On a scale of their experience between 1 – 10, mobile Internet users’ average rating for specific applications was up to 22% lower than fixed users’. The quality aspects for which perceived satisfaction was studied were:
  • Overall satisfaction: mobile users 13% less satisfied than fixed users
  • Time for opening websites: mobile users 14% less satisfied than fixed users
  • Stability of Internet connection: mobile users 16% less satisfied than fixed users
  • Download speed: mobile users 17% less satisfied than fixed users
  • Upload speed: mobile users 18% less satisfied than fixed users
  • Quality of streamed videos or IPTV: mobile users 22% less satisfied than fixed users

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Verizon Wireless Selects Camiant for PCRF (so what happened to Bridgewater?)

Camiant announced today that "Verizon Wireless has selected Camiant’s Multimedia Policy Engine (MPE) as the Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) for Verizon Wireless’ previously announced nationwide deployment of a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network" (here). The title of the release says "deploys", the content says "selected" and "Camiant will ...". So probably it is not yet deployed.

My immediate thought went to Bridgewater Systems. Less than a month ago Bridgewater said in its financial results report for fiscal 2009 "Bridgewater expanded business with Verizon Wireless for its WideSpan® integrated system, including subscriber data management and service control." (here).

Does the strange press release from yesterday - "Bridgewater Systems Comments on Trading Activity" (here) - has something to do with this ?

Verizon wireless is a huge operator - it is common for carriers of this size to use multiple sources for certain products and technologies. However using two sources for policy management is not common - as this is a central management element, which requires lots of customization and integration with other elements (GGSN, DPI) in order to perform the operator-specific functions and processes. LTE is only starting – so doing everything twice for small deployments also does not make sense.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Skype mobile for Verizon Wireless Available Thursday

We got the breakthrough announcement at MWC (see "Verizon likes Skype"  here). The service lunch came today at CTIA - good thing that the two major wireless shows are only a month apart.

"Verizon Wireless and Skype today announced Skype mobile™ will be available this Thursday, March 25, starting with nine Verizon Wireless 3G smartphones" - read here.

Service includes unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls/Instant messaging and calling international phones. I cant see anything about placing domestic phone calls !


Reliance Globalcom Uses DPI for App-Aware Services

Reliance Globalcom CTO, Kamran Sistanizadeh, tells Lightreading that "Technology, cost, and customer interest are converging to make application-aware network services a viable and popular option"

Full story here.

While most of the DPI/traffic management stories relate to consumer/home users services (usually over DSL, cable or mobile), this story is about enterprise customers. The big money. Access may be on layer2 or 3, including Ethernet access. Naturally the enterprise bigger sites (data centers) will be connected with higher speed links, while remote branches may use lower speed DSL. Applications will be “enterprise applications” - such as CRM, ERP, Citrix – known also as “mission-critical applications”. However, "recreation traffic" of employees accessing "consumer" internet applications may fall into the mix as well (yes, other people - not us - do it at work).

The idea is for the carrier to provide QoS control, as a service. This may replace enterprise-grade equipment (known as "Wan-Optimization") that can do the same, and usually installed and maintained by the enterprise’s IT staff.

It turms out that Reliance Globalcom still needs DPI to do that - "Sistanizadeh says RG's application awareness platform combines technologies such as Deep Packet Inspection with network optimization, both in software and in appliances, to create a platform for global connectivity and application optimization

See RG site for details on AAN - Application Aware Networking service - here

Sandvine Traffic Report: Mobile Internet is a Good Business

Sandvine's Mobile Internet Phenomena study I mentioned two days ago (here) is out today. Like other DPI players Sandvine finds the mobile internet market as very lucrative for all the obvious reasons (use of smartphones and laptops, 4G speeds etc). Sandvine's press release - here, and you may download the report after filling a short form.

The report is very detailed,however focusing on North,Latin America and Europe. Asia (a major, early adapter market) is missing. We have seen most of the trends already in other reports, so I chose to show one finding (or theory) - the impact of laptops on mobile data usage.

Most people attribute the growth of mobile data to the use of smartphones (“iPhone”) - however it is clear that fully-functioned laptops are much more significant.

Nowadays, when mobile is an alternative access method to DSL and Cable (i.e. to be use at home) - we will see how significant laptops (and tablets) are.

According to Sandvine (PP 31):

" The devices that subscribers use to connect to the network exert a huge influence on the levels and  make-up of traffic. A single laptop can easily account for 100 times the byte usage of an average smartphone, and this reality has major implications for service providers. Using this conservative estimate, and assuming that an active subscriber is either using a laptop or a smartphone (and not both), it is possible to illustrate the significant impact of laptops on wireless networks ... Even with only a 5 percent penetration of aircard-enabled laptops, network traffic increases by almost 50 percent, and laptops make up one-third of that traffic."


Monday, March 22, 2010

Comcast vs. Net Neutrality (part 2): Roberts: Comcast Won't Discriminate

Comcast spent few millions on lobbying against Net Neutrality (here) but today Chairman Brian Roberts tells Senate Judiciary Committee members:

Question from Al Franken (D-Minn.): "Do you promise not to discriminate against other companies' programming on the Internet, even if the FCC never promulgates net neutrality regs."

Roberts: Yes. He said the company has always operated its high-speed Internet service according to the FCC's Internet openness guidelines, "and our commitment to operating in this manner is unwavering."

See the full Multichannel News report - here.

Net Neutrality Train Next Stop: France (?)

The French regulator ARCEP (Autorité de Régulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes) will convene on April 13 to discuss Network Neutrality (see press release - here - English !!).

In the video interview below, (French), the Chairman, Jean-Ludovic Silicani, says that it is an important subject, world-wide, and explains the ideas behind Neutrality for fixed and mobile networks, customers, carriers and content providers.

The agenda is here.

Note the participation of Tim Wu, one of the Net-Neutrality promoters. See Tim's "Network Neutrality FAQ" (here) - where he tries to define Neutrality; this is used by many as a reference model and the legal foundation for Net Neutrality

We can also see that HADOPI, that deals with copy-right protection (the 3-strikes law), a high profile issue in France. While it is referred to in the FCC Net Neutrality guidelines (FCC protects "legal traffic" only) - it seems that in the French case it will get special attention.


Sandvine Traffic Report: Mobile Data Patterns Look Similar to Fixed

The larger DPI companies can use loyal customers’ data, collected by their DPI devices, to survey broadband traffic patterns (anonymously, of course).

This is a great PR tool and usually gets good coverage, certainly more than any product announcement. We saw Allot's report a while ago - "Worldwide Mobile Data Usage has Increased by 72% (According to Allot)" - here - and now we get Sandvine's semi-annual Internet traffic trends report

The report itself is only due on Tuesday - but the PR machine works well, and FierceBroadbandWireless provides us with a sneak preview. The major conclusion is:  "In our Mobile Internet report, we observed that mobile users were running similar applications as on fixed networks, including real-time communications such as IM and Skype," said Sandvine's President and CEO Dave Caputo in a release "

Sandvine agrees with Allot's findings - "YouTube accounts for 10 to 15 percent of total bytes on a given mobile network" (Allot says 10%).

And of course, CEO Caputo, like the rest of the DPI industry, agrees with AT&T (here) - "Flat-rate billing does not align with subscriber usage" - which is good for business and up selling usage based billing solutions.

Full story - here

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Comcast vs. Net Neutrality

The Net Neutrality debate is not over yet. I just wrote about Congressman Rick Boucher legislation efforts (here) - and spotted some more on this:
  • " Cable operator Comcast Corp. spent $3.5 million in the fourth quarter lobbying Congress on its pending acquisition of a controlling stake in NBC Universal and other issues .. Comcast also lobbied about online security, net neutrality, sports programming and other issues in " - See here
    Documentary from the "barbershop punk" covering the story of Comcast P2P control won SxSW Film Festival. The documentary follows Robb Topolski, who discovered how Comcast (or their DPI vendor, Sandvine) does it (see my post on this subject - here). 
Movie trailer follows.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Boucher Still Working Toward Network Neutrality Legislation

"Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said Thursday that he continues to work toward network neutrality legislation and remains solidly behind a free and open internet, but does not think network neutrality should be part of the national broadband plan ... The FCC did not make network neutrality proposals part of the plan. But as a practical matter it didn't have to. The commission is already proposing to expand and codify its network openness principles in a separate proceeding and a majority of commissioners have backed it ... Boucher said he was "talking to the broadband providers, we're talking to the companies that rely on the Internet as a means of transporting their product to their customers, and we're working toward a set of understandings that hopefully we can embody in statute in the not-to-distant future."

Full story, by John Eggerton -- Multichannel News: Boucher Still Working Toward Network Neutrality Legislation

See a previous interview - here. Note that the content providers side is also a target for regulation, according to Boucher.

DPI Announcements - Acision Broadband Mobility Suite

Next week's CTIA show brings some announcements - this time let's look at what Acision will be demoing.

Like many other vendors in related spaces, Acision is also addressing the traffic management aspect of mobile internet or as they say "enabling operators to gain control over their network utilization, while simultaneously increasing mobile broadband revenue and profit per gigabyte " (press release - here). All trendy keywords are there - "policy management and enforcement, web and media optimization, service allowance and bundle management, charging, location-awareness and VAS "

Some of the announced features, such as the following, require the use of DPI. I don’t see more detailed product information at the site nor list of technology partners providing these features, though.
  • "Bundles where two devices, such as a laptop and a mobile phone share the same package" - this is a requirement from many mobile operators, trying to prevent customers abusing the service terms
  • "Packages that exclude data-intensive applications that put high pressure on the network, like P2P downloading" - Requires DPI to identify, accurately, P2P.  
See an interview with Acision's Steven van Zanen, VP of Product Marketing, made last month at MWC.

Friday, March 19, 2010

LTE May Heat up Mobile Net Neutrality Debate

Nice article by Stephen Lawson (IDG News Service) on the recent trends in mobile traffic management.

"Fine-grained network controls that are coming with next-generation mobile technology could make some demanding mobile applications such as video perform better but may also raise net neutrality concerns ... As more wireless subscribers try to use ever more bandwidth-intensive applications, carriers want mechanisms to ensure that the most important or sensitive uses of the network don't get trampled. EPC gives them tools to control, to some degree, the speed or QOS (quality of service) of individual applications." 

See - LTE May Heat up Mobile Net Neutrality Debate - PCWorld Business Center

Related links -
  • Alcatel-Lucent introduces Ultimate Wireless Packet Core - here
  • Alcatel-Lucent 5780 Dynamic Services Controller (PCRF) - here 
  • Alcatel-Lucent 7750 Service Router, with DPI support  ("Applications supported include Application Assurance, which leverages deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to provide application-level traffic reporting") - here
  • AMDOCS Mobile Internet Solution - here 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DPI Announcements - Cisco's Medianet Brings QoS For Video Using DPI

Cisco announced yesterday (here) the delivery of its "Borderless Networks Vision".

The interesting part for me is the MediaNet part, discussing optimization of video traffic:

" .. Medianet solutions enable businesses to take advantage of video applications to transform workforce interactions. Medianet technology enables the detection and optimization of video and video endpoints, as well as the allocation and prioritization of network resources so that video can be delivered from one type of device, such as a Cisco TelePresenceTM unit, to another type, such as a laptop or mobile phone. Medianet 1.0 is now supported on the new Catalyst fixed switches and Cisco ISR G2 routers"

Looking deeper into Cisco's documentation on Medianet shows it uses DPI

" .. Therefore, packet classification needs to evolve to utilize deeper packet inspection technologies in order to have the granularity needed to distinguish between different types of media streams ... QoS continues to evolve to include more granular queuing, as well as additional packet identification and classification technologies. One advance is the Cisco Programmable Intelligent Services Adapter (PISA), which employs deeper packet inspection techniques mappable to service policies. Intelligent features like PISA will continue to evolve at the network edge to allow application intelligence, enabling the network administrator to prioritize critical applications while at the same time control and police unmanaged or unwanted applications which may consume network resources..." (Overview of a Medianet Architecture -  here).

So we get here an additional level of traffic classification (and QoS) - not just "Video" but classifying the video itself – (see, for example, Cisco Media QoS Recommendations (RFC 4594-based)"

This is certainly important to enterprise networks - and could be interesting if deployed by ISP!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

DPI Announcements - Allot Launches CellWise

In perfect timing for the FCC Broadband plan introduction today, Allot Communications (NASAQ: ALLT) announces the launch of CellWise a  "network service that is designed to enable mobile broadband operators to manage traffic down to the individual cell and alleviate backhaul congestion in real time by providing intelligence about their network at the cell level."  (here)

See background  on my yesterday's post "Net Neutrality Speculations and 3UK" (here).

Managing traffic at the cell level, at congestion time, seems to be an acceptable (or "reasonable" in the FCC language) traffic management practice. Similar approach could be used by cable operators, replacing the term "Cell" by "CMTS", assuming the congestion is at the access or backhaul.

Monday, March 15, 2010

WSJ: "The FCC has a new plan but doesn't want a vote"

WSJ Opinion section says today:

"Mr. Genachowski wants more control over broadband providers so that he can implement "net neutrality" rules that would dictate how AT&T, Verizon and other Internet service providers manage their networks. To date, Congress has given the FCC no such authority. Nor has the agency had success in court. Based on oral arguments last month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is almost certain to rule against the FCC in a case involving Comcast's network management ... Mr. Genachowski's proposals are meeting resistance from telecom companies and fellow commissioners, which is reason enough to put his broadband plan to an agency vote. Instead, the chairman is urging his colleagues to sign a general statement that endorses the goals of the plan and ignores the details."  

See "Broadband Trojan Horse" (here) .

SO - Can he do it ?

Net Neutrality Speculations and 3UK

While we wait for the FCC presentation of its new broadband plan (calendar here), including the Net Neutrality policy, we can speculate that the previously announced guidelines will be there.

I believe that all 3 main parties (customers, operators and OTT content providers) and the hidden party (vendors of traffic management/DPI solutions) can live in piece with most of the guidelines, leaving only two in controversy (non-discrimination and, to a lesser extent, handling of illegal traffic).

The following principles can make all of us happy:
  • Accurate disclosure of service terms to customers (and the public so one can compare different plans). Service terms may include the fair-use policies, subject to the other principles.
  • Allowing operators to manage traffic, during congestion, affecting only traffic and subscribers that are subject to congestion.
  • Allowing intelligent traffic management, so applications can get proper QoS according to their nature
Of course, the latter is the most sensitive item, as it tackles many problems - the difficulty of identifying applications (hence the need for DPI), discrimination and handling illegal traffic.

One way to ensure fairness to OTT services is to go back to the old “well-known ports” TCP standard (here). If an application uses its pre-registered port (operators will still need DPI to detect disguise) it will be classified to a certain, pre-defined and disclosed class-of-service (such as “real time”, “Interactive” or “off-line”) and will be treated the same way as all other applications defined with the same class. Applications disguised to others could be blocked or get the lowest priority.
The following article (from The Register, here) describes the approach taken by 3UK for broadband mobile traffic control:

".. But already 3UK has moved beyond that model to offer customers on the more expensive tariffs priority access when a cell gets congested. Originally that was going to include limiting YouTube streams to one per (non-premium) customer, but even that got rescinded as the bad publicity built and now it's just BitTorrent users who'll get hit when a cell is congested."

We can see here – disclosure (consistent with the UK policy described in my previous posts), managing traffic at congestion time and place (at the cell level!). Nevertheless, we can see discrimination of a certain applications (they tried YouTube – now they go for BitTorrent).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

DPI Deployments - Part5: North American Cable - The Net Neutrality Trigger

I saw today that Cablevision du Nord (Québec, Canada) is using DPI (here) to "To deliver the best possible viewing experience for our subscribers".

The story says that "Cablevision joins nine of the top 10 U.S. operators and three of the top five Canadian operators to deploy the solution." so I thought that my 5th piece on DPI deployments should cover North-American cable operators - which brought DPI to the public attention.

I have seen the DPI industry developing over the last 10 years in many aspects. Starting with how we call this space - in the earlier days the more common name for today's DPI/Traffic control solution was  "Bandwidth Management", "QoS" or "Policy based Networking". Actually we should consider going back to the latter - as it fits nicely the current architecture trends (using PCRF and PCEF).
Another interesting aspect is the deployment trends – identify the early adapters and followers

Around year 2000, when broadband (over DSL, cable, fixed-wireless and satellite) became affordable and widely deployed, and the music download (Napster et al) showed up, service providers started to notice the congestion it creates and costs required to maintain adequate quality of experience to their subscribers. Their access network and uplinks became congested, and just adding more bandwidth did not help, as it was all used shortly after installing. See more on my post - "The DPI Story – Part II – DPI for Traffic/Bandwidth Management" (here).
Naturally, the earlier adapters were a combination of:
  • ISPs that see significant downloading traffic (US was the first)
  • Smaller ISPs with limited uplinks capacity, and tight budget
  • ISPs operating in regions where bandwidth is expensive (Asia, Latin-America)
The bigger providers - incumbent DSL providers for example - were (and still are) reluctant to deploy traffic management solutions. There are exceptions, of course, but even before Net Neutrality became an issue, many of them saw themselves as carriers - carrying bits that are all made equal.

In a very general view the general global trend over time was - small ISPs (IOCs, fixed-wireless, local cable operators) in North America -> ISPs of all sizes in Latin America and Asia -> ISPs in Europe and in the recent 2 years mobile operators. One major exception is the North-American MSOs (cable) that started to implement DPI relatively early compared to other service providers of their size.

The reason for the MSOs to use DPI may have been the fact that their "last mile" to the subscriber premises is shared by a large number of subscribers (similar case exists in wireless networks) which may cause local congestion situations, which may lead to dissatisfied subscribers and churn. The alternative- splitting CMTS - may have been too expensive, compared to a central DPI/QoS solution.

Sandvine, focusing on the North-American MSO market, managed to capture most of it. It is assumed that Comcast alone generated, over several years, over $60M for Sandvine. Unfortunately, Sandvine’s technology for traffic shaping (i.e. limiting bandwdith for P2P file sharing applications) involves the use of TCP RESET commands, which are visible to the subscriber device.
Once this was detected (here), it led to the FCC action against Comcast. While the effect of a RESET packet may be described as blocking traffic, it is actually a way to limit the subscriber download speed to a certain level, and not a complete block. Other shaping techniques, like queuing, provide the same effect but is invisible to the end-user.

So today almost all MSOs in North-America use DPI solutions – we just need to wait and see what limitations the FCC will impose. So far it seems that two of the FCC already stated guidelines – disclosure of service terms and “reasonable” network management to reduce congestion and maintain quality of service” could resolve the conflict.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DPI Deployments - Part4: UK - Everybody is Doing it !

On June 2008, the UK regulator Ofcom published its Voluntary Code of Practice: Broadband Speeds "a voluntary and self-regulatory measure" (here). The code suggests that ISPs will disclose to their subscribers (and the public) the real service levels they provide.

In particular interest to our discussion is section 39: "Where ISPs apply traffic management and shaping policies, they should publish on their website, in a clear and easily accessible form, information on the restrictions applied. This should include the types of applications, services and protocols that are affected and specific information on peak traffic periods"

Ofcom maintains a list of ISPs that endorsed the code (here). The list has over 50 names, including all leading UK ISPs.

These ISPs should according to section 33 - "use their best endeavours to set out clearly, and in a prominent place on their websites (e.g. within help or FAQs sections), information relating to their respective policies on fair usage; traffic management and traffic shaping to cover, at a minimum, the matters set out below."

In my earlier post - "Net-Neutrality Crosses the Pond" (here) I brought the relevant policies of the UK leading ISPs - Plusnet, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky - having in total over 15M subscribers. Plusnet even issued a press release "PlusNet welcome Ofcom's Broadband Speed Code of Practice" (here) saying that "Although the code of practice is certainly a step in the right direction, we would question whether these voluntary guidelines go far enough"

As we can see, the majority of the internet traffic in the UK is subject to traffic control. Some of the ISPs' stated policies could not be achieved without DPI (needed, for example, to detect "downloads") - and there even some public announcements on that:
  • Plusnet (BT retail service) is using Ellacoya (now Arbor Networks) - see PlusNet Picks Ellacoya (here). This was one the first DPI deployments by a larger ISP, world-wide.
  • Carphone (TalkTalk) is using Sandvine - "Carphone Warehouse Selects Sandvine to Enhance Subscriber Internet Experience" (here) - one of the earlier adapters of Sandvine's 10Gbps DPI product. Carphone consumer retail service is TalkTalk (listed above).
While using DPI for traffic management, fair-use or congestion management seems to be well accepted in the UK, the imitative of several ISPs to use DPI for targeted advertizing (using a solution from the UK based Phorm) failed with severe consequences:

UK ISP BT Could Face CPS Prosecution over Secret Phorm Trials  - "The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed that it is still assessing the prospect of opening a criminal case against BT following the operator’s secret trials of Phorm in 2006/2007. Phorm controversially worked with UK broadband ISPs ( BT , TalkTalk and Virgin Media ) to develop a system that would monitor what websites you viewed for use in targeted advertising campaigns, though many likened its service to Spyware." (here)

Showing us the good and bad in DPI - and maybe it is better to disclose your service details rather being "secret".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kosher Mobile Internet - Cellcom Israel Offers Web Filtering

One of the DPI related value-added services is content filtering. Calcalist reports today (here, Hebrew) that Cellcom (3M subscribers) said today that they are going to offer Web filtering service to its mobile internet subscribers.

Cellcom will offer 5 levels of filtering - including a "white list" allowing surfing only to a closed list of selected sites, with a special fit to their religious subscribers. 

However, the other levels target the general subscriber community, mainly as a parental control service.  An interesting aspect is relates to charging:  

  • There is a different charge for handsets and laptops - this means that the operator has a way to distinguish between the two, which is not easy.
  • The monthly fee for the handset service is NIS4.9 (~$1.30) and for laptop NIS 14.9 (~$4.00). Very high!  
Web-filtering is sometimes a regulation requirement (and then it cannot be charges with extra fees).