Monday, August 8, 2011

[Guest Post]: The Need for Smarter Network Capacity

By Ronny Haraldsvik*, VP Global Marketing, Bytemobile

The proliferation of smart devices and subsequent increase in mobile broadband penetration has resulted in an unprecedented rise in mobile data traffic and continuous strain on networks across the globe.

We are seeing a dramatic increase in video files, fuelled by open web standards such as HTML5, that embed video in web pages to allow for significant enhancements in browser speed. As devices become more capable and better suited for video viewing, more subscribers are making use of this and in accessing video on a more regular basis. In the next 12 months, we will see mobile video grow from 40% to 60% of all mobile data traffic.

Apple, who has famously opposed third-party browser Flash, has been quick to advocate HTML5. As a result, we have witnessed iPhone users generate 58% of data usage by accessing video, a number which will continue to rise as content becomes more easily digested across accelerated browsers. Devices on Android’s operating system (OS) are close behind, generating 52% of data from video consumption. Smartphone behaviour has begun to imitate that of laptops, which typically see 52% of data generated by video usage.

A rise in mobile video and TV services has resulted in more higher-quality content going across the network and operators need to ensure that they have policies in place that shape access and bandwidth in a way that means a single subscriber cannot take up all available bandwidth.

Today, subscribers predominantly access video content via lower resolution devices but an increase in higher resolution will have a considerable impact on capacity consumed. For example, offering improved resolution for mobile TV across just 10% of subscribers can have a 30-40% additional impact on capacity consumed and therefore affect the remaining 90% of subscribers’ user experience.

Dependent on network conditions and time of day, mobile videos can stall between 5 and 40% of the time, resulting in subscribers dropping off after less than a minute. The subscriber experience and potential for operators to capitalise on mobile TV and video services is being jeopardized by an increasingly choked network. With HD video already accounting for nearly one third of mobile video consumption, the problems will only worsen. By taking steps to alleviate congestions from over-crowded networks operators can better service the quality of experience (QoE) expected from the demanding consumer market.

So what are the options? Operators are under increased pressure to alleviate congestion, with content providers that offer video- and gaming-heavy applications failing to accept responsibility for the bandwidth-hungry applications they are supplying.

By deploying video optimisation technology, operators can reduce stalling by 30 – 50% and by measuring the QoE around fluctuating service demand operators can ensure subscribers receive a consistent service and discourage churn.

The rise of HTML5 has enabled video content, such as YouTube clips, to be accessed via the web browser as opposed to via the pre-loaded YouTube applications and therefore still requires optimisation technology to ensure a seamless viewing experience for the subscriber. Whichever way the video is accessed, the video output is the same and needs to be processed through the same optimisation technology deployed in the carrier’s wireless network.

Greater visibility into device behaviour on the network enables operators to better understand the QoE being delivered to their customers. By assessing the impact of mobile applications (e.g. ‘top 10 Android applications by volume’ or ‘top five iPhone applications used during peak hours’) user behaviour on the network can be easily mapped. With this intelligence, operators can capitalise on new revenue generating services, apply traffic management tools to improve network efficiencies, and, as a result, reduce churn.

By using advanced traffic management techniques and policies, operators can identify the high value/high capacity users and low value/high capacity users and assign policies and billing accordingly. The objective has to be to avoid the loss of high ARPU subscribers and provide subscriber friendly data plan pricing.

Operators are faced with two options: adding raw bandwidth to increase capacity or optimising existing bandwidth. Adding raw bandwidth to increase capacity by 40-50% will see an operator’s CAPEX rise by $3-4billion. Alternatively, the same operator could spend $2billion to add 20% capacity, and optimise the accrued capacity to the cost of tens of millions and realise a total capacity increase of 60% (40% from optimisation technology).

Optimisation technology allows operators to fully leverage their existing network resources to ensure they maximize the capabilities of the network, not to mention their investment.

LTE is on the roadmap for most mobile operators and the combination of higher spectral efficiency and the use of more spectrum resources exclusively for mobile broadband services will provide meaningful capacity. However, not only will this new network build-out take time, but evidence suggests that the increased capabilities of LTE will only serve to accelerate the growth in mobile data traffic, due to both increased usage and to higher resolution videos being sent over the network. Put simply, the increased capacity gains are quickly consumed by the higher demand for mobile video.

There isn’t a single remedy to addressing the projected mobile data growth. Instead, it will require a combination of initiatives on the part of mobile operators and content providers. Content providers must work closely with operators and OEMs to ensure networks can support the QoE their applications promise.

*Ronny Haraldsvik is responsible for worldwide marketing strategy and product marketing at Bytemobile. He joined the company in December 2010, and has over 20 years of telecommunications industry experience with mobile broadband, IP services, software, personal computing, and consumer devices. Prior to Bytemobile, Haraldsvik spent more than 10 years as vice president of Marketing at a succession of successful wireless and IP networking companies focused on infrastructure technology for mobile network operators. Most recently, Haraldsvik served as vice president at SpiderCloud Wireless, an indoor scalable RAN system for enterprise deployments by mobile operators. Haraldsvik was previously the vice president of mobile broadband and strategy at Qualcomm. Haraldsvik joined Qualcomm via the 2005 acquisition of Flarion Technologies, a company he joined in 2001. Haraldsvik was the vice president of marketing at Nortel Networks IP Services business unit (Shasta Networks), where he led the category defining Broadband Services Node (BSN). Prior to Shasta Networks, Haraldsvik was the director of field marketing at Bay Networks where he led the field introduction of the Routing Switch. Earlier in his career, Haraldsvik served as in various marketing roles at SGI AD/PR firms in Silicon Valley. He earned his B.A. degree in Business from the University of San Francisco.

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