Monday, August 29, 2011

[Guest Post]: The Way to Go: Use Signaling Messages for Context-aware Analytics

By Lenny Ridel*, CTO, Traffix Systems

With fierce competition constantly on the rise, service providers know that providing the best customer experience is a key component to a strategy for success. One critical tool in moving towards providing a superior customer experience is context-aware analytics that assists substantially in achieving top quality network performance and finely tuned personalized service and product offerings.

At the same time, service providers are justly concerned about becoming a “dumb pipe” and losing control over their service provision relative to customers' service level agreements. Trends like the open garden model driven by data optimized smart phones such as the iPhone and the aggressive tactics of Google and Facebook bring new subscriber-centric models and targeted approaches from the Internet domain into the telecom market.

To halt the dumb pipe process, increase revenues and stay competitive, service providers understand they need to differentiate their offerings and improve the customer experience by leveraging the information they have or what they can extract from the network. To gather this information, service providers should use context-aware analytics based on signaling messaging as the best source of the information with the fastest retrieval of information on network performance and subscribers’ behavior.

Signaling transactions through the control plane in telecom networks provide an optimal source for network intelligence and user behavior monitoring and analysis. The signaling path offers a rich and granular source of information for a context-aware engine to analyze and provide operators with the opportunity to create a better customer experience, fine tune the service offering and improve service quality. The control plane contains information such as subscribers' location, services used, the technology supported by the user's mobile device, resources allocation, charging and rating and much more. A robust context-aware engine correlates this data in real-time to enable optimal network operation and to use alternative business models with personalized offerings, tailored marketing campaigns, and other targeted promotions.

Why is the information located in the control plane the best source for context-aware analytics?

1. Granularity of information

The information that flows in the control plane contains subscriber centric information, the most valuable and strategic information in the network, e.g. the location of the subscriber, his buddies (IM friends) list, his phone number, technology used to attach to the network, the charging scheme, his phone number, IP, services he is using and so on. Most of this information is not available in the service or data domain and is not accessible to commonly used DPI methods.

2. Lower volume of traffic

In the control plane, megabytes of signaling information are moved, as opposed to gigabytes of information in the data plane, making the extracting of information from signaling faster, and much more cost effective. It can also be performed with software-based solutions using off-the-shelf servers. The volume of traffic is typically 1/1,000 compared to the data.

3. Synchronization and correlation

Extracting information from the signaling flows in the control plane enables correlation and synchronization of different transactions and extracting information according to pre-configured definitions. For example, you can extract all information related to specific subscriber, or to specific services, group of users or even location.

Sometimes it is impossible to extract information from the data plane because messages might go through one route, and come back via another. This is the nature of IP, requiring a large scale implementation to cover all possible routes. In addition, the quantity of data that needs to be processed for the many applications and proprietary protocols is enormous. In the signaling domain, traffic is controlled, interactions and routing are fixed. This makes the implementation efforts several scales smaller and the correlation of information much easier.

Information collected from the signaling control plane is extracted and compiled in real time. As signaling is the source of greater information, it provides better quality information about the network, the subscriber and the context and ties between different actions, operations and usage patterns related to the network subscribers.

In summary, using signaling as the source of information with a robust context aware analytics engine provides operators with actionable information with faster, cheaper, and better data source. In addition, the data supports operators' efforts to maintain high quality network performance and create a more effective marketing program with personalized targeted offers of products and services. This is the most effective path to success in today's extremely competitive environment.

*Lenny Ridel has more than 15 years experience in architecture, design and development of multidisciplinary systems and algorithms research. In his last position, he was Algorithms Team Manager in Aternity responsible for development of analytics system for user experience modeling and root cause analysis. Before that he was Messaging Group Manager at IXI Mobile and Software Development Manager at Schema.

Lenny holds B.Sc. in Physics from Ben-Gurion University and M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Tel-Aviv University.

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