This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of NGN.
There were 600 million mobile broadband subscribers last year. By 2016 that should reach 5 billion. At the same time, as this month’s NGN cover story notes, mobile devices and applications are becoming faster, more intelligent and, thus, more bandwidth intensive.
To help wireless service providers contend with the onslaught of mobile data as a result of all this, and to help them insert themselves into the content chain in a more meaningful way, two major telecommunications equipment manufacturers – Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) and Ericsson – are providing broadband network operators with analytics and CDN-related tools and services.
Alcatel-Lucent Ventures last month unveiled a managed service called AppGlide Video Analytics that gathers, correlates and analyzes information on the network so service providers can improve the user experience; collect hard data in an effort to appeal to advertisers and content companies to put their content on these service provider networks; and understand the performance that their own CDN partners are delivering.
The four pillars of AppGlide are:
· Quality of experience: This looks at all aspects of network performance – such as buffering, buffering counts, round trip time delays, etc. – and how all that impacts the online experiences of individual end users.
· CDN performance: This looks at traffic volumes, traffic rates, etc.
· Content usage and viewer engagement: This provides data on things like content popularity, so service providers can approach content companies and offer to host on their networks the same or similar content their subscribers enjoy.
· Cross-correlation analytics: This analyzes how quality of experience affects viewer engagement. For example, it could provide data on the relationship between the quality of video delivery and how long a user watches video.
The quality of experience aspect of the solution is aimed at helping service providers deliver a higher level of service in an effort to help them reduce churn. To measure QoE, Alcatel-Lucent Ventures has a software-based player plug in, which looks at everything back to the last mile. The company also has a solution in the network that downloads video so it can gather metrics related to it.
AppGlide Video Analytics also can help service providers monetize their networks by identifying popular content and bringing it into their networks for better performance, says Mark “Buck” Peterson, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, a technology company and business incubator under Bell Labs (News - Alert). Service providers could use this on-net CDN internally to improve the user experience related to their own content, or they could offer it as a service to advertisers (13 percent of videos watched online are advertisements, according to Peterson), other content companies, or over-the-top content aggregators.
Putting popular content on the network closer to the customer not only improves the customer experience, it also can save the content provider money, Peterson says. He explains that the HBOs and Disneys of the world can spend a lot of time and money formatting content for better encoding rates, but if the network is not delivering at that quality, these efforts can be a waste of money. The data that AppGlide Video Analytics delivers can let content owners know what quality network they’re getting. “That’s analytics that the content aggregator just does not have today,” Peterson says.
The on-net CDN solution is in the network and gathers Netflow data from routers to learn what content is the most popular. It also leverages Alcatel-Lucent Ventures’ cloud-based data warehouse. This positions service providers like the telcos and cablecos to compete with traditional CDN providers like Akamai (News - Alert) and Level 3, Peterson acknowledges, and the telcos and cablecos are well positioned to do that because they can manage every part of the network from the core to the local loop.
AppGlide Video Analytics, which runs on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, is available for trial now. The company declined to provide pricing, but said that it will charge service providers for AppGlide Video Analytics on a per subscriber basis.
The unveiling of AppGlide Video Analytics follows by about three months the news that Akamai and Ericsson (News - Alert) have joined forces. In February at Mobile World Congress the companies announced they are developing software that will enable Ericsson gear to interface with a policy control solution that ties into the Akamai CDN.
That will allow service providers like the telephone companies to cache popular traffic closer to customers – and within the wireless network. And that will accelerate content delivery, allowing service providers to not only offer a better customer experience, but to justify their investment in the joint Akamai/Ericsson solutions by offering premium services to end users and content companies, and by enabling those network operators to use their network resources more efficiently.
Ericsson declined to specify which of its products will support the Akamai-related software, saying the software might run on existing or new Ericsson “nodes” in the network, or even on networks not based on Ericsson infrastructure. (Vestberg at one point mentioned the word “appliance”.)
Nonetheless, Akamai and Ericsson in February said they’d already tested the joint “cloud” solution, as they called it, with developers and expected to introduce it to service providers in the next six months, which would mean later this summer or in early fall.
“The content owners are ready to go,” said David Kenny, Akamai president, said back in February. He added that once the companies get enough service providers in a geographical area interested in the joint solution it will be ready to roll.
Ericsson declined NGN magazine’s late May/early June requests to provide an update on this effort.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi