The Call for Optimization

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of NGN.

As discussed in this issue’s Year in Review story, one of the continuing trends in 2010 was the mobile data boom, driven by such devices as the iPhone, Android-based smartphones, and iPad and other tablet devices that followed in its wake.

To address the vast growth we’re seeing from mobile devices and applications, service providers like AT&T (News - Alert), Clearwire and Verizon are building better and faster wireless networks, which use LTE and/or WiMAX technologies that fall under the 4G umbrella.

But while the move to 4G would at first glance seem to indicate wireless service providers should have adequate capacity to meet mobile bandwidth demands for years to come, NGN magazine sources say that those networks will be flooded quickly by mounting usage and bandwidth-hungry applications like video.

That’s the reason we’re hearing so much lately about optimization.

For example, a company called Opanga at the CTIA (News - Alert) show last month was demonstrating its video delivery optimization solution, which prepositions content on end devices. That way, service providers will be able to offer customers the content of their choice for something like $1 a month, and preposition that content on devices so networks don’t get overloaded, Dave Gibbons, Opanga CEO, told me.

“We just think that has to happen,” he said, adding that it is now in trials with service providers in the Americas.

Another company, Eden Rock Communications (News - Alert), sells a real-time coordinated multimode resource optimization solution called Eden-NETT. It’s a controller that talks to thousands of base stations to get information about what’s happening on each channel, Chaz Immendorf, president and CEO, told me. He said that allows the company’s solution to deliver to wireless service providers a map of how best to allocate radiofrequency at any time. This solution can provide capacity improvements on the order of 40 percent for LTE networks, he added.

The need for solutions that help network operators eek as much bandwidth as possible out of their current and future networks, and otherwise control potential network capacity issues, is not just an agenda being pushed by vendors. Service providers of both wireline and wireless, new and legacy networks are increasing taking steps to manage the bandwidth demand barrage.

For example, Clearwire reportedly recently upgraded its network management system so it can throttle bandwidth to certain customers during high usage times on its 4G WiMAX (News - Alert) network. The company in a blog writes that the effort will effect only "the heaviest users, who make up a small fraction of our customer base, during limited times of high demand for shared resources."

Of course, bandwidth throttling is a controversial practice and relates to the thorny topic of net neutrality. And the recent moves by some wireless service providers to move away from all-you-can-eat service and toward by-the-bucket or –byte services is still pretty low level stuff.

For that reason – and to allow service providers to move beyond dumb pipes and deliver higher margin services – wireless operators are likely to adopt other methods for controlling traffic on their networks while pushing new services in an effort to appeal to customer needs and drive up margins.

In 2011, says Tekelec (News - Alert) CMO Susie Kim Riley, the operator focus will turn to revenue creation around data services, moving beyond cost control from managing traffic. 

“I expect to see more experimentation with flexible and more creative data service bundles and offerings,” she says. “For example, operators may introduce tiers for video, music or gaming services instead of pricing plans by the byte. These appeal to a wider range of customer segments, increasing retention and service plan personalization.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi