Policy Solutions Enable Defensive, Offensive Service Provider Plays

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2011 issue of NGN Magazine.

The explosion of data on U.S. service providers’ networks is creating a lot of interest in what’s known as policy management. But policy management solutions, which are being pushed by such companies as Bridgewater, Broadhop, Openet, Redknee (News - Alert), Tekelec and Volubill, can be used for more than just putting the lid of heavy data users.

Generally, there are two ways service providers can employ policy management, says Rick Woods, vice president for the Americas at Volubill, which sells policy management, policy enforcement and charging solutions. They can use policy management to protect their networks, or they can use policy management as an offensive weapon to segment their market and create bundles targeting low-, middle- and high-end customers.

BroadHop Inc., which sells the Quantum (News - Alert) Network Suite of policy management solutions, in November conducted a survey that indicates there’s high interest in enabling new capabilities via policy management environments. The most significant interest, according to the survey of about 100 telecom industry experts and executives, is around the ability to apply policies at the subscriber level, the option to apply trigger billing and charging actions, and the flexibility to address various use cases.

More than 61 percent of survey respondents felt applying policies at the level of the individual subscriber was the greatest priority, while 52 percent felt the option to apply trigger billing and charging actions was critical. About 47 percent indicated that next-gen policy management platforms need to be flexible enough to deploy not only a fixed set of target use cases but also those not yet defined. Twenty-two percent noted the importance of the ability to apply policies in different types of networks, and 15 percent named the capability for policies to be deployed by non-network specialists as an important capability.

“The results of this survey clearly indicate that service providers are looking to the policy management community to deliver new enabling capabilities beyond bandwidth or congestion management and fair use,” says Dan Geiger, vice president of marketing at BroadHop (News - Alert).   “Progressive service providers looking to capture new market share and retain subscribers are increasingly demanding more from their policy management vendors.”

However, a survey from Infonetics Research (News - Alert) indicates that North American operators are still somewhat conservative in their use of policy-based rules and charging as compared to operators in EMEA (particularly Western Europe), Asia Pacific, and Central and Latin America.

“When you look at the fact, for example, that parents in the Middle East have the ability to not only turn off text messaging, but to have that shut-off point automatically change day to day with the hour of prayer [which is dependent on the sun’s position], then you start to see just how tailored and personalized services can get,” says Infonetics analyst Shira Levine.

While Levine indicates that U.S. operators are likely to expand their thinking on policy management as they are pushed to monetize their networks with tiered services and subscriber control capabilities, she says traffic management, especially for mobile broadband, is the key driver in policy management deployments in North America today.

Interestingly, one of the ways in which some operators abroad are using policy management is actually to drive traffic on their networks. Volubill’s Woods says some operators abroad that sell smartphones and dongles have many users that don’t use the capacity they’ve bought. To get those customers to use the services they’ve paid for, and buy more in the future, some service providers are using what Woods calls capacity management to direct customers to partner websites. This can be done by offering subscribers special content or offers at those websites.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi