All different types of web-based content are viewed by subscribers on fixed and mobile broadband networks. This diversity of content is, in fact, the allure of the Internet. Internet content can be readily sorted using pre-defined categories like gaming, music, news, streaming video, advertising, chat, photography, malware, phishing or adult content just to name a few. By adding content categorization to a DPI platform, new innovative services can be created and a new lens can be used to analyze subscriber network traffic.
In combination with DPI’s primary mission of identifying a network subscriber’s data usage context (in terms of identity, service plan, location, device, and application), content categorization can also be performed in real time. For example, the streaming video category would identify network usage by Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube (News - Alert) users. Depending on the DPI technology used, content categorization can be performed even if the content is accessed using web security protocols such as SPDY or SSL.
The mechanism for categorizing content uses both industry-supplied information about content (called metadata) that is available from third-party sources or metadata that is internally generated by service providers themselves. The external sources classify tens of millions of URLs that point to existing content that is assigned to approximately 100 pre-defined categories. This information is accessed in real time while DPI traffic analysis is under way, and is used to categorize the traffic flows so that content category statistics can be generated.
From a service provider perspective, content intelligence can be used to drive new subscriber services and create new business models that can generate significant revenue streams in conjunction with policy enforcement. While existing purpose-built content categorization solutions provide some capabilities, these solutions cannot scale to provide subscriber-centric, revenue generating services in broadband service provider networks. Examples of services that can be offered by service providers to monetize content intelligence include:
* Parental Control Service offered directly to consumers – This identifies sites containing objectionable material so they can be blacklisted for a specific subscriber. This would help the primary account holder of a family plan to block access to a content category all the time or for specific time periods. Service providers could allow the primary account holder to select from a list of categories on a service provisioning web portal so that content from the specified categories could only be accessed for a specific time of day or day of the week.
* Content Filtering Service – This helps businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions control content access during business hours.
* Content Limits Service – This is a value-based, subscriber specific service plan that creates category-specific data usage limits by time or day.
* Phishing and Malware Protection Service – This stops access to sites that are a security threat by informing the subscriber in real time using a pop-up captive portal. This service can take some of the security burden off network subscribers and IT departments.
* Government regulations that restrict access to specific content, for example, to shield children from violent or pornographic imagery – This enables all organizations and businesses to comply with strict government rules and regulations on content access within the context of the base data service plan.
* Zero-rated Content Service – This gives network subscribers unlimited access to specific content categories as part of base data service plan offerings.
* Video Streaming Priority Service – This offers subscribers the ability to get better quality video streaming independent of the bandwidth offered by their base data service plan.
Many of these services can dovetail well with businesses and other organizations pursuing a BYOD policy and restrict content access while providing security.
Another significant monetization opportunity for content intelligence is through the use of content analytics. By analyzing content usage of their network subscribers, service providers can identify usage trends at a macro level, helping them to determine how to spend on network enhancements and expansion. Content analytics also contributes to profiling content usage so that service providers can create and offer services that address emerging customer needs. When supported by a DPI platform, content intelligence can clearly be monetized as part of cost saving programs or brand-new, value-based subscriber services.
Ken Osowski is director of solutions marketing at Procera Networks (News - Alert) (www.proceranetworks.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi