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Mobile broadband has reached a turning point, esp. in emerging markets. Although growth and usage patterns exhibit a high degree of variability, mobile broadband traffic volumes have been registering exponential growth. This is attributed to multiple factors – a relative lack of fixed Internet infrastructure, the growing deployment of 3G networks, the accelerated adoption of smart phones, the influx of application stores and the increasing use of bandwidth-intensive applications, such as streaming video by consumers. As per the Ovum Research Report, the small screen devices would account for 1.6 billion connections by 2015, equaling 77% of the total mobile broadband connections in emerging markets.

As an expanding segment of consumers begin to access mobile broadband, more and more telecom service providers are striving to provide a high-performance network to deliver rewarding multimedia experience and encourage long-term customer loyalty whilst supporting market differentiating services. However, the sustained growth in traffic volumes, has the potential to overwhelm network resources, introduce higher latency on the network and negatively impact the overall quality of service delivered to consumers. In addition to the sheer growth in data volumes, the mix of traffic transiting the network has also altered considerably. Wireless networks must scale to support delay-sensitive, real-time multi-play services such as interactive gaming and streaming video. As the strain on the network, driven by subscribers and their applications, is becoming more uneven and less predictable, previous traffic capacity models (based on historical trends and usage patterns) are no longer applicable to scale.

The profitability of telecom service providers’ data operations depends on how operators act in response to growth in mobile broadband traffic loads. Notwithstanding the fact that the wireless data market in emerging markets is still growing from a relatively low base, operators need to ready themselves now for a future surge in growth. Simply augmenting services infrastructure, to offer higher speeds and to deliver a congestion-free service to users to alleviate pressures on the network, is a capital intensive proposition. As competition is fierce and there are limits to consumer data service charges as well, operators are forced to make a trade-off between the capex-to-revenue ratio and the quality of experience on offer — unless they handle traffic more intelligently.

New traffic-shaping models can enable operators to optimally utilize existing bandwidth and monetize traffic growth. To maintain network performance during peak traffic times and meet spikes in user demand, operators can control bandwidth usage at a per customer level.

Operators must select a data solution, carefully, that adopts a combination of techniques, such as service control, service optimization and service monetization, to efficiently handle spikes in user demand and optimize the service experience whilst saving capex and opex spending, linked to management of traffic peaks. The right solution will aid operators in overcoming these challenges and efficiently handling data growth whilst delivering a positive quality of service experience.

August 17, 2012 0 comment
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These days, “Mobile Data”, is fast becoming a hot topic globally. This could be attributed to the proliferation of smart devices, smart networks and a smart subscriber base that is looking for change. Today, Mobile Data occupies the highest mindshare in the operator community. As smartphone penetration continues to grow, average mobile users will consume over eight times as much social media and 14 times more megabytes of applications by 2016, according to a new report from Informa.The profitability of telecom service providers’ data operations depends on how they act in response to the explosive growth in mobile broadband traffic. Notwithstanding the fact that the mobile data market is on a steep growth trajectory, operators need to ready themselves now for even further growth. This is urging operators to change the rules of the game as they realize that standard run-of-the-mill plans and packages are history and they must innovate to create value for every cent that the subscriber spends on their network.

According to TRAI, a third of the mobile users in India access data services including the Internet using their mobile phones. This is indeed a very interesting finding. Though many operators have already invested in advanced and stand alone solutions to address the high growth they have experienced on mobile data, still they keep enhancing the fat pipes and adding peripheral solutions such as optimization and acceleration to manage their networks gracefully. However, the outcome of this exercise has not been as impactful as envisaged and the challenges remain the same – how to Manage, Optimize and Monetize. I call it the MOM challenge for the mobile operator.

“Manage” challenges would mean to deploy an intelligent policy and charging control solution that would assure proper allocation of network resources, based on subscriber’s needs and what the network can deliver.

“Optimize” challenges centre on addressing needs for faster access speeds and consistent service quality; letting subscribers enjoy an optimized mobile internet experience.

“Monetize” challenges primarily hover around restricting excessive usage by a few users whilst driving mass adoption, flexibility to create tariff plans based on speed, services, traffic, time, device type, applications, thus moving away from conventionally unmetered flat pricing propositions.

It’s not that mobile operators have not attempted to address the above challenges. They have in fact gone ahead and deployed specialized and niche solutions to manage data traffic. These solution modules are typically deployed by the operators from independent best-of-breed vendors whose focus is on addressing individual problems and they sure do a great job in overcoming the challenges given to them. However, things fail when these individual vendors are required to work together and collectively to offer a seamless experience for operators and their subscribers. Subscribers complain about the suboptimal usage experience and sluggish speeds, further operators are saddled with higher capex and opex as they need to manage multiple vendors, solutions, and equipments. The onus thus falls on the operator to envision a comprehensive blueprint at the forefront and then orchestrate the phase wise implementation of the complete infrastructure to manage the growing MOM challenge. Larger operators with deeper pockets and a deeper technical and project management skills could manage to pull off such a feat and meet the data demands in time, however, others face a daunting task.

Given this fact, today operators are looking at solutions that can seriously address their end-to-end needs to the address the MOM challenge from a single vendor, wherein they are looking at an integrated, consistent, unified, solid solution for data pipe management that delivers a hassle free and smooth experience to them and their subscribers.

The solution that addresses the MOM challenge in its simplest form would include:
• An “Optimize” module addressing user expectations for an enhanced Internet experience
• DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) / PCEF (Policy and Charging Enforcement Function) and PCRF (Policy and Charging Rules Function) modules, which would address the “Manage” and “Monetize” challenges faced by the operator.

It’s imperative for solution providers to keep in mind to optimize the operator’s spend on these modules and thereby, generate a faster ROI. An integrated solution would surely result in reducing the operator capex and opex, and at the same time offer flexibility to create differentiators in their competitive markets in a timely manner. Furthermore, given the exponential growth already experienced in mobile data, and expected in future, the solution offering should be scalable over time, capacity and functional dimensions with minimal disruption to service. Hence, operators can greatly benefit from a mobile data platform package that starts out small and can scale effectively over time. More operators are now convinced with the thought that a single integrated solution to address the MOM challenge would be the way forward for them to build, address and evolve their mobile data infrastructure.

July 31, 2012 0 comment
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