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more uneven and less predictable, previous traffic capacity models (based on historical trends and usage patterns) are no longer applicable to scale.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.