Beyond Bandwidth

Owen Cole, Technical Director UK and Ireland, at F5 Networks, argues for an intelligent approach among operators to rapidly-increasing data traffic

F5networks Owen Cole With mobile data traffic set to grow by as much as 10 – 15% a month within the next year, mobile network operators (MNOs) are facing the significant headache of how to handle this increase in traffic. As rich media develops, and the popularity of mobile devices such as iPhones and Blackberrys rises, more and more strain is being put on operators and their networks.

Revenue opportunities
While worldwide demand for mobile data services is creating unparalleled revenue opportunities for MNOs, it is also creating network capacity and performance challenges. To continue to provide rich content to subscribers, without taxing network resources, MNOs need to invest in reliable and scalable solutions to deliver content as users needs continue to grow.
The real challenge facing MNOs trying to cope with this increase in data traffic is this: do they simply pay for more bandwidth, or do they invest in their networks to make them more intelligent? Adding more bandwidth may be a short-term fix, but ultimately, an inability to drive intelligence into these networks could mean them becoming quickly exposed in under-performing networks.

Bleak outlook

As tariffs become cheaper and more widely available, and operators roll out new technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), the outlook for MNOs in terms of network capacity is even bleaker.
Operators have historically perceived application traffic optimisation as complicated and expensive, requiring multi-tiered deployments of Application Delivery Controllers (ADC), but in fact, this is not the case.
Tapping into cost efficient technologies to supply, optimise and consolidate applications on the network is one way to meet this growing demand. Infrastructure challenges can be overcome by adopting a more intelligent view of data, both on the network and the device that connects to it. To keep up with the demands of 3G and the offerings of future 4G networks, performance and scalability must sit at the core of MNOs business models as they look to progress in service delivery.

Technological developments

Solutions are available that recognise the user profile and the type of device being used, and therefore the content they should be served, and how much of the network they can use. Technological developments to consolidate infrastructure and add real Layer 7 intelligence also allow MNOs to have more control over the traffic on their networks.
A tiered system based on speed or data consumption would benefit virtually everyone just as it does in the fixed (landline) broadband market. Those who need to stream movies or large amounts of data can do so with a service that fits their needs and those who just need email or basic web surfing can do that too.
Whatever the handset, one thing is certain – the headache facing operators on how to manage the network, and therefore users expectations, is only going to get worse if solutions arent put in place now.