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MWC: Network optimization gets specific

Mobile email provider Seven tackles the noisy smartphone, while Flash invades the cell site

Old dog Seven has a new trick. It’s branching out from its core business, mobile email and messaging, to tackle network optimization, but rather than run the gamut of network tweaking technologies, Seven has a particular target in mind, one that fits well with its core competency: the immense amount of noisy signaling traffic that traverses the mobile network.

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While Seven is known as a mobile email platform, it’s underlying technology has always been synchronizing Web-based content with the mobile phone in real-time, which has allowed it to expand beyond mobile email to instant messaging and social media feeds. That synchronization expertise begat a fundamental understanding of how signaling functions on the mobile network. While streamlining its own products for optimal signaling performance, it developed a platform that could be applied to any mobile application or service, vastly reducing the signal clutter with which increasingly noisy smartphones litter the network.

“A lot of useless information travels across the network,” said Michael Luna, chief technical officer at Seven. Messaging clients, widgets and applications constantly pinging their servers trying to ascertain whether a new update, new email alert or info-nugget is available, when 99 times out of 100 there’s no new information to be had, Luna said. Imagine a three-year-old in the backseat of a car asking every two seconds “Are we there yet?” endlessly. That three-year-old is the Facebook mobile app, requesting data from Facebook’s servers hundreds of times a daily, constantly using up network resources while only rarely transmitting any actual data, Luna said.

Seven’s new platform, Open Channel, works by monitoring all requests for data from applications, stopping many requests in their tracks. The platform also acts as a buffer in the network, determining when updates for a particular app are available and then telling the phone to go out and get them, Luna said. By cutting off as much unnecessary signal noise as possible, Seven estimates it can reduce the typical smartphone’s airtime by 40% and reduce data traffic attributable to that device by as much as 70%, Luna said. As a side benefit, the quieter radio consumes less power, resulting in a 25% saving in battery life.

While there is client software in the handset, there is no application programming interface a developer must build to—it’s transparent to the applications residing on the smartphone, Luna said. Open Channel will get its first public viewing at Mobile World Congress next month, but Seven has already begun trials with prominent operators, including two Tier 1 operators in the U.S., Luna said.

While Seven is focusing on signaling in Barcelona, Flash Networks is adding cell-by-cell optimization capabilities to its Harmony Mobile Internet Services Gateway platform. Cell-based optimization basically takes optimization functions from the core of the network and extends it to the edge, allowing a network to dynamically tweak itself as individual cells become congested—or before they become congested—to ensure a better user experience for everyone on the network. While network optimization, monitoring and policy enforcement solutions are proliferating only a handful of them can treat each cell site on a case-by-case basis. ByteMobile’s Unison platform for instance remains dormant until the first hint of congestion on a cell, and upon waking up begins removing extraneous bits from the data stream to smooth out application performance for all users. Allot Communications (NASDAQ:ALLT) uses a similar technique for its Sigma policy control and enforcement platform, restricting bandwidth to particular users and applications when multiple applications are vying for network resources on a particular cell. Alcatel-Lucent’s (NYSE:ALU) network monitoring and management platform Wireless Network Guardian does cell by cell analysis and alerting, allowing an operator to track congestion by application as well as location.

Flash’s platform combines both policy enforcement and network optimization techniques, offering different service classes to different tiers of users or shaping bandwidth so a particular type of application doesn’t dominate the network, while applying optimization techniques to all traffic on the network as overall congestion levels pick up.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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