It's Only Fair: Telcos manage IP traffic to dictate fair usage
A few other operators have begun to discuss their fair usage deployments publicly as well. Cox Communications is taking a much different approach: At times of congestion, all “time-sensitive” traffic — which it defines to include Web pages, voice calls, streaming video, VPN tunneling and games — would not be delayed. However, less time-sensitive traffic, including FTP transfers, network storage, peer-to-peer, software updates and Usenet groups, could be.
Meanwhile, mobile operator Vodafone has begun testing an even more fine-grained approach at one of its properties in Hungary. In its approach, Vodafone dials back data usage to 2G speed levels, but only during times of heavy congestion; at other times, the users are actually able to exceed their usage cap and at full 3G speeds. Such a “soft cap” gives users the best service possible — 3G, even beyond their cap, at best; 2G at peak times, at worst — while ensuring the operator can both manage high-usage periods as well as offer an upgrade path for customers that want to ensure more 3G peak time usage. To implement the system, Vodafone deployed Camiant's Multimedia Policy Engine in conjunction with a mobile packet data gateway/router from Starent Networks. The Camiant system implements the 3GPP policy and charging rules function and works with the Starent box to dynamically control bandwidth availability to specific users.
Such approaches, which use DPI and policy boxes not as a stick but as a carrot, are likely to rule the day in the long run, said Mike Manzo, chief marketing officer for Openet, which released its policy- and billing-based fair usage solution earlier this year. “Most customers want not just the ability to cap and shape traffic, but the option to let consumers upgrade in real time,” Manzo said.
Openet has seen about 30 bandwidth management requests for proposal this year — winning a handful of deployments, it claims — and most are taking a fairly sophisticated approach to managing usage. One challenge for cablecos such as Comcast is that they typically haven't deployed real-time charging on their telecom sides, Manzo said.
Indeed, wireless carriers face a variety of unique circumstances when it comes to fair usage, said Cam Cullen, director of Americas product management for Allot Communications
“To be tuned for the mobile network, a DPI platform has to target a few very specific areas,” Cullen said. “No. 1, on a mobile network the number of subscribers running on any one box is going to be much bigger. In a wireline network, 1 million broadband subscribers is big. For mobile, 1 million subscribers is nothing; you have to have 20 or 30 million subscribers to be a big player.”
SMART EDGE ELEMENTS
IP networks include an array of smart boxes that bring new levels of intelligence to the edge of the network.
Session border controllers
SBCs are a key element in controlling signaling and media streams in IP networks; they are emerging as the Swiss army knives of the smart edge.
Deep packet inspection
Elements that perform real-time processing of packets.
Work in conjunction with DPI and other elements to implement rules and triggers based on IP traffic flow
Bring customer data closer to the edge to help speed packet-based decision-making.
Tomorrow's long-term evolution wireless networks are IP through-and-through, driving new levels of smart box deployments.
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