04 May 2012
Centralise Your Adaptive Traffic Management
Chris Koopmans, Chief Operating Officer, Bytemobile looks at the key issue of traffic management on modern cellular telecommunications networks
A constant theme in technology is the development of ever more sophisticated systems that aim to make life simpler.
The evolution of telecoms networks, and the services and applications that run across them, is a case in point.
Mobile networks represent a highly complex patchwork of layered technologies supplied by a wide range of vendors, with today’s cutting edge solutions becoming tomorrow’s legacy infrastructure.
More information than ever before is travelling across an evolving telecoms landscape and this is a trend that is set to continue, making the management of networks ever more challenging. Where there are challenges though, there are opportunities, and while managing network capacity has become the single most important business challenge for operators, it is also the single greatest opportunity to monetise subscriber data traffic for increasing revenue growth and profitability.
So where is the tidal wave of new data originating? The widespread use of smartphones, tablets and other sophisticated mobile devices – coupled with accelerating consumption of rich multimedia applications such as streaming video, live TV, social media and instant video chat – is driving operators’ evolution to LTE and other 4G network architectures for delivering mobile data services. With next-generation technology, including faster networks and larger devices supporting higher-resolution videos, the data generated from a single YouTube clip could increase by five times.
In 2011, mobile video downloads, streaming video and video chat had a seismic impact on the world’s wireless networks. Video already accounts for over 50% of the total traffic on these networks – causing constant strain on network capacity. With traffic peaks lasting up to 12 hours, the “busy hour” is a thing of the past.
In the next two years, video-based content will account for more than 60% of total network traffic. Key drivers will include the rise of full-length and studio-quality videos and live streaming of multimedia content on mobile devices. At the same time, mobile video chat will become a personal communication trend, as well as a download phenomenon.
Traffic management challenges
Traditional traffic management across the network layers requires individual solutions to take care of multiple network elements such as caching, load balancing, deep packet inspection (DPI), video and web optimisation, analytics and policy control – pieced together from multiple vendors. However, a market of new infrastructure that provides carriers with a more efficient and manageable architecture for Smart Capacity sees all the separate element brought together in one place, providing the scalability to capitalise on exploding subscriber demand for rich mobile data services.
This infrastructure aims to streamline traffic management. In addition to greater technical efficiencies, using one fully integrated solution also dramatically reduces operational costs for power and maintenance. A recent study by IBM and research firm IDC revealed that firms spend upwards of 70% of their ICT budget on network maintenance alone – it is easy to see how pulling all the network elements together into one piece of network infrastructure will make substantial savings.
Video content delivery can be impaired by two major factors, network capacity and content server capabilities. Many mobile users frequently watch identical content, meaning thta duplicates are fetched from content servers and transported over an operator’s network many times, consuming significant amounts of bandwidth and wasting network resources.
In fact, nearly 50% of videos requested on mobile networks are repeat downloads. On average, within a seven-day period, the most popular YouTube videos are downloaded more than 600 times, and the top video advertisements are downloaded over 5,000 times. Consequently, a significant amount of duplicate video content is traversing networks and stressing the entire supply chain for mobile content delivery.
Traffic management vendors need to support caching to accelerate mobile video delivery and eliminate bandwidth waste. Platforms must intelligently detect which videos are popular and store them in the cache closer to the user. Popular videos are then downloaded from the cache to reduce repetitive downloads from content servers, thereby reducing the load on both the network and the content servers. Serving content from the video cache reduces stalling and improves the user experience.
A number of proprietary and patented techniques exist to manage multimedia traffic on mobile networks. Video servers transmit data as fast as the network permits, consuming the network’s entire capacity for the duration of the video delivery. This standard technique clogs the wireless network and interferes with other users and applications. What’s more, the media player downloads the stream and buffers it locally until it is ready to be played, so if the user decides to stop playing the video before it ends all of the pre-downloaded unplayed data is wasted.
Media optimisation offers a solution. Instead of pre-downloading the entire video content, the application delivers media to the device at the exact rate required by the video player. With this ‘just in time’ delivery, transmission of data is spread over the video’s play time, reducing the peak throughput of any given stream without altering the video experience.
Key features of video optimisation also include streaming policy control for all major video and audio services, HD video optimisation and video caching with adaptive optimisation – all of which increase network efficiency and enhance multimedia content delivery. Traffic management should also offer reporting metrics which give operators broad visibility into the video traffic on their networks.
A mobile network’s available bandwidth tends to fluctuate dramatically; this creates a problem for streaming video traffic which typically requires consistently high throughput to avoid stalling. Dynamic bandwidth shaping solves this problem.
When the available bandwidth is less than the bit rate, video stalls. Video optimisation solves this problem by adjusting the video bit rate to the bandwidth available, resulting in less stalling and a better viewing experience. Video optimisation monitors the available network bandwidth and automatically adjusts the bit rate in real time to reduce stalls, giving users the quality of experience they expect.
The way forwards
So, while device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung grab consumer headlines for producing faster, smarter and more beautiful devices, the cellular carriers will forge ahead with the roll out of next generation networks and more affordable plans. Meanwhile, OTT players, such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer will be joined by swathes of new entrants. It all points to one thing – more traffic.
Global traffic management including DPI at all layers of traffic, load balancing of both upstream and downstream traffic and traffic steering to support tiered quota and congestion management policies will become more important than ever.
Smart caching both to improve QoE under network load through real-time caching of popular content closer to the edge of the network, and to support operators’ CDN strategies, will also play a vital role in the delivery of exciting new services.
Finally, selective optimisation for the application of targeted video and web optimisation (if, when and where needed or based on preset policies and parameters) will be joined by a requirement for network and application intelligence. Operators will need to be able to identify when and where a subscriber experiences service levels ranging from poor to excellent, as well as a comprehensive view of all subscriber traffic across geographies for measurement, benchmarking and maximising network efficiency.
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About the author
Chris Koopmans is Chief Operating Officer, Bytemobile. He was a founding engineer at Bytemobile in 2000 and is responsible for all aspects of product development, management, marketing, delivery, and support, as well as information technology (IT). He has over 13 years of industry experience in hardware and software engineering and architecture. In 11 years at Bytemobile, Koopmans has held a wide range of technical leadership positions. Most recently, he served as vice president of Product Development, leading the R&D evolution of the UnisonTM Platform into the worldwide leader in mobile video optimization and the strategic initiative that culminated in the launch of the T3000 Adaptive Traffic Management System (T-Series). Koopmans earned a B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Highest Honours from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
Bytemobile Smart Capacity platforms enable mobile operators to deliver the best possible experience to their subscribers under all network conditions and to differentiate their services based on subscriber usage. The company's solutions have been deployed in the mobile networks of more than 130 operators worldwide to manage escalating demand for capacity due to video and other rich multimedia content and applications. With Smart Capacity, mobile operators can improve utilization of existing capacity and control operating expenses, while increasing revenue growth and profitability. Bytemobile is the industry leader in video optimization with 50 operators under contract.
The cornerstone of Bytemobile’s Adaptive Traffic Management System is the T3100 Adaptive Traffic Manager which effectively changes the paradigm for mobile data traffic management. The T3100 is the industry’s first fully integrated, inline network element that intuitively and adaptively manages mobile data traffic across all layers of the network (2-7). This gives mobile operators unprecedented control of the subscriber’s quality of experience (QoE), based on application and content usage, and constantly changing network conditions in the cell, the radio access network (RAN) and the core.
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