As the data tsunami sweeps across their networks mobile carriers are continually searching for new ways to boost capacity while at the same time lower costs.
At Adastral Park, BT’s global research and development centre in Suffolk, mobility research teams, together with 21CN partners, are approaching the problem in a radical way, challenging current network architectures and ways of thinking by the mobile industry.
As a result the teams have delivered a world ‘first’ innovation which can ‘intelligently manage mobile internet traffic’. The successful outcome has been helped by BT’s expertise and experience in delivering 21CN, broadband and fixed mobile convergence services.
Fixed broadband currently carries more than 10 times the traffic compared to mobile broadband in the UK. Therefore it was logical for the teams to look at how a more distributed architecture - versus the existing centralised approach in mobile networks - reusing 21CNs advanced and intelligent platform could be used.
The technology has been validated in a ‘proof of concept’ test under laboratory conditions which demonstrated its capability to intercept, analyse and ‘offload’ mobile broadband traffic away from a sometimes inefficient and expensive mobile core network and onto a more efficient 3G network and subsequently 21CN.
Offloaded, or intelligently routed, traffic is dictated by the service provider, identified and enforced by the platform through use of different methods such as the subscriber or end user, the traffic type and time-of-day.
The offload application management intelligence can select traffic types such as iPlayer, YouTube or internet usage per destination and additionally apply other ‘rules’ such as time-of-day and network congestion.
The technology can also integrate transparently with existing network equipment without the need to reconfigure costly and complex systems and can be controlled by operators existing subscription and quality of service systems.
The offload part of the technology was carried out in collaboration with mobile operators and has influenced BT's own future planning for 21CN to ensure it's more inclusive of the additional requirements of mobile broadband and future 4G telephony.
In particular these extra requirements will be placed on network capacity, connectivity and traffic routing intelligence, where key objectives are cost reduction and improved customer experience.
Dave Axam from BT Wholesale says "We are confident that over the last few months, we have understood the challenges faced by our customers in the mobile industry and are taking proactive steps to engineer 21CN in order to support the explosion in mobile broadband data growth.”
Francisco Carvalho from BT’s Innovate & Design also points out there are other benefits to implementing the technology onto BT’s network once further tests have been completed and assessed.
He says: “The platform has a number of advantages primarily the total cost of ownership reductions for operators are sizeable over a five-year period and include space and power requirements.
“For customers a full implementation of the platform would produce vastly improved quality of service through speed of delivery made possible by the reduction in traffic congestion. And it can also manage varying traffic flows over different network standards including 3G and 4G, and is a long-term investment.
“More importantly the platform will support BT’s goal of offering a single network for fixed and mobile communications. As mobile data traffic is predicted to rise considerably by 2013, the capability to cut operational costs is a major factor for any operator offering services to mobile network operators - an industry which is fast consolidating through mergers and partnerships.”
The test took under six months from idea to a demonstration at Adastral Park.
Intelligently managed mobile internet traffic is a compelling proposition which has materialised from some imaginative thinking. Ultimately it may prove to be a vital part of the jigsaw that is network configuration.