Top 10 Technology-Led Approaches to Mobile Broadband Traffic Management

Many mobile operators have to deal with short-term problems around capacity utilisation and improved management of their existing networks, as well as evolution to 3.5G/4G networks and new business models (as featured in our latest strategy report New Mobile, Fixed and Wholesale Broadband Business Models).

Last week we published the articles Optimising Mobile Broadband Economics: Key Issues and Next Steps, analysing the output of the mobile broadband session at the latest Telco 2.0 Brainstorm, and ‘LTE – Long Term Enthusiasm?’, an analysis of the recent LTE Summit by our long-term associate Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis.

This week we’re highlighting the publication of a new Disruptive Analysis research paper: The Top 10 Technology-Led Approaches to Traffic Management for Mobile Broadband which focuses on solutions possible in the near term with existing technologies.

Dealing with Now while Planning for Next

While future deployments of LTE or HSPA+ will add more capacity for mobile operators, it is still critical to examine ways to reduce congestion on a shorter-term basis. Even with future 3G / 4G capacity additions, the hunger from new applications – especially those based around video or other rich media – will demand strong discipline for optimisation.

The Factors are Complex

There are many ways to control traffic, or minimise its impact on the most expensive parts of the cellular network. There are arguments for offload to WiFi or femtocells, traffic-shaping compression in the core network, or numerous forms of innovation for policy management and charging.

Operators are facing a bewildering set of choices here, as almost every vendor evolves and repositions its product range to assist in the traffic management challenge. Disruptive Analysis’ new research paper gives an independent perspective on these approaches, and is the first we’ve seen that highlights the range of traffic management options available – and the operational and organisational challenges involved in moving from “fire-fighting” isolated problems to a more holistic medium term view, and on towards the 4G deployment horizon.

And the Answer is…

Dean says that there is no single, easy answer, and that the best approach will depend on a given operator’s existing customer base and its behaviour, the mix of smartphones and laptops on its network, the operator’s spectrum and cell site holdings…and its forecasts and beliefs about the future.

In many operators, there is also an organisational and management problem: there is often no single individual who “owns” the issue of data traffic, who can develop a holistic solution. Instead, there are often diverse individuals who pursue narrow goals, which can have unintended consequences elsewhere in the network – or impacts customer experience.
In almost no operator is there an individual with the job title of “Policy Manager”.

You can read more of our recent Telco research here.