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Archive for September, 2010

Enhanced mobile communications services such as RCS make QoS a pre-requisite, not an afterthought

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

Apparently, 80% of customers believe QoS is a key issue when choosing a mobile service provider. Now, a few years ago, the only issues that concerned consumers were basically:

  1. Price; and
  2. Coverage.

So signal strength and the cost were the only considerations. Then, as the market became more competitive, customer service became an additional factor. But now, with the rapid growth of mobile broadband and significantly increased data access, a more complex situation has emerged. Users are becoming aware that the quality of their experience (QoE) is affected by a number of other factors, such as:

  1. Call quality;
  2. Data rate;
  3. Dropped calls; and
  4. Ability to place a call in a congested cell.

The sum of these can significantly affect perceptions of quality and thus mobile service providers have to address each of these issues. There is a growing demand for QoS which actually delivers. Not just the promised speed of mobile data access, but the ability to ensure that even basic voice calls remain active and that they just work every time. QoS, long taken for granted is becoming a key differentiator as demand grows. Mobile service providers need to ensure that, not only is coverage seamless, but that they can deliver the right service at the right time: a real-time event, such as a voice call, is more important than a video download, which can be viewed after collection. At the same time, users do not want to wait forever to receive requested content, so an appropriate delivery rate has to be applied. What’s more, the situation will get worse as more and more users adopt rich forms of communication, such as video calling and networks shift to the converged, all-packet model of LTE. Unless the right QoS for video calling is in place, users simply will not adopt services.

All of this adds up to a problem for mobile service providers – just to deliver the promised services, they need to work harder, and that’s before they start deploying mass forms of enhanced services like the Rich Communications Suite (RCS), which will are predicted to dramatically increase demand. It’s like the Red Queen: you have to run very fast just to stay in the same place.

It’s time QoS was moved to the forefront of considerations. There’s little chance of new initiatives like RCS being adopted unless the right QoS conditions are in place. It’s time to make QoS a key factor in service launch, not just the market potential or glossy marketing campaigns. Without a sound approach to QoS, it’s unlikely that enhanced communications services will succeed at all, despite what analysts forecast.

Cisco Visual Networking Index

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Bandwidth Goes Stratospheric!

Many readers will have seen the dramatic forecast made by Cisco regarding IP video traffic demand and consumption. If not, you can read it here. It’s well worth it, for it tells a fascinating story. It contains many interesting statistics, but the most topical (for us) concern video. Not only is video traffic growing rapidly, but it will become the dominant form of consumer internet traffic by 2014. Of course, video traffic is comprised of many sources – TV, Video on Demand, Internet and P2P). Only some of these demand real-time capabilities and real-time capabilities of course have stringent QoS demands.

In fact, Cisco forecast that in consumer markets, real-time video traffic, such as Internet TV and video communications will experience extremely rapid growth – up to sevenfold in the case of video communications. If these forecasts are accurate, this is going to cause significant problems for service providers.

Real-time traffic needs guarantees of service for it to be delivered in a timely manner and for an acceptable quality of experience to be achieved. If the right level of QoE isn’t achieved, consumer subscribers will start to look for service providers who can deliver it. QoS will therefore become a selling tool – another differentiator in the drive to win and retain customers.

And this matters, because subscriber acquisition costs remain high, so if poor QoS results in churn, it’s going to cost a great deal more to win subscribers back, particularly if reputation begins to suffer. Make no mistake about it, QoS will become a key element in the subscriber value proposition. In the early stages of this traffic boom, it will be a clear differentiator, but ultimately it will become a basic requirement. Either way, its importance cannot be underestimated. Whereas in the past, the solution has been to increase capacity, it’s simply not going to be economically sustainable to do so in the future. Investment in bandwidth will have to be matched with investment in QoS solutions to ensure that it is deployed and used efficiently. Quite simply, QoS will be essential to the goal of profitable revenue growth.

Service providers need to adopt an appropriate QoS architecture to be able to monitor and enforce quality of service across their networks – and to deliver the appropriate QoE to their customers. This is not trivial – in addition to core network engineering and policies, service providers need a way to deliver QoS right to the edge of the network, the boundary between individual subscribers and the access domain. This is where GoS comes in – it’s the missing link in the QoS chain, enabling service providers to monitor and enforce QoS even at the network boundary. You can learn how here.

QoS Beyond the Core

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

“QoS” is sometimes thought of as something that happens inside a “Diffserv domain”; packets are “marked” by special routers at the edge of the domain and then prioritised accordingly by the high-speed routers in the network’s core. Network managers may think that they’ve done a good job of implementing QoS when such a system has been set up and configured according to the prevailing policy.

Unfortunately such an approach is likely to miss the most significant source of QoS problems for the end user – the access network, otherwise known as “the last mile”. For the vast majority of users, the speed of their connection to the network is far lower than the capacity of their end equipment to generate and consume network traffic. As a result, the last mile link is a major – perhaps the largest – point of contention for most users’ network services. Managing the effects of contention is what QoS is all about, so applying QoS in the core while omitting to do so on the access link is to miss the point.

Some operators think that there’s no need for QoS on the access link because there’s only one subscriber there. Nowadays, though, most household broadband connections are shared by the whole family, and business broadband is obviously used by the whole office. Even where there is only one user, however – as might be the case with a mobile broadband connection – they can be expected to be using more than one networked application; making a VoIP call, for example, while viewing a web page and up/downloading email in the background. Failing to differentiate the QoS for these different applications over the access link will lead to trouble, churn, and demands for ever higher bandwidth in the hope this will alleviate the problem.

Managing access link QoS is not about extending the Diffserv domain to the end user; Diffserv markings from end equipment are unreliable, so a different approach is needed. In any case the Diffserv standard only supports one class of real-time traffic, which is inadequate for the variety of rich multi-media applications available today. A more dynamic and fine-grained QoS mechanism is needed, specifically to optimise the use of the slowest part of the network for multiple real-time, near-real-time and other critical applications; once that has been done, core network QoS can take over.