taking policy to the
smart connected device

Archive for December, 2011

More than 50% of UK consumers are unhappy with mobile broadband

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

In recent news, it has been revealed that more than half of UK consumers are unhappy with mobile broadband speeds. Poor performance affects their mobile broadband experience and, if speeds aren’t as expected, user dissatisfaction results.

According to Broadband Genie, a leading, independent consumer comparison site, this is probably due to advances in fixed broadband speeds: consumers are now enjoying faster and faster speeds in the home, but mobile broadband rates haven’t kept up. As we have often remarked, users increasingly expect their applications to perform the same wherever they are: and that means whether mobile or in the home.

Of course, LTE is still unavailable in the UK and there is no clear date for its launch, unlike in many other countries that have either launched operational services or have clear dates by which they will do so. Perhaps the uncertainty over LTE is limiting investment in capacity in the UK; while LTE plans are unclear, it may be that upgrades to existing infrastructure are delayed.

What has been overlooked, however, is the potential for operators to do more to optimise user experience with the resources they do have available. One of the problems is that upstream and downstream bandwidth is contended, so the available bandwidth is limited by what other users in the same cell are doing. This means that applications that don’t actually require a great deal of bandwidth to perform satisfactorily may be adversely impacted by others, simply because every active user is doing the same thing at the same time, or because a few users are consuming much more bandwidth than they really need. But not all applications need the same level of resources; with finite limitations, it becomes a zero sum game, with perhaps many competing applications taking more than the share of resources they really need.

But if operators can monitor application demands and performance they may be able to balance demands effectively. This can be achieved by provisioning smart phones and dongle-enabled devices with smart clients that monitor and control demand so that application performance can be optimised even though overall bandwidth remains limited. By providing such solutions, operators can make more efficient use of the resources they have and provide an optimised user experience that increases satisfaction and helps manage the transition towards LTE, when it eventually takes place.

After all, such troubling headlines have a habit of spreading, but operators could very easily take action to generate more favourable publicity. And, it would be very easy to promote the uptake of such solutions: if users think there is a quick fix to their problems, they will undoubtedly take advantage of it.


African Mobile Data demand is set to soar

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

According to recent research by Informa, 20% of African Internet traffic will be carried over mobile networks by 2015. Apparently, the equivalent figure in the rest of the world is 3%. This is going to place increasing strain on local mobile networks, particularly as consumers have a huge appetite for content that requires faster access rates. Essentially, the richer the content experience, the more demand we can expect to see.

Of course, the issue of content provision, to which Informa draws attention, is one of the problems that need to be solved. Evidently, there is a lack of local content, so the creation of innovative local content is a must, but so too is a consistent user experience.

It’s also not hard to imagine that the forecast is actually an under-estimate: after all, Cisco consistently updates its annual report with more bullish estimates, based on data it collects. Regardless of content provision, demand is likely to outstrip network capacity rollouts.

That’s why it’s essential to also consider how the user experience can be optimised. Already, Policy Control solutions are being deployed in African networks, reported to be somewhat ahead of the curve in this regard, but the logical extension to this is the deployment of solutions that allow user experience to be optimised directly on the device.

If operators can combine visibility and control of user traffic with policy decisions to optimise the user experience, it will surely help alleviate some of the pain associated with this dramatic growth and allow network rollout to be managed in a more graceful fashion. And then, even if forecasts don’t prove to be reliable (and of course, this is the subject of some debate), operators can still be in a position to optimise the user experience according to their policies and individual user preferences, driven by user demand and increased availability of low-cost smartphone devices.

IQPC Data Offloading Strategies – How MNOs Can Leverage Offloading with Device-Level Software

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

The recent IQPC Data Offloading Strategies event in Barcelona brought together key stakeholders from the mobile industry for several days of intense debate and discussion. It appears that data offload from mobile networks onto WiFi may not be the desired solution many had presupposed.

Many speakers questioned whether data offload makes sense – apart from a clear absence of revenue opportunities, a key concern was the fact that, with current solutions, once the customer’s data has been offloaded, the mobile operator can no longer participate in the session. This means that MNOs can’t “see” what the customer is doing – which means they can’t do anything to understand user behaviour or, more importantly, to optimise their experience. Once the data has been offloaded, they’re in the dark.

And, there is a belief that selective offload isn’t possible. This has been mooted for some time, as a way of offloading some traffic to WiFi networks, while using 3G / 4G networks for the rest. At the moment, it seems as if there is agreement that this is an all-or-nothing event since, first, devices cannot selectively filter traffic to allow a choice to be made; and, secondly, devices themselves can’t support simultaneous active data connections, or, if they can, the battery drain may be too great.

But while the second case might be true – for now, at least – the first most definitely isn’t. It’s perfectly possible to dynamically control when to offload data, depending on the nature of the application, the conditions in the cell and so on. This can be achieved with the use of device-based client software. This can select, based on the needs of a specific application and other factors, whether to opt for WiFi connectivity or to use the mobile data network.

More importantly, the visibility that MNOs want to retain of user data consumption and demand can also be achieved with the same client software. By using device-level software, MNOs can ensure they continue to see user data activity and then ensure on-going network and policy optimisation as a result. While the business case around data offload may not be clear, it’s evident that there are solutions that can be applied to ensure a more strategic view. Users will often make the choice to move to WiFi anyway – MNOs can deploy solutions that ensure they remain involved in the process and offer greater value to their customers as a consequence.