In a recent interview on the BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘Today’ programme, Peter Cochrane, former CTO of BT, suggested that, while download speeds for broadband in the UK where increasing, that wasn’t the main issue. Instead, he argued that new services such as cloud computing and telemedicine demanded symmetrical broadband. To paraphrase, it’s no good having 60Mb/s downlink if you can only upload at 1Mb/s.
He’s right – the future has to be symmetrical, but in many markets without widespread fibre to the home deployments, this will take time. The problem is that future applications will increasingly demand interaction from the user and will require the user to upload data. Of course, users upload data today, but it’s not necessarily real-time data.
New applications will need to support real-time streaming and control in addition to conventional uploads. Such traffic needs to be prioritised. The issue is not just limited to the UK – many countries have similar issues and, in general, universal fibre to the home or ubiquitous LTE access, remain targets not realities.
In the absence of truly symmetric broadband fixed or otherwise, what’s to be done? Well, one answer is to help this transition with innovative, device level solutions that can optimise traffic at the device in response to network policies. When a user is simply uploading data, traffic can flow as normal – but if real-time video is required in a critical situation for example by emergency services responding to a disaster, then the client device can prioritise this to ensure that conditions are optimised.
Yes, symmetric broadband is the goal. While this is the likely end game in fixed networks, it will take considerable investment and time. What’s more, neither LTE nor its mooted successors are going to be symmetrical, so the problem of managing upstream traffic is going to continue to be a challenge in future mobile networks. There may be a (distant) solution in fixed networks, but there is no avoiding the fact that mobile broadband will continue to be asymmetrical. Device-level traffic management is the only answer.
While the migration towards truly symmetric broadband in fixed networks takes place Network Operators can be supported by the deployment of device level solutions, which extend policy into the user domain and enable traffic optimisation to suit the demands of new and emerging applications, consumers and network operators alike. They can do the same in mobile networks where the problem is even more pressing, as asymmetry will remain the reality.
Why not meet with us at MWC to find out how?