How to create a smarter network infrastructure for the connected world
The need to be connected to the ‘smarter world’ is ever increasing with the rise in the number of mobile devices. LTE is now a global reality for millions of subscribers and the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) is well and truly upon us. While this opens up a variety of opportunities for network operators, it also comes with a warning.
With the vast increase in the number of connected devices, says Robin Kent, director of European operations at Adax, effective policy and traffic management capabilities have become key demands for carriers. As such, network intelligence is more important than ever.
With LTE subscriptions set to hit one billion by 2017, the core network will become increasingly congested. Ofcom’s latest report into the UK’s communications infrastructure has revealed that total data throughput has increased by 53% over the last year[i] and this trend is set to continue. It is clear this continual surge in data consumption and the sheer volume of IoT connections are unmanageable without significant investment in Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology to ensure reliable service delivery through network intelligence.
Effective and accurate traffic management now needs to be firmly front-of-mind for operators as IoT continues to develop rapidly. Without durable processing capabilities in place, operators will inevitably fail to maximise revenue on a user-by-user basis. Operators need the ability to better manage data flows and patterns to not only alleviate data pressures on the network, but also to gain a more accurate understanding of the data connections that are being made. This will help maintain network performance.
Role for hardware too
Whilst the popular trend is strongly in favour of software solutions in scalable, virtual machines, specific functions related to security and DPI will require the assistance of hardware. The key is to provide a solution that offers the performance of hardware assist with the flexibility of virtualisation.
So what does this mean for operators and the relationship with their customers? With a greater level of network intelligence, they can stay one step ahead of their competitors and continue to improve the Quality of Experience (QoE) for end-users and ensure they are at the forefront of the ‘smarter world’. Smartphones allow and encourage end-users to run multiple applications at the same time, and running on a 4G network allows them to do this smoothly and efficiently. This is a service end users have come to expect in recent years.
As a result of this trend, it’s now paramount for carriers to invest in their policy management capabilities which mean a substantial investment in DPI capabilities. Sales figures suggest operators are recognising this. Operator spending on DPI solutions grew 23% to US$728 million worldwide in 2013. This figure is forecast to top $2 billion in 2018, according to market research firm Infonetics Research[ii]. But despite last year’s increase in DPI uptake, only two-thirds of vendors believe DPI is a must-have technology according to a report by analyst house, Heavy Reading[iii]. It’s imperative that all operators recognise the importance of DPI to keep up with the growing number of connected devices looking to access the network.
By using DPI to analyse data packets within a flow, operators can identify valuable metadata connected to individual applications. This data gives insight into what applications are being used by end-users, allowing operators to offer subscriptions tailored to their preferences. The insights obtained from the data are useful in identifying end-user demands, and informing plans for new services so that they maximise both customer satisfaction and return on investment.
Network analysis through DPI can also be pivotal in developing the network infrastructure itself. Operators can ensure their infrastructure is able to cope with demand by identifying how and when end-users are accessing the network. It’s important for operators to have packet processing capabilities that are aligned with rapidly increasing data consumption habits, but that are also fit for purpose when it comes to a smarter network.
Solutions for network operators
The good news for operators is that solutions are available. The latest DPI technology is built with the capabilities to ensure that network latency is reduced while infinite numbers of data patterns are supported. By making full use of this technology, application processing will become faster and increased network intelligence will be delivered to the operator.
The rise in popularity of smartphones has led to an increase in demand for LTE access, as users expect more from their phones to feel ‘connected’. To enable their customers to embrace this modern necessity, it’s now more important than ever to make sure that a consistent experience is available throughout peak times. It’s also clear that it’s now more important than ever for operators to have the network intelligence technology in place to cope with the growing number of end users and to ensure networks are smarter and can deliver the connected world we expect.[i] http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/infrastructure/2014/infrastructure-14.pdf
The author of this blog is Robin Kent, director of European operations at Adax