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Context-aware traffic mediation software could help telcos manage data tsunami: Openwave

June 6, 2010

Given the rising (and no end in sight) surge  in demand for mobile content and data services, mobile network service providers are facing the challenge of effectively managing exponential growth in data traffic. Service providers must also find ways to maximize bandwidth without sacrificing end user experience.

Anand Chandrasekaran, director of Product Management, Openwave.

Anand Chandrasekaran, director of Product Management, Openwave.

In conjunction with the Mobile Marketing Association Forum (MMA Forum) APAC event held this April 13-15, I had the opportunity to interact with Anand Chandrasekaran, director of Product Management, Openwave Systems Inc., which also did a global launch of it product — the Analytics Express at the event.

Managing data traffic challenges
Despite claims of vendors to have solved growing data traffic challenges, those still remain. How can Openwave really help manage this?

According to Anand Chandrasekaran, a fundamental shift has occurred in the industry. He said: “The demand for mobile data that we planned for years ago is finally here – only it’s bigger than everyone predicted. The proliferation of new devices like the iPhone and HTC Incredible, along with vastly improved user experiences and unlimited data plans (to date), has caused a tremendous and unprecedented surge in mobile data demand – AT&T disclosed this year that 3 percent of its users consume 40 percent of its bandwidth resources. This increase in traffic and the competitive pressure to keep data plans flat are squeezing service providers’ margins.”

Now let us look at how service providers can tackle the bandwith issue. As per Chandrasekharan, until now, one approach has been to add network capacity through additional equipment CAPEX. Unfortunately, this strategy is expensive and provides only a short-term solution.

Not all service providers have the financial strength to simply throw money at the problem, nor does that guarantee a sustainable solution. Service providers need to take a more holistic approach in developing solutions that will maximize available bandwidth while being able to monetize this surge of mobile data traffic.

An effective way for mobile service providers to handle the approaching data tsunami is to deploy context-aware traffic mediation software that sits in the data path, empowering them with a full view of their network, their subscribers’ profiles and the mobile devices in use. Context-aware traffic mediation enables service providers to monitor, manage and monetize traffic by creating and delivering smart policy-driven services.

According to him, Openwave’s Traffic Mediation solution runs on an open, IP-access platform that acts as a single control point for traffic management and provides services such as content adaptation, web and media optimization, network security, smart policy control and dynamic charging and campaigning.

Is user experience getting compromised?

However, it is claimed that user experience is still getting sacrificed and also sidetracked, as not all networks are as robust or have good coverage. What can be done here?

Chandrasekaran said that among the various forms of mobile data, video is quickly becoming the dominant data type in carrier networks. Given the popularity of video sites such as YouTube, Hulu, and Metacafe on wireline broadband networks, it should come as no surprise that consumers tend to exhibit the same behaviour on wireless networks.

“As video traffic quickly consumes more of the available bandwidth, mobile service providers are experiencing tremendous strain on their networks. Implementing media optimization technologies and best practices can help service providers cope with the exponential growth of mobile video data without resorting to expensive CAPEX/OPEX solutions, while also providing an enhanced user experience and increased network efficiency.

“To effectively manage this explosion of mobile data traffic, mobile service providers need a solution that can reduce data traffic volume by using different optimization techniques such as compression to deliver optimal visual quality. They can improve the user experience through intelligent caching and delivery mechanisms.

“Monitoring consumption intelligently will help facilitate introduction of appropriate policies for services and tariffs with differing rates. Improving network resource usage between different users and traffic types can ensure an overall optimal response to the user,” he added.

Puzzle of dynamic profiling data cracked?

Everyone claims to have solved the dilemma of ‘storing and serving up of dynamic profiling data,’ which is far from true. It would be interesting to find out what Openwave has to say.

Chandrasekaran added that mobile service providers must be creative in how they define data service plans that appeal to the subscriber, while covering their rising network costs. They should closely monitor what is happening on their network and they must have “total contextual awareness.”

“Deploying solutions that allow for new policies in real time, based on time of day traffic patterns, special events and user profiles, can be a way forward. Openwave Smart Policy combines an IP mediation framework residing directly in the data path; a context-aware policy engine that aggregates and analyzes session data relating to each user’s activity; operational analytics to influence policy decisions in real-time; inline charging and notification services to bill the user for service when appropriate.

“It benefits the operators as the IP Framework sits in the data path monitoring all traffic while enforcing appropriate policy rules in real time. The Policy Manager aggregates IP data into session data relating to each subscriber’s activity, over potentially multiple access networks. The Integrated Subscriber Profile Repository (SPR) chooses the appropriate policy rules to apply based on total context, whereas, the Operational Analytics guides policy changes in real time.

“Inline Charging and Notification helps operators notify subscribers nearing volume limits, offer them extensions or upgrades, and bill them in real time when appropriate – for instance a North American operator recently reported revenues of $1M/month using their ability to bill users transparently for 24-hour and other short term unlimited data usage (particularly when roaming).

“On the other hand, tailored service plans can be developed to match specific subscriber needs based on their online behavioural profiles. For example, the “Movie Buff” is provided with a plan with incentives to download larger volumes of data when the network is likely to be less congested. “The Mobile Breadwinner” can go online at any time while travelling abroad without worrying about costly roaming fees. “The Talk of the Town” is provided with high-speed access to their favourite social networking sites and offered premium messaging services,” he elaborated.

Aggregating data close to source

Are telcos really able to aggregate data as close to the source as possible?

The Openwave analytics offering allows for integration with various types of data close to the source, including from other vendors. “Big data” is one of the fastest growing technology areas, and was recently covered in an Economist report. However, the fact is that raw data is just that and what is required is insights that are actionable, either for the operator themselves and in a way that can be exposed to various ecosystem end points.

The other key factor is the ability to present these insights in a way that the industry can understand – for example, Openwave recently partnered with Nielsen Co. to build an “insights” engine that combines the mobile footprint within the operator network with segmentation data from Nielsen’s Prizm product to help advertisers and marketing folks better understand their users.

Expect to hear more from Openwave in this area in the coming quarters.

Openwave’s predictive solutions

What are these with predictive solutions of Openwave mobilizes the Internet fueled by real-time analytics? How are they helping operators?

The Openwave Analytics Express is a cloud-based solution, which features analytics and a set of reporting tools designed to perform essential monitoring of mobile internet usage and behaviour, enabling operators to improve operational efficiency without significant infrastructure investments.

Analytics Express enables operators to gain key network and usage related insights across a wide array of operator data sources and includes reporting functionality that can help mobile operators build profiles and segments, and leverage insights into new revenue streams. As a hosted solution, it is uniquely positioned to provide these insights at a low-cost, low hardware footprint and rapid time to market. The offering is also highly scalable and can address specific customer requirements with rapid customization.

Trends in Apac/India

Going forward, let’s look at some of the trends in Apac/India and how they compare globally?

Chandrasekaran said: “We recently did a workshop at the MMA APAC Forum where we co-presented with AdMob, InMobi and BuzzCity and also met with operator customers. The maturing of the voice market is a global trend and we heard similar observations by Malaysian and Singaporean operators. The same applies to the coming “data tsunami” trend as well.

“Globally, the advertising market is forecasted (Source: Chetan Sharma) to grow at 100 percent YoY to $3.1 billion in 2013, and this market can leverage some of the data assets currently locked away within operator networks. We’re observing that inclination to be a global trend as well.

“APAC is a growth market for our industry, and operators here are very willing to monetize this demand for mobile data from a growing range of smarter devices.”

Openwave in India

Besides customers, Openwave has an offshore development center in New Delhi, India.

Recently there has been a great increase in use of data services in India for specific applications such as Facebook as well as the Indian “ABC” of Astrology, Bollywood and Cricket. The recent 3G spectrum auction also provides new opportunity for services and revenues. However, the operators there are in one of the most competitive environments in the world with voice rates at less than a cent a minute and 12-15 mobile operators grappling for market share.

Openwave is said to be approaching these operators and offering opportunity for clear differentiation based not just on price, but on services, quality and user experience.

“We have solutions targeted at 2.5 and 3G data usage which enable a real internet experience on mobile whilst enabling operators to conserve bandwidth, get a full 360 degree understanding of who is using the network and customise services for each tier or niche group of users. Some of them have already been mentioned earlier.

“We have two channel partners in India, HCL and Tech Mahindra. We will be taking these solutions proactively on the road initially with Tech Mahindra later this month (June) focussing on approx six operators in the Delhi/Mumbai areas,” he concluded.

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