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Policy management solutions for seamless multi-access networks

Kishen Mangat Issue: Asia-Pacific I 2013
Article no.: 10
Topic: Policy management solutions for seamless multi-access networks
Author: Kishen Mangat
Title: Director, Product Management
Organisation: Cisco Systems/BroadHop, Inc
PDF size: 283KB

About author

As BroadHop’s Vice-President, Solutions, Kishen Mangat is responsible for working with customers and partners to implement BroadHop’s technology worldwide. Prior to BroadHop, Mr Mangat was President and Managing Director of Application Media, a professional services firm that pioneered software solutions for public broadband and wireless access. In this role, he oversaw the development and implementation of broadband service provisioning solutions with the Walt Disney Company; Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide; Smart City Telecom; Sprint Corporation; Cisco Systems and Microsoft Corporation.

Kishen Mangat is a distinguished alumnus of Colorado College’s Economics and Business department, where he graduated with honours.

 

Article abstract

An ‘app for everything’ is driving the growth of three important of areas of concern to network operators - the rapid increase of data traffic; the demand for smarter devices and new device categories; and emerging consumer behaviour and usage patterns. Next-generation networks are designed considering these developments. Although LTE may steal the headlines, the big 4G question is how other types of access networks will support the rollout of LTE and the new types of usage spawned by pervasive connectivity.

 

Full Article

LTE architecture is ideally suited to deliver high-bandwidth, rich multi-media content. It certainly will help operators increase the data capacity of all areas of the network while reducing the cost per bit, but LTE is far from a panacea. Faster broadband speeds may encourage more people to ‘lean back’ with their mobile devices, but operators will need to adopt a variety of approaches to support wide variety of online behaviours - both traditional and new.

The concept of heterogeneous networks or ‘Het Nets’ has arisen out of operators’ needs to use a variety of radio access technologies and cell formats, combining them to operate in what marketers have been calling a seamless fashion. Ideally, when users must pass through different types of access networks their service will be ‘handed off’ with no interruption of the user’s experience.

The key to making all the disparate technologies and hardware elements work together is a policy management solution that is massively scalable and just as flexible. This is the software that has to manage all the interoperability rules, authentication rules, subscriber-based policies, and do all of this in milliseconds.

Controlling the complexities of multiple networks
Different types of users will use different access networks depending on where they are and what they are doing - that is, what applications and content they are using. They could be on 2G, 3G, WiFi or other microcell networks. Het Nets need to interoperate between radio access networks (RAN), while also integrating with the core network. Seamless handoff between networks sounds great, but there are times when an operator might actually want seams. In roaming scenarios, for instance, a user might want to be notified if they are moving from a free WiFi network to a cellular network with higher roaming rates. The correct policy management solution will be able to scale to handle the changing number of scenarios that require user notification.

Policy plays a huge role in ensuring that the best use is made of the available bandwidth and that all the various elements (device, network, location, content, user profile, etc.) are taken into account to delivering a consistent and unified subscriber experience. To manage all these elements, an operator needs rules or policies - and lots of them. A platform approach to policy management - one that separates features from the policy core, enabling operators to take advantage of these features quickly, without embarking on a custom development project - will cost-effectively scale to meet the dynamic needs of multi-access network operators.

Lessons from leading Asia Pacific operators
Asia Pacific has been one of the most progressive markets in terms of establishing quota - or usage-based data services. We have watched Maxis in Malaysia leverage advanced policy management to roll out these services early. As a result they have been able to more effectively segment the market with different offer types, and maintain closer ties between data cost per byte and data ARPU (average revenue per user).
Another example that we are familiar with comes from Australia where a multi-access operator (mobile 2G, mobile 3G, LTE, HSPA, cable, DSL) has wide-ranging requirements for service and subscriber control. It has unique challenges of managing the licensing, CAPEX, operating and maintenance costs for multiple disparate networks. They leveraged a policy management platform that was purpose-built to operate in a multi-network, multi-access environment enabling them to consolidate subscriber identification, service and policy management, rating and charging capabilities in a single platform, lowering TCO (total cost of ownership) and maximizing the return on their platform investment.
Singapore has some of the world’s most advanced telecommunication infrastructure, with a significant portion of its subscribers connected by fibre to the home (FTTH). One leading operator is in the process of migrating its entire fixed broadband subscriber base from copper digital subscriber lines (DSL) to FTTH. In order to control bandwidth, access and subscriber provisioning, this operator employs deep packet inspection (DPI) nodes for its policy enforcement. Its next-generation policy management platform is being effectively utilized to facilitate the consolidation of subscriber control across these multiple DPI devices to enable migration from one access network to the other without changes to back-office systems.

In an August 2012 Heavy Reading survey, a cross section of network operators around the globe said that they see the need for more sophisticated policy deployments that can handle many more use cases and carry much higher loads than what they currently have. The key catalysts for deployment are better understanding of subscriber behaviour and network traffic patterns, better fair usage controls, lower network costs, innovative applications-oriented service packages, and the creation of personalized and temporary service offers.

Network operators from emerging economies are already shifting to sophisticated service packages as they seek new ways to compete. One operator in the region is adding 30 new policies per month, and operators from other markets are taking note. Applications for policy are only limited by their scalability, platform technology sophistication and operator imagination. Policy needs to do more than simply police subscribers; it needs to be the driver for new revenue in our transformed communication service market.

If operators are going to address today’s increasingly complex and distributed networks and the growing subscriber bases they serve, I firmly believe that they will need to take an altogether new approach to policy management - a platform approach that enables operators to literally introduce new services in a matter of days - resulting in a tremendous cost and time savings. Unencumbered by lengthy development cycles, operators will finally be able to market services as do consumer product or web companies.

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