|Issue:||North America II 2014|
|Topic:||Combating the mobile data crunch in an increasingly connected world|
|Title:||President & CEO|
Vaughan Emery is the President and CEO of CENTRI Technology. He works closely with technology partners to deliver the company’s mobile solutions to its customers. Throughout his career, Vaughan has developed key business relationships with mobile operators, phone manufacturers and technology partners within the US, Asia and Europe.
Previously, he founded a mobile security technology company, which developed an advanced malware security solution for mobile phones and embedded devices. He has over 20 years of leadership experience in commercial product development, technology services and business development.
The ‘mobile data crunch’ needs to be combated in an increasingly interconnected world. Mobile data traffic continues to increase at a torrid pace as new technologies and innovations become available, and consumers and enterprises increasingly spend more time with their connected devices.
Wi-Fi and Small Cell offloading solutions can be used in varying degrees by operators to alleviate the mobile network capacity crunch. Cellular phones and other mobile devices use on-the-spot offloading or delayed offloading, which when enabled uses Wi-Fi connections to carry data traffic.
New technologies drive innovative product and service offerings. The rapid adoption of mobile video streaming, connected devices and advanced next-generation services such as VoLTE are changing the way we watch video, interact with our devices and even communicate with others. The term ‘always-on, always-connected,’ used to refer to our home internet connections and then our phones, but now it’s just about everything. Utility meters, home appliances and even cars are becoming part of The Internet of Things (IoT). This market of connected devices is expected to hit US$8.9 trillion by 2020, according to IDC.
While the connected world trend is opening up new avenues for mobile operators to generate revenue, it is also leading to serious strains on their networks. Mobile video streaming, connected devices and VoLTE are adding to the data traffic already traveling across a mobile operator’s network, not to mention the Web surfing, downloading apps and browsing social media sites. In fact, according to Cisco, global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013 reaching 1.5 Exabytes per month by the end of 2013. These trends will continue to increase the need for mobile data capacity, as more devices are being connected, voice calls are shifted to the data network and users are watching more video using mobile devices – mobile video already accounts for more than 20% of the total online video viewing, according to ABI Research, and will more than double during the next five years. How will mobile operators support this tremendous growth in mobile data consumption?
Expansion of CAPEX
One option for combating the mobile data crunch is building additional infrastructure and transitioning to next-generation networks such as 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced. However, this is typically only an option for the largest operators because it takes time and requires large capital expense. Spectrum is a finite resource that typically costs billions. By investing additional capital expenditure on spectrum and infrastructure, it becomes much more difficult for operators to price their services competitively yet profitably.
Smaller operators with limited resources, especially those in emerging countries, are also facing the same bandwidth concerns. Investing in additional spectrum and advanced networks is simply not an option. Therefore, with limited opportunities for CAPEX expansion, operators need to find additional ways to enhance their existing networks and make the most out of the capacity that they have at their disposal.
Today, Wi-Fi and Small Cell offloading solutions are used in varying degrees by operators to alleviate the mobile network capacity crunch. Cellular phones and other mobile devices use on-the-spot offloading or delayed offloading, which when enabled uses Wi-Fi connections to carry data traffic. More recently, small cells are being deployed in high traffic urban areas to increase mobile network capacity. Although these solutions provide options to combat capacity crunch, they do not come without cost. Home Wi-Fi networks provide an inexpensive solution; however, public Wi-Fi network must be made capable of authentication to improve user experience. Wi-Fi network traffic management also must be integrated within the mobile network. Small cells present even bigger challenges to operators. Interface management and network coordination with macro networks are additional overheads. In addition, operators must acquire the site for deployment and execute associated lease agreements. An attractive option that avoids pitfalls of both Wi-Fi offloading and small cell deployment is the data optimization approach.
Innovative byte-level caching and data optimization
A compelling option for operators to combat the mobile data crunch is through bandwidth management strategies such as data optimization. While Wi-Fi offload or small cell deployment can help manage some of the traffic, combating the massive influx of data will take a multi-pronged approach looking at all areas of the network for any incremental improvements.
Several different techniques can be used to optimize mobile data. The main challenge associated with most mobile data optimization techniques is reducing latency, CPU-utilization, and reliance on old and inefficient compression algorithms like G-Zip and Lempel–Ziv (LZ).
An intelligent approach is to leverage analysis mapping via byte-level caching techniques for reducing the amount of data traffic before it is even transmitted. This process uses ‘tokens’ to replace repetitive streams of data by looking at binary patterns of ones and zeros. The idea behind this unique approach is that byte-level caching features very low latency and a very small footprint. The technology is lossless, and has multiple levels of error correction and control, so that all original packets are assured replication. The technology does not deploy special libraries, and has an adaptation layer, that maximizes byte level savings.
In this process, repetitive bytes are eliminated from the transmitted stream traveling across the network, yet the end result delivered to the subscriber is an exact copy of the original. This means that consumers get the same experience on their devices with byte-level caching, and sometimes even improved network performance due to the prioritization and optimization of the data. But most importantly, the mobile operator benefits from having less data travel across their networks. This benefits the operator by lowering CAPEX for expansion of additional resources that are differed by Byte-Level Caching surgical implementation.
In addition to Byte-Level-Caching, image and video optimization can also be deployed for even greater aggregate data traffic reduction. A typical architecture for image/video optimization involves transrating and/or transcoding from lower efficiency codecs such as MPEG-2/4 to very efficient H.265 codec, and then video caching at the S1u or SGi interface to achieve the best possible optimization.
Yankee Group recently released a white paper, The Return on Investment of Byte-Level Caching, October 2013, which looked at the amount of traffic reduction operators could reasonably expect from this optimization technique and how it can be delivered. The report found that byte-level caching works best with 3G and 4G because it has the most effect on the bottom line and the customer experience. However, the technology works with legacy networks such as 2G and 2.5G as well. The implementation model can either be a standalone ‘bump-On-the-Wire’ service, embedded on either network elements like eNodeB’s, AGW (PGW or SGW), CSR, or even directly on an end-user’s device. The backhaul and transport segments are ideal areas to implement byte-level caching, as many of these segments are not owned by the carrier, and carry a large OPEX cost, usually based on both connection fee and data usage.
Yankee Group found that a typical Tier 1 operator with a mix of 4G and 3G customers can save up to US$800 million over five years in backhaul costs alone through byte-level caching by reducing total traffic by roughly 30 percent. Mobile data optimization also helps minimize the need for additional investments in infrastructure and capital expenditure, due to the reduced amount of data traveling across the network.
It is evident that mobile data traffic will continue to increase at torrid pace as new technologies and innovations become available and consumers and enterprises increasingly spend more time with their connected devices. Mobile operators that can manage this influx of data while still offering their subscribers a quality experience will be in the best position for success.