Home India 2014 Driving mobile data adoption and network efficiency in a land of diversity

Driving mobile data adoption and network efficiency in a land of diversity

by Administrator
Chris KoopmansIssue:India 2014
Article no.:7
Topic:Driving mobile data adoption and network efficiency in a land of diversity
Author:Chris Koopmans
Title:VP and GM, Service Provider Platforms
PDF size:711KB

About author

Chris Koopmans joined Citrix as vice president, Service Provider Platforms, with the acquisition of Bytemobile in 2012. He is responsible for product development, management and marketing for the Service Provider Platforms group, as well as the Citrix business strategy for telecommunications service providers. Koopmans was a founding engineer at Bytemobile in 2000 and rose to the position of chief operating officer, responsible for all aspects of product development, management, marketing, delivery, and support, as well as information technology (IT). He has over 14 years of industry experience in hardware and software engineering and architecture. Prior to his appointment as Bytemobile COO, he served as vice president of Product Development, driving the company’s R&D evolution as the global market leader in mobile video optimization, as well as the delivery of fully integrated network architecture for adaptive traffic management. Before joining Bytemobile, Koopmans was an engineer at Intel Corporation and Silicon Graphics’ Cray Research subsidiary.

He earned a B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Highest Honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and was working toward M.S. and Ph.D degrees at UIUC when he left to help found Bytemobile.

Article abstract

India’s diversity is reflected in its communication networks, which operate on razor thin margins. It is no wonder that Indian carriers seek to “squeeze every last drop of efficiency” out of their network, by deploying a variety of efficiency tools. They are also keen to learn from eat-all-u-can mistakes of data traffic in the West. Therefore, they employ careful network management techniques, based on detecting applications and media types. Policy rules limit ‘greedy’ video sessions during busy hours and caching is used to improve users’ video delivery. TCP optimization dynamically detects the session type and adjusts the TCP settings, and users’ satisfaction is optimized by maintaining an experience score for each subscriber.

Full Article

Two quotes sum up the challenges of doing business in India. Winston Churchill weighed up the country’s diversity saying, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator.” The second quote, from a more enlightened era, comes from current Indian leader Manmohan Singh who outlines a nation with great untapped potential but whose challenges run deep, saying, “India happens to be a rich country inhabited by very poor people”.

Churchill’s statement still holds some merit. With a population of 1.2 billion people speaking any one of 15 official languages, India is the second most populated nation. Its cultures, climate and topographies vary widely and wildly and it is arguably the most diverse nation on earth. India’s population – four times that of the United States — will overtake China’s inside of ten years at current growth rates.

Mobile penetration stands at a little over 80 per cent on average, but drops below 40 per cent in rural areas. With half the population working in agriculture in such rural areas, Indian operators have a massive untapped mobile user group. A majority of the population are using 2G services, mainly for voice, although Analysys Mason forecasts 3G numbers will hit 275 million by 2017 – that’s nearly 23 per cent penetration.

To serve this rapidly growing market there are 13 mobile operators doing business across 22 telecoms ‘circles’ – these are designated geographical areas that have their own license requirements. The operational challenges of building modern mobile networks while accommodating simultaneous, skyrocketing demand in an economically viable way is a huge hurdle for operators, given the razor thin margins on which they operate.

Of the four countries that make up the BRIC quartet, India props up the bottom of the mini-league in terms of its GDP per capita. At £3,851 pa, the World Bank ranks India 127th out of 180 countries globally, with the majority of those with lower GDP being located in Africa. Russian GDP is £23,501, Brazil’s is £11,909 and China’s is £9,233. Within Russia, Brazil and China there is great diversity, of course, but nothing comes close to India’s fragmentation and the highly constrained budgets with which its enterprises – including mobile operators – must conduct business.

The size of the market coupled with the number of operators serving that market and the relatively low levels of personal and business income have resulted in mobile tariffs that are among the lowest in the world. In July, Vodafone India reported its blended average revenue per user (ARPU) was 196 Rupees. At the time of writing, that’s a little under £2 per month. Putting that into perspective, Vodafone UK reported earlier this year its lowest ARPU since 2010: £20.30 per month. That’s over 900 per cent more per user per month. Consequently, Vodafone UK’s 19 million subscribers generate £36 million per month more than Vodafone India’s 173 million subscribers.

Despite all of the socio-political, cultural, geographical and fiscal challenges, India has the second largest physical telecoms network in the world. India’s telecoms market is undergoing a rapid process of evolving its infrastructure to next generation networks. The national regulator, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, auctioned 3G and 4G spectrum in 2010. As with networks in smaller, more uniform, and more economically wealthy nations, Indian telecoms firms employ an extensive system of modern network elements such as digital telephone exchanges, mobile switching centers, media gateways and signaling gateways at the core, interconnected by a wide variety of transmission systems using fiber-optics or microwave radio relay networks. The access network, which connects the subscriber to the core, is highly diversified, making use of different copper-pair, fiber optic and wireless technologies.

Imagine the size and scale of the challenge of delivering connectivity and quality of service for Voice, SMS and Mobile Internet in a market so large, dynamic and demanding, with such tight margins across such a wide range of technologies. It all takes a great deal of resource and, as is well documented, Indian carriers do not operate on limitless budgets.

Fortunately, mobile data connectivity offers new revenue opportunities, the likes of which carriers in more developed markets are well aware. The opportunity is ripe for creative new business models, based on subscriber plans that are designed to increase data adoption. This also opens doors to new two-sided business models where revenue is shared, for example with social networks around video advertising.

Indian carriers will learn lessons from the failures and successes of the approaches taken by carriers elsewhere. In terms of pure quality of service issues related to mobile data, the most widely experienced pitfall stems from sudden increases in demand that the current network infrastructure cannot handle. Perhaps a carrier introduces a new handset or a new price plan that proves popular, subscribers take it up in droves, the network is overrun, and the service is diminished. This scenario is both problematic and the oft-cited “nice problem to have.”

More subscribers equals more traffic and more traffic equals more revenue, which can be re-invested in the network to improve levels of service. However, give too much away too quickly and too cheaply and the traffic increase will not be matched by supportive, sustainable revenue growth. This is the classic decoupling of traffic from revenue that hit a number of carriers following the introduction of all-you-can-eat tariffs to support the boom in smartphone ownership. Until the introduction of LTE, such approaches were exercised as a land-grab opportunity for carriers (particularly the first carriers in each market to sign up to exclusive iPhone deals) in highly penetrated markets. The advent of LTE has seen mobile operators withdraw somewhat from this unsustainable price plan tactic.

This issue would be exacerbated in India where carrier ARPU is painfully low and margins are painfully tight. Growth has to be more measured and more sustainable. Carriers in India must grow with a view to squeezing every last drop of efficiency out of their network. When we talk about improving efficiencies, we’re talking about the intelligent enhancement of mobile subscriber experience and mobile network efficiency through the application of techniques such as web and video optimization, caching, policy control, application detection and traffic management. Improved efficiencies result in reduced network congestion, improved video viewing and faster web browsing for subscribers, and insight into subscriber behavior.

Optimization encompasses dozens of techniques designed to improve the mobile subscriber experience and to improve the ability of the mobile network to accommodate explosive growth in the consumption of video and data. Video optimization techniques enable operators to address the primary cause of subscriber dissatisfaction: video stalling. Subscribers get a better video quality of experience (QoE) even during peak periods of network usage and operators can ease network load by reducing video traffic by as much as 60 per cent. Web optimization enables network operators to cut internet and mobile application traffic by 30-35 per cent, resulting in reduced network congestion and significantly faster web page downloads. Mobile app optimization boosts app performance to up to twice the original speed without requiring additional effort from the mobile device or the mobile network.

To realize the full potential of 2G, 3G and LTE networks, transmission control protocol (TCP) settings must also be optimized to accommodate the unique attributes of the mobile network. TCP optimization can dynamically detect and optimize per-session TCP settings to minimize latency and retransmission, speeding the delivery of content of all types over the mobile network.

Caching improves the overall subscriber experience by moving the most popular content from providers into the operator’s network and closer to the user, thereby reducing delays associated with content servers and reducing mobile operator network overhead. Caching can be employed in a distributed architecture that aligns with operators’ evolving content delivery strategies.

Policy control techniques enable operators to manage the bandwidth use of video, audio and software auto-updates. By applying such policy controls, operators can ensure a great subscriber experience while also minimizing the network impact of overly greedy streaming protocols. For example, software auto-update traffic can be shifted to off-peak hours in order to reduce network traffic load during hours of peak usage. Application detection provides insight into network traffic patterns, allowing operators to make more informed pricing, optimization and policy enforcement decisions.

Traffic management refers to selective application of optimization, caching and policy control and other techniques on a per-subscriber as needed basis, to ensure a great subscriber experience. Adaptive traffic management is made possible by User Experience Indexing (UXI) technology, which is used to establish a real-time mobile data and video experience score for each subscriber. Operators use these and related scores to continuously and adaptively apply appropriate optimization and policy control techniques.

One word sums up India: diverse. No other country in the world offers such an extraordinary mixture of ethnic groups, languages, varieties of topography and climate, diversity of religions and cultural practices, and the range of levels of economic development that India does. It is a land of opportunity and extremes and operators need a diverse range of technical solutions to survive and thrive.


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