|Issue:||Europe I 2014|
|Topic:||Four reasons to optimize LTE and LTE-advanced ne|
Liam Galin is the President and CEO of Flash Networks; he has over 20 years of experience in the communications field. Previously, Mr. Galin last worked at RiT as CEO. Prior to his joining RiT, Mr. Galin served in an elite technology unit of the Israel Defence Forces for nine years, holding several technical and managerial positions.
Liam Galin holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering, both from Tel Aviv University.
Many mobile operator are concerned that LTE increased speed is not enough. Downloading speeds are the single most important differentiator, and are the trigger for subscribers churn, hence speed is also the competitive edge. Speeds are particularly apparent in viewing videos, when just eight second of stalled transmission will cause users to abandon viewing. For this reason, video optimisation gets attention first. However, this does not covers software downloading which now counts for 30-40% , or browsing that engages users for longer periods of time. Therefore, the most effective method is optimising TPC, which underpins all types of packet traffic.
LTE networks enable operators to offer their subscribers new products and services, higher download speeds, and lower latencies – all of which contribute to an exciting new experience for subscribers. However, with subscribers’ insatiable desire for mobile data, it is not clear if the extra boost in speed will be enough.
Most leading tier-one operators have already implemented optimization in their 3G networks to improve performance, increase brand competitiveness, and reduce network costs. However, the question remains, is optimization relevant for LTE and LTE-Advanced networks as well? And if so, how is LTE optimization different from 3G network optimization?
This article provides four key facts regarding LTE optimization.
1. LTE is fast but not fast enough
LTE has a theoretical top speed of around 100 Mbit/s – which is much faster than even old-fashioned fixed-line broadband over copper. However, no matter how fast theoretically 4G is, these networks still suffer from congestion as traffic continues to increase. Strategy Analytics has predicted an increase of 300% in handset data traffic to 21 Exabytes in 2017.
Based on Flash Networks’ global data total traffic estimates, the improvement in network speed from LTE will be eroded in approximately one year due to the increase in data traffic. Based on a recent survey conducted by Flash Networks at an LTE tradeshow, many mobile operator executives are concerned that even with recent increases in speed, their networks could use another boost, especially in the face of competition. Participants were asked several questions to see if they felt their networks were capable of meeting expectations.
Remarkably, 68% of the approximately 50 carriers surveyed believed that their network was not fast enough. More surprisingly, however, is that approximately 50% of the executives surveyed rated their network as ‘very fast’ (20Mbps or faster). So while there are a fair number of operators who are delivering pretty potent performance, most of them are still looking to do even better. Indeed, 64% indicated that they wanted to implement solutions on their networks to improve speed.
This is not so surprising considering that with smartphones and data packages becoming a commodity, download speeds are the single most important differentiator for mobile operators. Several speed trials across the globe conducted by Connect Magazine, PC Week, and others tested and then announced with fanfare the fastest operator networks.
In the end, customer loyalty is at stake. Fast download speeds can attract subscribers, while slow download speeds can become a reason to switch operators. Download speeds are a strong influence on subscriber satisfaction and abandonment rates. A recent Flash Networks study revealed that subscribers who experienced eight or more seconds of video stalls (buffering) were 73% more likely to abandon video viewing.
Indeed, carriers are all too aware that this shift has happened. In the same operator poll, 75% felt that speed is one of the most important competitive advantages a carrier has. For today’s carriers, being fast is the minimum requirement – they need to be the fastest in order to stay ahead of the competition, and ultimately keep up with consumer demands.
2. Video optimization is only one part of the story
Everyone’s talking about the fact that mobile video viewing is the major factor contributing to the growth in mobile data traffic. Cisco’s latest VNI research predicted that by 2017 66% of network traffic will be attributed to mobile video. Some optimization vendors believe that implementing video transcoding will provide network relief.
While video is anticipated to take up the majority of bandwidth, optimizing only video traffic is still only a partial solution because:
• Web browsing and apps still provide ~30-40% of network traffic.
• Users spend more time browsing, downloading, and using apps than watching video.
• Software downloads, such as operating system or app upgrades, have become a significant part of mobile traffic – sometimes up to 30-40%.
• The vast majority of videos are transmitted over TCP, therefore optimizing TCP is no less important than pure video optimization.
By ignoring these significant segments of traffic, video optimization only solves a small part of the network congestion problem.
Another cost-effective way for operators to dramatically improve user quality of experience is to optimize TCP traffic to give the whole network a turbo boost, immediately accelerating all traffic, including video. Since TCP increases the network speed as a percentage of current speeds, videos will start faster and suffer fewer stalls.
Since 4G browsing provides a blazing fast viewing experience, acceleration of even 100% does little to improve the overall experience. However, if the focus is shifted to larger size objects such as downloads and multimedia, acceleration can make a real difference. TCP optimization enables download acceleration by overcoming inherent protocol inefficiencies and dynamically adjusting transmission rates based on real-time network conditions.
As proof, in the last few months, five operators from around the globe, won first place in network regulator speed trials after implementing TCP optimization, thereby improving their former years’ competitive position.
3. Optimizing congested traffic is a step in the right direction
Optimizing traffic on congested cells can provide significant benefits, using techniques such as compression and transcoding, especially during busy hours. But there is little sense in optimizing congested user sessions only; an optimization system must process all traffic, at least at wire-speed levels. Besides compression, there are other optimization techniques, such as TCP optimization and caching techniques that provide significant acceleration for all network traffic. TCP optimization provides up to 50% improvement in speed. Advanced caching techniques add value as latency in the radio is reduced on LTE, making latency on the IP transit relatively more significant.
In addition, optimization systems that handle only congested sessions cannot provide accurate analytics on all network traffic since they handle only up to 5% of total traffic. By optimizing all network traffic, operators can collect better analytics for network planning and for personalized targeting for mobile advertising.
Therefore, the most effective way to optimize mobile traffic is to provide TCP optimization and analytics on all traffic all the time, and provide web and video optimization only during congestion episodes, thus saving significantly on hardware.
4. Optimization needs to step up to handle LTE traffic
Although many techniques (such as transcoding, compression, caching, pacing, transport optimization, and rendering optimization) are used in both 3G and LTE, they differ in their architecture, settings, and network sensitivity.
LTE optimization puts more emphasis on handling congestion, improving user experience without degrading video and image quality, implementing policy awareness and user control, saving battery life, and more. Due to the higher speed of LTE, LTE optimization must have significantly lower latencies. In addition, LTE optimization must be more scalable since it needs to support dozens of gigabits.
TCP optimization needs to be flexible enough in order to handle the varying network conditions of LTE, LTE-Advanced, and even handovers to legacy 3G and 2.5G. In order to do that, the standard configuration per bearer is not enough and results in sub-optimal optimization.
The introduction and deployment of LTE and LTE-Advanced networks offers real promise for both subscribers and operators worldwide. It brings the potential for revolutionary change in quality of experience for mobile broadband. However, it also introduces significant new challenges for mobile operators.
With the rapid increase in mobile data traffic, just like we saw happen with 3G networks, LTE can benefit from an evolved optimization solution that will enable operators to keep a strong competitive advantage by providing the fastest network service for their subscribers.