How to get 20% bandwidth more out of mobile nets

Randy Fuller, vice president, business development of policy software Camiant, claims it\'s possible to squeeze the equivalent of 20% or more bandwidth out of mobile networks during peak times with the right approach. By which he means being able to change the rules dynamically, on a per session basis, whether the session is online gaming or email or browsing.

Camiant\'s background is in the cable industry, which felt the pinch with network capacity before the mobile infrastructure. Now the same problem is being faced by mobile operators who are facing an increase in traffic of between six and 14 times, while revenue will only increase by between 10 and 30% during 2009.

Fuller says, "What we learned from the fixed world is that the pressure on the network is not all the time with everything, just at peak periods when network utilisation is running at two to three times its normal rate. This peak loading is what usually drives investment in more bandwidth, but we think it should drive how you control and prioritise traffic at those times."

He stresses, "The important factor to take into account is that 80-90% of mobile operators\' CAPEX is spent on the radio access network (RAN), handset subsidies aside, making the cost per bit carried across the RAN costs around 10 times more than across the fixed line network. This means operators have to get maximum value from assets as mobile increasingly becomes the primary means of internet access."

Vodafone Hungary deployed Camiant\'s software to address this problem, opting to drop those customers who have broached the guideline monthly mobile data allocation down to 2G network speed during peak hours for applications that can tolerate latency. The idea was that this gives everyone else more capacity while avoiding charging the over-the-recommended-limit customers extra.

Fuller explains, "We wanted to get a handle on how this approach to prioritising traffic could help mobile operators, so we turned to Finnish network modelling company Omnitele to help us do that. We asked it to look at traffic before and after we applied these rules - to find out what happens to the overall bandwidth if you just control these very heavy users."

Omnitele carried out a "very detailed analysis, based on conservative assumptions" and discovered the effect was a 20%+ gain in bandwidth during the peaks.

Fuller claims, "The approach enables you to run the network hotter, to carry a lot more bits before you need to expand capacity, by figuring out not just how to do this, but when."

Perhaps equally importantly in a situation where the mobile industry in Europe (and elsewhere) is under increasing regulatory scrutiny, it should also help avoid the rows over traffic shaping and network neutrality   that have enmired fixed access to the internet. These issues threaten to become a massive issue with considerable repercussions to all for all those that provide fixed access and the mobile industry has enough headaches without going down the same route.