Optimizing mobile data traffic

The mobile data traffic tsunami has become a cliché. Industry players across the globe are touting phenomenal mobile data growth in the face of saturating to weary listeners, who have “heard it all before”.
Often lost in this rhetoric of doom is the variety of data optimization solutions being
offered in the marketplace.
As mobile operators pursue data optimization strategies, they are faced with a variety of challenges. Several key strategic considerations include the following:

• Mobile network optimization has traditionally been the domain of radio network engineers, whose intimate understanding of base station design, radio propagation and physical network architectures, only partially address the optimization requirements for mobile data services. Data optimization solutions that are being touted in the marketplace introduce a slew of new concepts such as video coding schemes, caching algorithms, and complex policy regimes. Service providers must augment their network organizations with experts who have an intimate understanding of mobile data.
• There is a growing role for systems integration as data optimization solutions evolve and service delivery environments become more complicated. These complications will largely be driven by the need for mobile operators to create differentiated user experiences as the variety of complex devices and services proliferate and networks migrate towards heterogeneous architectures. Strategies that are ecosystem (as opposed to point-solution) orientated will be necessary for service providers to navigate these complications. Ecosystems must be analyzed according to key service flows, such as premium and non-premium video, web access and mobile social networking. Each service flow will have distinct ecosystem requirements that must be prioritized amongst market segments and optimized according to the overall business objectives of the mobile service provider.
• Solutions capable of scaling to future mobile traffic demands are critical. The scalability considerations go well beyond traditional “speeds and feeds” to incorporate other dimensioning factors such as processor capacity, and to distinguish between the performance of purpose built versus specialist hardware and software solutions. For example, recent challenges with mobile signaling congestion are typically the result of inadequate radio network controller (RNC) processor capacity, as opposed to network bandwidth.

A fundamental trend that underpins mobile data optimization initiatives is the convergence of the network and IT domains within traditional mobile operations. This is a trend that the industry as a whole must address, particularly as mobile data networks continue to evolve, and the roles of
the chief technology and chief information officers (CTO/CIO) blur. It is perhaps organizational demarcation challenges as opposed to technology which create the greatest challenge for mobile operators as they pursue mobile data market opportunities.   
Phil Marshall, PhD is Chief Research Officer at Tolaga Research. For more information contact: [email protected] or go to www.tolaga.com/