SK Telecom aims to license, standardize Smart Push

SK Telecom wants other operators to license its Smart Push technology for use in their networks and is also driving to have the technology become standardized.

SKT developed Smart Push to prevent network overloads from third-party messenger and social networking (SNS) applications that constantly ping the network with "keep alive" signals to maintain connections between the handset and network, SKT spokeswoman Irene Kim told FierceBroadbandWireless.

The Smart Push platform is positioned between network and third-party application servers and constantly monitors the status of those servers as well as push notifications, controlling all of the signals in order to maintain data connections. Smart Push can be deployed in areas of high congestion and customized based on changing traffic patterns.

Click above to view a larger version of this diagram (PDF).

Smart Push helps an operator control network congestion by restricting the number of keep-alive signals sent--minus Smart Push, some apps will send 30 or 40 keep-alive signals an hour--and restricting multiple apps' keep-alive signals to a single tunnel of communications, Kim said. "Some third-party application providers don't care how their keep-alive signals will affect mobile networks," she said.

But she said forward-thinking third-party service providers appreciate what Smart Push can accomplish. "It's a way OTT players and mobile operators can cooperate," said Kim, because OTT providers have as much to gain as carriers from preventing network congestion.

Smart Push can be compared in some ways to Apple's Push Notification service, which forwards notifications from third-party app service to Apple devices. Smart Push, which is currently being applied to Android OS devices, cannot be applied to Apple's iOS because it is not an open platform, said Kim. Google also has a similar product, Google Cloud Messaging (GSM) for Android service, which replaced an earlier framework called Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM).

"The solutions that Apple and Google provide are not for mobile operators. So they're very different from what SK Telecom provides," said Kim.

SK Telecom deployed Smart Push in its 3G network in June 2011 and started adding it to its LTE network early this year. The operator is working with the Open Mobile Alliance to standardize Smart Push. "We are expecting that next year we'll be able to standardize it," said Kim.

Kim denied Korean media reports that said Vodafone Group has committed to use Smart Push in its networks, though she confirmed SK Telecom earlier this year discussed Smart Push and other technologies with Vodafone.

SK Telecom has convinced two infrastructure vendors that there is value in adopting Smart Push in the network gear they sell to operators outside of South Korea. SK Telecom has signed a contract with Samsung Electronics and a Memorandum of Understanding with Nokia Siemens Networks.

Solutions along the lines of Smart Push, which help operators manage the impact of over-the-top (OTT) traffic on the mobile networks, are increasingly in demand, particularly as new mobile broadband networks enable users to consume vast amounts of data. One recent study by Informa Telecoms & Media and industry vendor Mobidia found that U.S. LTE Android smartphone customers use vastly more data on OTT apps such as Netflix and Hulu than their non-LTE peers, giving credence to the notion that subscribers with a faster connection and lower latency will consume more data.

Related articles:
OTT: The monster under the bed
Report: LTE subscribers use more data in over-the-top content apps
How to make OTT and mobile play well together
Report: Tackling OTT services requires a targeted approach

This article was updated on Aug. 28, 2012, to clarify the types of applications and devices to which Smart Push is applied.