If you are a mobile network operator, then I suspect you cannot see the big picture – but I think you need to.
Now that I have your attention, let’s provide a little more context to my statement above. As we all know, policy enforcement solutions on mobile networks have evolved from the days of fixed line cable and DSL solutions. To avoid the added complexity and unfamiliar wireless protocols specified by 3GPP, these early solutions were deployed on the Gi interface, which is the hookup from the GGSN to the “internet”. These early systems just had to deal with Diameter as a stack to the PCRF and the usual IP protocols that we all know and love (OK, I know that I am over-simplifying this somewhat…).
There have always been two fundamental problems with this approach:
- It is intelligent regarding the traffic identification, but it lacks the ability to deeply understand the mobility aspect of wireless and – more importantly – the users
- As a result of the first problem, the policies imposed might not be appropriate to the users or current network conditions….either too restrictive, or not enough
A few years ago we (Continuous Computing) invented the concept of Adaptive Traffic Shaping, a technology architecture that is patent-pending. The premise of Adaptive Traffic Shaping is that a policy enforcement system on a mobile network must have a detailed, real-time awareness down to the cell site and sector level.
The thinking is this: if you don’t have this holistic view, how can you possibly make the best decisions for the user and network? This is something that cannot be provided by current 3GPP standards and needs a probe in the network to gather this information and pass it on to the policy enforcement platform.
As a vendor closely involved in providing policy enforcement technology, and with our strong presence in providing 3G and LTE wireless protocols, it is very satisfying to see our predictions come true and these capabilities being offered in the latest solutions. It is, of course, also good for our business as vendors of both technologies (ATCA DPI platforms and Trillium wireless protocols). By the way, please don’t assume that all “RAN” aware solutions are the same; to deliver the granularity required, one really does need a specialized probe to gather the data using passive versions of the Iu stacks.
Let me throw out another challenge to the technology evangelists and equipment vendors building next generation mobile solutions: Internet Offload gateways are a second, hotly-debated area, especially for 3G. Here the concept is that data traffic can be offloaded before it hits the core network, thereby saving backhaul costs and core network bandwidth.
The big mobile equipment vendors are typically dismissive of this technology, however….just expand your mobile core capacity! The policy enforcement vendors probably view this as outside their remit.
Our prediction – mobile carriers don’t like lots of boxes performing discrete functions. To get a truly holistic solution, the RAN, offload, core network and policy enforcement functions need to all come together as part of a cohesive solution….and this probably also needs to be standardized as part of 3GPP to ensure interoperability.
More on this topic and our recommendations in future blogs….