Will Policy Control be the last Frontier for CSPs to Ride Over the Mobile Data Tsunami?
The Mobile Data grew by 70% in 2012 due to surge in the worldwide usage of Smartphones and tablets for accessing communication network data services. The mobile data usage is expected to grow from 0.9 EB (Exabyte)/month in 2012 to 11.2 EB/month in 2017, which is almost 13 times increment from the current level in the upcoming 5 years (as per the Cisco VNI Mobile forecast report 2013). This ever growing demand for Mobile data has augmented the importance of Mobile Broadband Management in recent times. It has become essential for every CSP (Communication Service Provider) to have a control over how their customers, services and networks interact in the telecom-ecosystem.
To successfully ride over this data-tsunami wave and make most out of it, every CSP is facing an uphill task of managing, monetizing and delivering the mobile data services without compromising user experience.
Evolution of Policy Control:
Launch of revolutionary iPhone devices and their instant success in 2007; combined with CSP(s) offering unlimited data plans, resulted in few users (having iPhones) consuming most of service provider’s network resources. Operators turned to Policy control products to resolve this unprecedented business problem. As per the Cisco VNI Mobile forecast report 2013 “top 1% subscribers generated only 16% mobile data traffic in 2012, down from 52% in 2010”; showing operators with help of policy control solutions are able to ensure more equitable usage of their network.
The policy control solutions have evolved during this period; from resolving initial simpler problems to handling more intricate and complex usage cases. The evolution of Policy Control & Data Charging continues to mature to become an effective instrument for traffic management and resource allocation. These solutions provide CSP(s) with indispensable tools for further revenue generation by marketing a whole new set of personalized services.
Spectrum Crunch and Mobile Data Offloading:
Cellular networks operate on licensed spectrum, which is both very expensive and scarce. CSP(s) are finding it very challenging to support ever growing demand of mobile data on their limited spectrum. As result they are planning for both optimally utilizing their existing spectrum assets (with different suitable air interface technologies) and exploring new options to exploit unlicensed spectrum. More and more CSP(s) worldwide are deploying Wi-Fi offload solutions to augment the capacity of their networks.
The usage of multiple air interface (access) technologies including unlicensed band has in turn introduced new set of challenges related to interworking of functional components, intelligent resource allocation, QoS (Quality of Service), access control, rating & charging of data with the ideology of “single account single quota across multiple access networks”.
Adjoining Figure 2 depicts four pillars for effective mobile broadband management. Product companies and system integrators are working to come up with solutions for these emerging and evolving developments. Such Integrated Policy and Charging solutions supporting multiple access technologies would help CSP(s) better manage mobile data broadband networks.
Evolving Network Architecture and Interfaces:
CSPs need innovative yet standard compliant and multi-vendor IOT products to satisfy ever demanding mobile data requirements of their customers. Vendor communities are working alongside specification bodies (e.g. 3GPP, IEEE and BBF) to come up with specifications for policy control solutions and interfaces across multiple access technologies. Such Policy Control solutions are anticipated to integrate seamlessly with the external application servers, charging solutions, core network entities, and subscriber database and become the triggering & control point for their services. The whole arena may be revolutionized with the introduction of new exciting services and applications.
Following Figure 3 depicts some of the interfaces being standardized in 3GPP Rel10, Rel11 and further releases:
The importance of Policy Control and Data Charging solutions has become even more critical with the enhancements to existing technologies and introduction of new Interworking Technologies, such as FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence), I-WLAN (Interworking WLAN), etc. Interworking of these technologies with enhanced Policy Control and Charging Solutions can improve the QoS manifold and further help CSPs in creating/retaining existing/new customer base. In the upcoming years, Policy Control solutions will play very important role for every CSP and will provide a competitive edge over its competitors.