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Current approaches to mobile network and content optimisation will fail to address the real requirements of managing the growth of mobile data in current and next generation networks. The proliferation of mobile devices means that not only are we ‘always-connected’, but that we are also increasingly accessing richer content such as YouTube videos and media-rich social networking services. On top of this, the advent of 4G/LTE network enhancements will bring increased user expectations for faster and smoother access to more and richer content, which will only add to data consumption.
Whilst optimisation techniques have improved over time, they haven’t gone far enough to support the massive volume of mobile data expected in the coming years. The “optimise all” model, currently used to reduce overall data volume, will no longer keep pace with exploding traffic demands. From a total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective, optimisation will not be sustainable in the future. The predicted cost of managing the delivery of all this data means that for mobile network operators (MNOs) to maintain profitability in the long run, it’s time for a new era of optimisation.
The need for a new approach to mobile data optimisation is reflected in today’s key performance indicators (KPIs) which focus on volume reduction. But overall volume in the network is not the critical issue: increasing volume is inevitable. What’s more, in today’s business models, where customers pay for data by the megabit or gigabit, a reduction in overall volume equals a reduction in revenue for the operator.
The new era of mobile data optimisation has to fulfil two main requirements for operators: firstly, to provide a satisfying user experience at all times, and secondly, to keep the cost of the network and capacity expansion investment manageable.
Subscribers expect constant and consistently good user experience: after all, that’s what they pay for. They don’t understand that their experience might be affected by being in a busy cell at a busy time. An operator has to deliver on these expectations whilst taking into account the ongoing capital and operating expenses of the network. Yet congestion problems that cause disruptions in user experience are not consistent across the network, but transient and localised.
Optimisation must evolve: the optimise-all approach is a sledgehammer when, in fact, it’s only a scalpel that is often required. Mobile data optimisation shouldn’t be aimed at reducing overall volume: instead it should keep a real-time lookout for signs of congestion in order to predict congestion just before it occurs, ensuring that optimisation is applied only when absolutely necessary.
We believe that MNOs should adopt an evolved approach to optimisation which addresses these issues by redefining optimisation as a congestion management and quality of experience (QoE) approach, rather than a volume reduction technique. Only then can the direct link between traffic growth and data optimization investment may be broken.
Beyond identifying congestion just before it occurs, MNOs should be able to implement cloud-based caching and optimisation to more efficiently manage resources in a distributed model. This means that optimisation resources are utilised only when needed and where they provide benefit to the user, with faster page load times and fewer video stalls; and to the mobile operator by targeting only areas that, at a given point in time, have insufficient capacity.
This evolved approach to optimisation enables operators to decouple investment in optimisation infrastructure from soaring data volume growth. Without it, MNOs will find it more and more challenging to maintain sustainable levels of infrastructure investment as the need for optimisation grows: thus, evolved optimisation is necessary to ensure sustainable profitability as volume increases exponentially.
How MNOs cope with the explosion of data across their networks is crucial to their long-term profitability. By focusing on real needs – user experience and resource management – an evolved approach to optimisation can scale with the problem and not with the rapid increase in overall traffic volume.
To return to the question you posed, “The Data Capacity Crunch: Are we still in it?”, the answer is maybe. It is true that data (especially video) consumption has and will continue to grow. But it doesn’t have to cause a “crunch”, at least not if the operators evolve their approach to it.
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Noam Green is VP Marketing at Mobixell.