Softbank Asks Ericsson for Congestion Relief
Japanese mobile giant Softbank has enlisted the help of Ericsson to build software to dynamically manage network congestion in its heavily trafficked markets.
Together, the duo has come up with Mobility-based Policy software that they say will allow SoftBank Corp. to dynamically allocate radio resources on a per-user, per-terminal basis while also reducing network-wide signaling traffic.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) says the software works by creating a direct connection between its SGSN-MME and its policy controller, enabling the exchange of mobility management and policy decisions to flow between the two. The network then uses that location, user and device data to optimize how it allocates its resources and reduce overall signaling traffic.
Ericsson already supplies the LTE Radio Access Network (RAN), Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and small cells to Softbank, as well as powering VoLTE for the operator. Mobility-based policy is still in the demo stages right now, and Ericsson showed it off this month in Tokyo. (See SoftBank Trials Ericsson's Dot Indoors, Softbank Deploys Ericsson for EPC and Softbank Picks Ericsson for 4G & Packet Core.)
Why this matters
Network congestion management, driven by network awareness, is a crucial technology for mobile operators, especially in crowded cities like Tokyo. Right now, their options for doing so are typically centered on expensive probes in the network from the likes of Ericsson and the other major hardware vendors.
Procera Networks announced a similar software-driven alternative to RAN congestion management last week, but the fact that Ericsson is jumping in suggests more will follow suit as well. It's a technology that operators are asking for, as evidenced by Ericsson's collaboration with Softbank and the fact that Procera is already in trial with a number of operators in Europe and Asia. (See Procera Offers RAN Management Via the SIM.)
Ovum Ltd. analyst Daryl Schoolar points out that while Procera and Ericsson are looking to solve similar problems, Procera is focused on how to get the network data while Ericsson is tackling the real-time decisions that can be made from it. The analyst says that while he's heard other vendors talk about this type of per-user policy-based network control, Softbank is the first operator he's seen put it into action -- but it won't be the last.
"I believe as operators look to fully optimize their networks and create a more consistent user experience we will see more per-user policy-based network solutions," Schoolar says. "Of course this means plenty of mobile operators are going to need to update their PCRF."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading