Bell Mobility keeps tabs on its LTE traffic usage in the same way that Nasdaq keeps its financial network going. The Canadian telco might not risk losing millions of dollars every second the way Nasdaq does, but treating its network like it could has helped it trim the fat, save costs and increase efficiency in the process.
The carrier has been working with performance monitoring and analytics vendor SevOne Inc. since 2012 to measure its LTE traffic in one-second intervals rather than the usual one-minute segments. By doing so, it's built an understanding of LTE traffic spikes -- like the 34% spike it saw during the soccer World Cup -- and is using that information to eliminate waste in its network.
By waste, the carrier is referring to several different things that Zlatko Zahirovic, manager of wireless network connectivity at Bell Mobility Inc. , recently outlined for Light Reading. First, waste means excess LTE spectrum. It's not an issue many operators have, but Zahirovic said that after seeing the havoc the iPhone wreaked on AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s network back in 2007, Bell Mobility "grossly, grossly" over-provisioned all its LTE capacity, spending around $26 million over the last seven years.
"It was simple, but introduced a lot of waste," he explained. That's why the company turned to SevOne, which also works with big names such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Verizon Wireless , Sky and Telstra Global , in addition to new customer Nasdaq. Now Bell Mobility knows exactly what bandwidth it needs where so it won't find itself in the position of throwing unnecessary spectrum at the network again. (See SevOne Acquires Log Analytics Startup.)
Waste also came into play with Bell Mobility's 2G and 3G networks, which it still maintains in many areas. By keeping a close eye on areas where LTE was performing well and was used by the majority of its 7.8 million customers, the wireless operator could determine where LTE was sufficient -- accounting for 90% or more of all traffic -- for it to re-farm its legacy networks.
Bell Mobility was also wasting money in the form of expensive truck rolls for troubleshooting cell sites and hardware to test backhaul circuit/microwave links. Finally, Zahirovic said the carrier was also wasting manpower and time from all the on-site testing and maintenance its network required -- all things he says SevOne let it reduce.
"The principle requirement for the tool was capacity and performance management, making sure we have a proactive view, which we didn't before," Zahirovic said of SevOne's monitoring platform.
Bell Mobility preps for a network transformation
Vess Bakalov, founder and CTO of SevOne, said that, through analytics, Bell Mobility -- like a lot of other 4G operators -- learned that a lot of its network stress was occurring at the edge of its network because of the "bursty" nature of LTE traffic. Now they are monitoring the entire network and, with capacity planning under control, are looking for ways to monetize the service quality they can now guarantee.
"I think it comes down to big data versus bigger data," Bakalov says. "They [Bell] have currently the best handles among all the carrier of how capacity planning evolves. The trends they have are so clear. It makes it much more straightforward to allocate capital."
Bell Mobility currently has 15 teams and more than 400 users all tapping into the performance monitoring platform and reports that SevOne provides, but it's looking beyond that. The carrier is in the midst of what Zahirovic calls Network Transformation through which it's working to completely tear down silos within its organization and reshape its business into a "one-network approach to everything we do." Along with its parent company BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), it currently has different teams to build out wireless access, deploy IPTV or install FTTx, all working at their own pace on their own platforms.
"With Network Transformation, we are trying to synergize all of that and go to one building and say 'we'll give you wireless, TV, macro site and so on,'" Zahirovic said. That involves replacing all its analytics platforms -- InfoVista SA , HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) or OVPI -- with SevOne to create a common portal both internally and for customers to access their services, as well as integrating SevOne with its OSS.
Right now, Bell Mobility uses physical appliances from the vendor, but it's also discussing going the virtualized route. Zahirovic sees virtualization as one of the biggest driving forces behind Network Transformation, even if it's a technology that is also likely to change the nature of its analysis all over again. (See Analytics in a World of SDN, NFV & IoT.)
"SevOne will also be looking out for that," Zahirovic said. "That's an OSS push."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading