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ATIS Network Optimization Focus Group finds ways to use existing technology to help wireless and wireline networks handle the crunch

September 13, 2011

4 Min Read
New Standards Proposed for Future Bandwidth Relief

A new report from the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) identifies specific things that can be done to alleviate congestion on wireless and wireline networks, so they can handle growing traffic, such as OTT video, cost-effectively and without violating net-neutrality rules. (See ATIS Targets Ways to Ease Bandwidth Crunch.)

The Network Optimization Focus Group Assessment and Recommendations report takes an in-depth look at every aspect of congestion, and recommends necessary next moves by standards organizations, as well as new approaches to network architecture and technology deployment. These solutions are intended to meet real-world challenges for costs and regulatory compliance.

You can find a free copy of the report here.

"We in the ATIS community are interested in seeing alignment in the industry on multiple fronts on the use of network optimization and a policy-enabled network, in order to implement the kind of bandwidth optimization that will be critical, especially for wireless networks," says Kevin Sparks, director, Bell Labs Network Technology, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

The report picks seven specific use cases to address, but in doing so identifies the key standards that are required to create useful building blocks to address a broader range of congestion challenges, adds Tom Anderson, director of Wireless Architecture and Evolution in the Service Provider Chief Technology Office at Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR),

"We hope this starts an industry discussion about cool new optimization things, for applications we haven't even thought of yet," Anderson says.

The technology exists today to give network operators the tools to better manage traffic on their networks, particularly during peak usage times, and to create ways of shifting some traffic off the peak. But that technology, including policy management, compression and even network security, often is deployed in individual network elements or multiple elements from a single vendor, Sparks says, and knitting those elements together is a complex job for any service provider.

"The kinds of optimizations we looked at are more end-to-end in the network, and since most networks are multi-vendor, they need to be supported by standard interfaces," Sparks says. "That's one of the key enablers that we are trying to address."

The ATIS report lays out possible next steps for multiple standards groups, including other ATIS focus groups, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) , the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) .

The key things the report identifies as needed to implement network optimization end-to-end include:

  • Congestion Awareness: Key congestion points in the network such as the Radio Access Network (RAN) need to be able to provide accurate and timely indications of congestion that will trigger the need for further action. The IETF's Congestion Exposure initiative is addressing this, Sparks says, but it is more of a holistic and long-term approach, and some intermediate steps are needed now.

  • Policy: The Policy Decision Function within a network also needs standard ways of learning about the state of the network and of individual subscribers, from other network systems such as analytics or operations, administrations and maintenance functions.

  • Traffic Detection The ATIS task force believes it may not be practical to standardize all specific Traffic Detection Functions that are applied in-line today to different traffic flows. It recommends providing an applications-specific user priority over the network interface between the Policy Decision Function and the Traffic Decision Function. Network operators can then define how they want to apply and enforce their policy rules.

  • Application/Network Interfaces One of the major challenges, especially with the M2M market looming, is to reduce the massive amount of signaling traffic generated by devices as they come alive and then go dormant. This problem first developed with the iPhone and other smartphones, but could be much worse when many millions more small devices are connected to the network. The ATIS report says creation of standard APIs will "either replace or synchronize short duration but frequent signaling activity." (See Apple Cuts iPhone Signalling Chatter.)

By helping vendors get to more standard approaches, ATIS believes it can also encourage more deployment of the standard technology by operators, Anderson says.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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