MetroPCS Polices LTE With Bridgewater

Policy control specialist Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC) has landed something of a coup in the traffic and subscriber management market by joining the Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollout at U.S. mobile operator MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS). (See MetroPCS Picks Bridgewater.)

The deal is significant because the management of data services in current and future mobile networks is going to be critical to carriers, and the market (carriers and vendors alike) is keen to see which companies are landing early deals with the LTE service provider pioneers.

Bridgewater's deal with MetroPCS, which operates in nine of the 15 largest metropolitan markets in the U.S. and boasts about 6.3 million CDMA customers, is believed to be the first publicly announced LTE deal for a standalone policy control vendor.

MetroPCS, which announced its decision to go with LTE for its next-generation mobile network in August, will deploy Bridgewater's Home Subscriber Server (HSS), which holds all the information on subscriber and device profiles and manages subscriber identities, service profiles, authentication, authorization, and quality of service. (See MetroPCS Chooses LTE for 4G Wireless Network.)

The operator will also use Bridgewater's policy controller -- a.k.a, the Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) in 3GPP terminology -- which provides policies for the network, applications, and subscribers, to manage mobile data traffic and offer personalized services.

The vendor says its products will interoperate with the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network elements that Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is providing to MetroPCS. (See Ericsson Lands LTE Gig at MetroPCS , MetroPCS Picks Ericsson, Samsung, and MetroPCS Gets to Work on LTE Phones.)

MetroPCS's move is indicative of just how important policy management is to mobile broadband operators, particularly as they move to all-IP, packet-based next-generation mobile broadband networks, like LTE.

With the dramatic increases in mobile data usage, operators need to manage that traffic to ensure their networks are used most efficiently. In today's 3G networks, for example, Heavy Reading estimates that the volume of data traffic on those networks is growing at 400 percent annually. (See Policy Matters to Mobile Broadband Operators, Policy Players Prosper, and MWC Preview: Rise of the Traffic Cops.)

"Policy control is more important to LTE than it has been [to mobile networks] previously," says Graham Finnie, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. "As a packet-based network, operators have to have a means of controlling the use of resources."

And policy control in LTE is more "subscriber centric," which plays to some of Bridgewater’s strengths, notes Finnie.

For Bridgewater, MetroPCS is the first customer for its LTE products. (See Bridgewater Debuts LTE Suite.)

As such, the deal just might add fuel to some Bridgewater takeover speculation that flared up last week. Reuters reported that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nokia Networks were among the possible suitors for the Canadian vendor, which is seen as ripe for acquisition by several financial analysts. (See Bridgewater Joins Rush to Apps Store and Bridgewater Boasts WiMax Success.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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