Optical/IP Networks

MWC Preview: Rise of the Traffic Cops

A combination of disparate factors -- technical, financial, and strategic -- are set to make bandwidth management and policy control two of the key talking points at next week's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona (February 16-19). (See MWC 2009 Preview.)

Basically, mobile data traffic volumes are going through the roof, and while that's good news for revenues and service strategies, it's also giving operators a new challenge from a network, service management, and cost perspective. (See Cisco: Video to Drive Mobile Data Explosion and Managing Bandwidth.)

One way to meet that challenge is through the use of traffic and network resource management platforms and policy control systems, which can be sourced as part of broader, end-to-end systems from the large equipment vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Nokia Networks , and from specialist vendors, such as Allot Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALLT), Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC), Camiant Inc. , and Sandvine Inc. .

And mobile operators are already looking to these technologies and companies to help cope with their data traffic growth. According to the recent Heavy Reading report, "Policy Control & DPI: The New Broadband Imperative," "policy control tools and DPI are probably most widely deployed in cable MSO networks today, but in the medium term wireless cellular and WiMax telcos will be the biggest market for policy tools."

The report continues: "Nearly every vendor we spoke to noted that wireless telcos are scrambling to protect networks as they deploy flat-rate broadband service packages based on High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO); wireless telcos tend to see continuing control over customers as a big priority."

One of those vendors is Allot, which will be showing off its new service gateway (dubbed Sigma) in Barcelona. It says its technology is already deployed in a number (unspecified) of mobile networks, and announced last month that it added five Tier 1 mobile carriers to its customer roster during 2008. (See Allot Unveils New Gateway and Allot Touts Tier 1 Deal.)

Allot product manager Cam Cullen tells Light Reading that one of the main demands from mobile operators is to have service enablement capabilities incorporated into DPI platforms so that applications such as parental control of Website access and URL blocking, along with the prioritization of certain types of traffic (such as VoIP), can be handled in one place.

Those sorts of features, along with greater capacity, all come as part of the ATCA-based Sigma platform package, which boasts 40 Gbit/s throughput.

As for policy control, Allot has developed some capabilities of its own, but has just teamed up with specialist Camiant, which has been making inroads into the mobile market of late. (See Allot, Camiant Hook Up.)

Camiant looks like a good partner to have. It was identified as one of the policy control market's "clear leaders" (along with Bridgewater) in the aforementioned Heavy Reading report, and recently announced a deployment with one of Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s European operations. (See Vodafone Hungary Deploys Camiant, Camiant Leads Policy Control, and Camiant Claims Euro Success.)

Industry gossip also suggests that Camiant is under consideration for Verizon Wireless 's LTE plans. The U.S. mobile giant is set to unveil some vendor choices during the Congress. (See Verizon to Name LTE Vendors at MWC.)

The other policy control market leader, Bridgewater, will also be in Barcelona and is planning "major product and customer announcements." It's already deployed at Verizon and has been making hay with WiMax operators. (See Bridgewater Wins Verizon Deal and Bridgewater Touts WiMax Deals.)

Sandvine, meanwhile, will be showing off its "real-time subscriber-centric policy enforcement and charging" capabilities on the show floor. The company has a number of mobile operator customers, and recently announced new wireless wins in the U.K. and Argentina. (See Sandvine Demos at MWC, Sandvine Boasts Deals, and Sandvine Boasts New Deals.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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