O2 Germany Turns On DPI

MUNICH -- Huawei Mobile User Congress -- Telefónica O2 Germany GmbH & Co. OHG launched Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) capabilities across its 3G mobile broadband network last week to monitor customers' service usage and throttle bandwidth when needed, VP of network development in Germany Reinhard Herr told attendees here today.

Herr said the operator turned on the DPI capabilities on July 1, noting that DPI is part of a broader Europewide strategy for the operator.

"We want to understand what our customers are using to understand what kind of services we want to support," he stated.

O2 recently upgraded all of its 3G cell sites in Germany to 7.2 Mbit/s, and Herr said customers are "eating up this capacity immediately."

More specifically, the operator has found that 5 percent of its customers are using 80 percent of network capacity. Herr explained that most of O2's 14.5 million customers in Germany are young consumers (rather than business users) who are mainly using mobile data in the evenings at home. The devices being used to hog most of the 3G network capacity are USB modems such as Huawei's E160 and Options Icon 210.

"We have a lot of young customers and they're sensitive to speed. They're competitive with each other to see who has the fastest applications."

Once O2 can see what services customers are using with the DPI capabilities, which are supplied by Huawei, it can use AAA (Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting) functionality to make changes to a customer's service in real time. For example, if a user exceeds her limit of 10 Gbytes of data downloaded in one month -- which O2 offers for a monthly fee of €25 -- it can slow the bandwidth supply down to 128 kbit/s for that user.

"In a real-time manner, we can limit throughput per customer and on [the] service," he says.

DPI is a hot topic for mobile operators, as the increase in mobile data traffic on 3G networks has pushed capacity limits, particularly at certain times of the day. And with the even faster mobile broadband promised by Long Term Evolution (LTE), some say the need for DPI in mobile networks will be greater. (See MWC Preview: Rise of the Traffic Cops, Policy Tech, Policy Rules?, and DPI (Hearts) LTE.)

With DPI, operators can monitor which customers are using what services and when, and then determine whether to throttle the bandwidth for heavy users, if necessary, to free up capacity for other customers. (See Starent Adds Smarts to LTE Core, Allot, Camiant Hook Up, Verizon Rides a Mobile Data Wave, Deep Packet Inspection: Coming Soon to a Network Near You, and Continuous Pushes LTE, DPI.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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