Policy + charging

All's 'Fair' in Love & Bandwidth Management

Now that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) EVP and CTO Tony Werner has given us a broad sense of what the MSO has in mind with its forthcoming "protocol agnostic" bandwidth management system, we'll be keeping our ears to the ground on how the MSO's suppliers are trying to fit the bill. (See Comcast CTO: Manage People, Not Protocols.)

We already know what Camiant Inc. is up to, after it introduced a "Fair Use Management" (FUM) extension to its policy server platform, noting that it could help operators deploy byte "quotas" as part of their bandwidth management systems. (See Camiant Intros 'Fair Use' Bandwidth System.) Not long after, word spread that Comcast is noodling a monthly 250 gigabyte cap, though the MSO has not formally announced what it will do in this area. (See Comcast Caps Coming? )

This week at The Cable Show, Sandvine Inc. , a purported Comcast supplier, became the latest vendor to jump on the "fair" theme, announcing a traffic management addition called "FairShare." (See Sandvine Unveils FairShare.)

Taking an "application-agnostic" approach, FairShare looks to mete out network resources equitably during periods of congestion, which happens to sounds a lot like the process Comcast's Tony Werner outlined.

FairShare is an "enhancement" to Sandvine's traffic optimization product suite, known for its deep packet inspection (DPI) capabilities. The addition also incorporates some of the tech it obtained via its acquisition last year of CableMatrix Technologies Inc., which, like Camiant, develops policy servers. (See Sandvine on Acquisition Spree.)

"The objective [of FairShare] is to rationally and efficiently allocate resources under conditions of congestion when there is heavy load," Tom Donnelly, a founder and SVP of Sandvine, tells Cable Digital News.

Still, he believes there are benefits to taking an application-centric approach to bandwidth management. Peer-to-peer, he says, still absorbs more of the traffic mix, but its rate of growth has started to slow down as consumers spend more using apps embedded into social networking services.

Donnelly says Sandvine has customers -- none he can name -- that have already deployed FairShare in production networks during just the last couple of months. Combined, those FairShare-enabled networks are serving more than 1 million broadband customers. Other service providers -- both wired and wireless -- are evaluating it to see how it might fit into their bandwidth management systems, according to Donnelly.

Was FairShare developed at the behest of Comcast? "This was not developed in response to any one customer's specific requirement or concerns," Donnelly says.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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