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Euro Carrier Issues Policy Control RFP

Finland's Elisa Corp. is evaluating suppliers as part of an RFP (request for proposal) for mobile data applications management technology that will help it develop its 3G services strategy.

The operator, which has nearly 3.3 million mobile customers in Finland, including more than 900,000 3G users, is looking to source deep packet inspection (DPI) and policy control systems to help manage its growing volumes of mobile data traffic.

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Networks are among the Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) vendors participating in the RFP, Elisa's head of access networks Eetu Prieur told Light Reading Mobile, but he didn't say how many other vendors were involved in the evaluation process. (See The SPIT Manifesto.)

It's not likely to be too long before Elisa's new policy management supplier is known, however, because the operator wants to select a vendor by the end of this year, according to Prieur.

Elisa is looking for policy management smarts -- or what Prieur calls "application-based quality of service (QoS)" capabilities -- so that it can share mobile network resources fairly among all of its customers as data traffic continues to grow. (See Data Surge Fuels Policy Control Boom and Policy Control Key to Personalized Services .)

"We want to be as fair to our customers in providing capacity as possible," said Prieur.

For example, if an Elisa customer downloads 60GB of data per month for peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, and another customer has paid an extra subscription fee for a mobile-TV service, then it's not fair that they should get equal network resources, in Prieur's view. The latter customer should get the network data speed and quality needed for mobile TV, while the P2P user has a best-effort connection.

For Elisa, though, the emphasis is on enabling a positive experience for is value-added services customers, rather than throttling back, or cutting off, heavy data users. The operator wants to use the DPI and policy control servers it's sourcing to help create new premium services and thus generate new revenue -- at least for now. (See The SPIT Manifesto.)

"I don't like to block anyone's traffic," said Prieur. "Networks are built to be able to transfer this traffic. But never say never -- I don't know [the future]."

Elisa's view is in contrast to Sweden's Telia Company , which already limits P2P file sharing on its 3G as well as LTE networks. (See TeliaSonera Limits P2P Over LTE .)

Elisa has dabbled in offering differentiated 3G services with the implementation of a QoS differentiation tool in the radio access network (RAN) sourced from Nokia Siemens. This enables Elisa to charge a fee to customers who want prioritized mobile data services when the network gets overloaded.

Elisa charges around €10 (US$14) per month for the premium service, which was introduced in May this year, but only about 1 percent of customers have taken it up, according to Prieur. (See Elisa Does QoS With NSN.)

He says the next step in Elisa's QoS strategy is to introduce DPI and policy control. "You can give prioritization according to the real needs of the customers," he said, adding that he expects to see a lot of activities around QoS next year in the market.

"It's generally accepted that these QoS mechanisms are needed because we need to have a more fair system to divide these [network resources]" when there are bottlenecks, he said.

At the beginning of this year, Elisa ran pilot tests on the policy control equipment from its radio access suppliers, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens. The operator is in the process of reviewing these, as well as platforms from other vendors, as part of the current RFP process, and it wants to select a vendor before 2011.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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