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Policy + charging

Mobile Operators Hot for Policy Control

There is no question that policy management tools are in big demand as many mobile operators look to Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) to control the flood of data traffic crashing through their networks.

Some policy server vendors and deep packet inspection (DPI) specialists say they are seeing "high double-digit growth, some triple digit," according to Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, who hosted Light Reading's second annual "Policy Control, DPI & The Mobile Packet Core Virtual Event" on Tuesday (Dec. 7). Finnie said there is little doubt that "at least for the next year or two that robust growth is going to continue." (See Vodafone Flexes Traffic Management Muscle, Policy Charges Into 4G World, and Who Is Packing a PCRF?)

But while mobile data traffic continues to increase at unprecedented rates and business is booming for policy server vendors, it is not clear whether policy management will have the bigger role in mobile networks that is predicted by some in the industry. (See Boom Time for Policy.)

A recent Heavy Reading survey of more than 70 telecom and mobile operators indicates that policy management could become more sophisticated and complex. (See Policy Player Ready to Rumble .)

"We are in a new world, in which it's reasonable for us to anticipate that policy is going to become more core, more complex, more strategic," said Finnie.

The survey showed that the top reason for deploying policy management was to enforce "fair use" rules for mobile data usage. But the respondents ranked highly other catalysts for using policy control, which have less to do with managing traffic and more to do with using these tools to create new revenue-generating services.

For example, among the top five catalysts for deploying policy management are "enable us to offer tiered or customized service;" "improve our ability to meter and charge customers for service features;" and "enable us to understand subscriber behavior and create profiles."

"So we're likely to see more sophisticated deployments going forward," said Finnie about these survey results.

But Finnie pointed out that there are some big questions about policy control that will determine its future role in the network. These include: "Can we easily and seamlessly integrate with all the enforcement elements, charging and billing systems? Can we make it easy to create and deploy policies? Can we do it end-to-end? In real-time, at cell level?"

Those are just a few questions, but Finnie listed about half a dozen more, which highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing this part of the SPIT market.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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