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Policy + charging

Policy Control Heats Up

Questions surrounding who gets to use carrier bandwidth are heating up, but simple answers for controlling network services are still a ways off.

Ideas surrounding policy control remain vague, and it's up to network operators to change that, analyst Caroline Chappell writes in "Policy-Based Service Control: Rules of Order," a report recently published by Light Reading's Services Software Insider. (See Why Policy Control Matters and Policy Control Is Key.)

"What operators should be doing –- and what the standards bodies working in this area are encouraging them to do –- is to create a policy architecture: a unified framework that embraces all the layers of policy needed in their organization," Chappell writes.

The issue has gotten the spotlight lately in the "Net neutrality" debate, where BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) proclaims it should be allowed to charge the service providers that piggy-back on its IP network -- an idea Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) quickly denounced. For what it's worth, 62 percent of the respondents in a recent Light Reading poll think providers are justified in asking for a "QOS fee." (See Net Neutrality Goes to Washington, Google Says No to QOS Fees, and LR Poll: Net 'Squatters' Should Pay.)

But talk of policy control has floated for more than a year. This was at the heart of the Infranet Initiative launched by Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR); the group morphed into the IPsphere Forum last summer, presumably in order to get Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) into the fold. (See Infranet Becomes IPsphere.)

Other standards bodies getting involved include CableLabs , European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Tispan, the MultiService Forum , and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) .

As you'd expect, startups have also flocked to the rescue: Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC), Camiant Inc. , Leapstone Systems Inc. , Operax AB , Redknee Inc. (Toronto TSX: RKN), and Tazz Networks Inc. all target some piece of the problem. Many, such as Stoke Inc. , are tapping into the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure for their architectures. (See Stoke Stokes 'Net Neutrality' Flames.)

The idea is also attracting companies beyond the equipment sphere, such as BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS), which is offering policy-control modules in its WebLogic Network Gatekeeper.

Anyone attempting this approach previously had to build the services themselves. As one example, Chappell cites Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA , an Italian mobile provider that created a service delivery platform (SDP) in 2002. Wind took a Web-based approach, using the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to knit together elements such as customer relationship management and a content management system.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Policy-Based Service Control: Rules of Order, a 25-page report in PDF format, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Services Software Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.

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