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Policy + charging

Vodafone Flexes Traffic Management Muscle

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) is beefing up its traffic management capabilities in an effort to improve its customers' service experience, make its network more efficient, and stem the impact of the data deluge that's hitting its network.

Faced with mobile data traffic growth of 100 percent per year in Europe, it's no longer adequate for Vodafone to provide a best effort service, according to Andy MacLeod, Vodafone's group network director, who was speaking at the Broadband Traffic Management conference here in London. (See Data Surge Fuels Policy Control Boom.)

That's why Vodafone is creating what MacLeod calls a "smart network" across its European footprint.

"To provide customers with the best experience for them, we need to change how we manage the network... That's the aim of the smart network that we're building across our business," he said.

MacLeod gave a snapshot of the mobile data traffic patterns on Vodafone's European network to show what it has to deal with: Sixty-five percent of Vodafone's mobile data traffic is generated by 10 percent of users, and 30 percent of the traffic comes from just 1 percent of users. Also, 80 percent of the traffic comes from consumers, rather than business users, and 85 percent of the traffic is generated by PCs -- that is, USB dongles or embedded 3G devices. Only a small minority of mobile data traffic today comes from smartphones or tablets, he said.

As for what that traffic comprises, MacLeod said 70 percent is Web browsing and video, which are about evenly split, and the remainder of the traffic is mostly peer-to-peer (P2P).

"A very small number of users generate most of the traffic," he said. "Mobile data isn't terribly mobile and the usage is mainly from home."

To address the mobile data volumes, traffic patterns, and user behavior, MacLeod highlighted some of the capabilities that Vodafone is working with, including traffic inspection, application optimization, content caching, and traffic offload (in the access network as well as in the transport network).

With these tools, there can be many "levels of personalized experience that users can get," he said. "And [Vodafone can] optimize what traffic we want when we want it."

MacLeod explained that the personalization that traffic management enables is what improves the customer experience and can lift customer satisfaction. (See Policy Control Key to Personalized Services and Policy Matters to Mobile Broadband Operators.)

For Vodafone, the goal of this kind of policy management is to resolve how best to provide an adequate level of service quality, which will keep customers happy, while at the same time generating an acceptable return or profit from the services, which will keep shareholders happy.

"The biggest upside [of traffic management] is having the ability to help us personalize the experience for customers and optimize yield and profitability," said MacLeod. — Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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