A recent market research report from Infonetics found that 66% of mobile operators have turned to IP/Ethernet solutions as a means to reduce the backhaul costs associated with growing mobile data traffic. IP/Ethernet-based mobile backhaul appears to be an answer to a prayer for mobile operators seeking to maintain their bottom line by driving down the “per-bit” cost of transporting the increased amount of data traffic.
Many innovative companies are leveraging mobile data services by introducing streaming-oriented and real time value-added capabilities to their existing services. For example, Netflix, traditionally focused on postal DVD rentals, now offers a smartphone streaming option allowing subscribers to watch movies anywhere, any time. The success of this new on-demand revenue stream has supplemented Netflix's traditional business model, allowing for increased revenue and higher ARPU. But while smartphone strategy adoption creates new business opportunities, next generation video applications are creating service management and troubleshooting headaches for the mobile CSPs.
While the transition to an IP/Ethernet-based mobile backhaul eliminates the data transfer bottleneck of more traditional technologies such as TDM, it also introduces new operational and engineering challenges that negatively impact subscriber quality of experience (QoE), increasing customer churn.
More specifically, we see four key challenges that must be addressed:
- Managing the complexities introduced by Carrier Ethernet. Unlike traditional TDM, engineering an end-to-end connection between the cell site and upstream controller using Carrier Ethernet requires careful management of several entities, including classes of service, VLANs, Virtual Circuits and MPLS tunnels.
- “Right-sizing” the network. It is critical to appropriately size the infrastructure components that constitute the network. Over-sizing the network defeats the cost containment goal achieved by moving to Carrier Ethernet. Right-sizing is an ongoing process, evolving as new traffic patterns emerge from potential fluctuations in user behavior or disruptive business decisions such as an exclusive product launch (smartphone/tablet) or data plan change. Actionable traffic utilization analytics are needed to establish hourly baselines, engineering benchmarks and accurate traffic forecasts.
- Achieving high quality of service (QoS) and assuring quality of experience (QoE). Meeting the strict end-to-end quality demands of mobile subscribers and their applications requires the operator to measure and monitor voice and video traffic for delay, jitter and reliable packet delivery. To guide CSPs in this challenge, ITUT standards continue to evolve. The latest Y.1731 Mib specification is now being adopted and implemented by many cell-site routers and Node B vendors. Such standards are welcome as a single Ethernet backhaul might contain equipment from multiple vendors and, when connectivity is leased from a Wholesale Ethernet provider, mobile providers can only activate those needed end-to-end measurements from their Node B's.
- Enhancing collaboration. Collaborative processes need to be established across the various teams responsible for different infrastructure components (IP/MPLS backbone, mobile packet core, radio network) to assure end-to-end service performance over 3G and LTE infrastructures. A NOC engineer, for example, should be able to create and instantly share customer dashboards with other team members to expedite cross-domain troubleshooting and assure subscriber QoE.
In our view, a proven end-to-end service management solution is the answer for a smooth transition to an IP/Ethernet—based backhaul while maintaining a focus on customer QoE. These solutions can be leveraged by Wholesale Ethernet providers who want to offer near real-time visibility to their customers.
Infovista will be hosting a webinar with TMF Forum in October that will explain how Wholesale Ethernet providers can become more competitive by leveraging their performance reporting solution. We are looking forward to seeing you there!