Are you one of the many jumping aboard the iPhone or iPad bandwagon? The next generation of Internet devices is here and it's time for mobile operators to rise to the challenge. What is significant about the iPad is that it is not a substitute. It will not replace your desktop, your notebook or even your smartphone. It signals a new breed of device that provides its own unique Internet experience. And the iPad together with whatever lookalikes it spawns will add a whole new layer of traffic to the already squeezed mobile Internet infrastructure. Operators need to look at and implement technologies that can help them meet not only this latest challenge, but help them be ready for the future generations of mobile Internet devices that have yet to be dreamed up.
New devices are not the only challenge for the operators. It is essentially the combination of devices and content that is shaping the ever changing landscape. Whether you are into social media, social networking or simply one of the many whom want access to real time streaming video, all of this demand is creating increased strain on mobile networks. And this network demand can only grow as more devices and ways to access mobile applications come to market.
People writing on behalf of the FCC are saying that the iPad could potentially cause serious havoc for U.S. data networks. Phil Bellaria, director of scenario planning for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, and John Leibovitz, deputy chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, noted in their blog that: "With the iPad pointing to even greater demand for mobile broadband on the horizon, we must ensure that network congestion doesn't choke off a service that consumers clearly find so appealing or frustrate mobile broadband's ability to keep us competitive in the global broadband economy." And this device alone will cause more issues for operators around the world as Apple prepares to launch the iPad internationally on May 28th after a strong launch in the United States.
Operators that are shipping the iPad have come out with a mixed bag of offerings as far as usage/service plans are concerned. AT&T, for example, offers a $29.99 unlimited 3G data package (and a $14.99 250MB package);Orange UK has a range of pay-per-use and pre-pay bundles available, though no unlimited 3G option, and Rogers in Canada is offering a CA$15 250MB package and a CA$35 5GB package. So we can see the approach is anything but uniform. The carriers typically have little foreknowledge of what all these new devices will do to the performance of their networks (we all remember the issues that AT&T had in New York with the iPhone last year) and if the data packages they are offering are realistic. Without any concrete understanding on how the iPad (or other devices) will affect their own networks, it is difficult for operators to create plans they can feel confident will meet the individual customer's expectations and maintain their ability to deliver a quality service to all.
It is now more important than ever for operators to gain a multidimensional view of their existing network resources. They must understand how their network and subscribers interact and how a plethora of new applications and devices will put a strain on their already taxed network resources. Key to dealing with these issues is gaining a real in-depth view of what is happening on the network. A granular look at their own network traffic can assist them in turning this potential threat into an opportunity. This information will enable the operator to make better decisions about maximizing the efficiency of their network and providing the best service and experience to their customers.
The mobile device enables the customer to access the content they would like in a manner that suits them. What is important in the end, regardless of the device, is the quality of access to the content. Expectations of quality are key both to the success of a new device, as well as to the service. Whether watching a video on YouTube using an iPhone or video conferencing with a friend over Skype on your iPhone - quality of experience matters. A bad network experience will not create a happy customer.
Operators must look at technologies that can provide comprehensive network visibility, application control and subscriber management in order to control network costs and to monetize the ever-growing volume of Internet content and services on their networks. Operators can make their networks more efficient and increase customer satisfaction – these two goals are not mutually exclusive. They just need to take a good look at their own network and unlock its potential.
Jonathon Gordon is director of marketing for Allot Communications, which supplies service optimization and revenue generation solutions for fixed and mobile broadband service providers.