After years of industry pundits preaching about mobile data, it has finally arrived. Those shifting hockey stick graphs projecting rapid adoption have become a reality as the Internet goes mobile. Fast networks, user-friendly devices, and a growing catalog of useful—and not so useful—applications have resulted in significant data growth. The general industry move to openness will only heighten this demand as more devices and applications boost usage.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Cisco projects that global mobile data traffic will double every year, increasing 66 fold between 2008 and 2013. This phenomenal growth is not without challenges:
• Revenues are not increasing anywhere near the speed of traffic growth. In fact, mobile data revenue is growing at 10 to 20 percent per year compared to annual traffic growth of 100 to 200 percent. How can mobile operators monetize this growth?
• Delivering a good customer experience on an increasingly congested network is going to be a challenge. A single user accessing BitTorrent, or some other bandwidth-intensive application, threatens to destroy the experience for all users.
• Operational excellence will be paramount as mobile operators run their networks “hotter” to cope with the rapid increase in traffic. How can operators get the most out of their networks without threatening the business?
New Network and Business Imperatives
Our research indicates there are five important imperatives for operators to consider in designing and operating their networks to successfully manage these challenges and the new demands placed upon their networks.
1. Broadband Ubiquity: Broadband connectivity is increasing all around us. Whether using Wi-Fi in Starbucks, a 3G data card on the train, or tapping away on an iPhone while boarding a plane, our ability to access fast networks is growing. Successful carriers will provide real value by making network access transparent to the user, seamlessly integrating across licensed-unlicensed and narrowband-broadband networks.
2. Bring Your Own Device and Application: Two years ago at the Mobile World Congress, Vodafone’s Arun Sarin pronounced that his company would reduce the number of operating systems it supported from five to one or two. That has not happened. In fact, with the introduction of Google, Apple, and others, it has gone the other way. Complexity is increasing exponentially as new devices and applications find their way onto mobile networks. The opportunity for mobile operators is not in trying to reduce this complexity, but in managing it to enhance the customer experience. Creating a common infrastructure (or service delivery platform) based on common IP standards will be key to managing this complexity and making the mobile operator relevant.
3. Everything Has to be Secure: The rise of application stores has been great for users, but how do we ensure that these innovative apps are secure and won’t threaten networks or destroy data on devices? As more and more devices become dual-mode, Wi-Fi, and mobile, we need to ensure that we can provide a safe and secure environment on unsecure networks. Equally, we now have more than five browsers, numerous operating systems, and multiple runtime environments to support. Consumers and corporate IT groups are going to look to operators for assurance that everything from content and sessions to personal information is secure.
4. Network Protect Thyself: Unlike the wireline world, there is no shared bandwidth in the mobile environment. Networks need to self-optimize in real time to protect themselves against excessively heavy demands that threaten network integrity. Employing capabilities that dynamically investigate traffic type and make real-time decisions based on policies and priorities is an effective means of doing this.
5. Convergence: Today, services like the iPhone are implemented in stovepipes across wireless, wireline, and other networks. As we move to an n-screen world, operators need to be able to implement a service only once but deliver it across multiple platforms. Service routing will be essential to deliver the “any content anywhere” experience that customers demand.
By understanding these key imperatives, we can truly embrace and profit from the long-awaited rise of mobile data and deliver the seamless and quality experience that customers demand.