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RealTime IT News

Setting Bandwidth Boundaries

Most large wireless carriers have roots in selling voice services, where bandwidth hasn't been a major concern. Most small wireless providers are new to the technology and aren't familiar with bandwidth conservation.

As popular data services are introduced to the wireless service segment and demand for wire-free networking increases, many wireless service providers are discovering that new customers can eat up an big part of their radio resources. The result is that all wireless providers will be forced to examine ways to share existing bandwidth between voice and data services.

Wax on wax off
In an ideal world, wireless service providers could accomplish this on the radio network itself, but we're years away from this approach and still need interoperability standards to be set. For now, most carriers either have no bandwidth controls in place at all, or they've opted to simply utilize "On/Off" capabilities that enable and disable access for entire customer bases.

But as wireless service providers begin to introduce bandwidth-intense applications like instant messaging and bundled entertainment offerings, such limited conservation capabilities will be insufficient to meet consumer demand.

Shine on access controls
The most practical way to address limited bandwidth is by using control techniques that implement policies and profiles designed to manage who is authorized, to use what applications, when.

Such technologies should be independent of radio networks and the systems being used—whether it is WAP, HTML applications or pure IP standards delivering applications over providers' wireless networks.

By using policies and procedures for individual users or groups of users, wireless carriers can segment their customer base to allow certain users access to specific applications, while restricting others access based on any number of criteria—including geography, business or residential status, and the like.

This way, wireless providers can control the number of users accessing their services at any given time—ensuring that limited bandwidth reserves are available to meet all of their customers' needs.

An example of this network management strategy at work is when providers encourage consumer use during off-peak hours in the evening. Voice traffic from business usage is reduced and bandwidth is plentiful, so reduced prices might be offered on data-intensive applications like instant messaging or multiplayer games popular among residential users.

Sophisticated access control capabilities also enable wireless ISPs to trial-test new services with a limited number of users—then expand the service when the network has proven it possesses sufficient bandwidth. For example, a carrier might want to introduce an entertainment package. By monitoring the usage of a small number of users, it could determine when it's feasible to safely extend the service to its entire customer base.

If the wireless service provider determines that its network would be overloaded by the service, it could, for example, offer the service only between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Providers could also offer a premium priced package of applications to a limited number of users who wish to use the service any time.

Sweet harmony
From a setup point of view, implementing policy-based profiling systems on existing wireless networks serving a large customer base is a challenge.

The good news is that the best time to implement such systems is when services are just being brought to market. Take e-mail applications for example—there's little need to limit use of this popular application on wireless networks today. But as more users go wire-free and wireless appliances go mainstream, providing popular data services like e-mail will be a challenge. It's in wireless providers' best interests to have bandwidth controls in place today, in order to optimize their networks bandwidth and potential profits tomorrow.

It's no longer a case of whether data applications will be popular when they hit the market—the wireless data age is coming.

Unless wireless service providers have a strategy in place to ration limited bandwidth and balance delivery between voice and data services, they are going to miss out on a major business opportunity.

Bandwidth conservation and utilization beats at the heart of this profitable broadband opportunity. Does your ISP business have its finger on the pulse?



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