Behind the operators’ technical scenes on the new iPhones, new Android, or the new Microsoft deal

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As we are getting closer to the traditional yearly event from Apple next week, where new iPhone devices (most likely an iPhone 5S, an iPhone 5C, and possibly a new iPad?) are to be announced (here), Google has also announced in parallel the name of their new OS for Android (Android 4.4 Kit Kat) (here). If you live in this world, you should also know by now that Microsoft bought Nokia’s mobile phones division according to this week announcement (here). The battle of the mobile devices and OS is as interesting as every year in the last decade, and this battle has implications for all of the involved in the industry at all the possible layers, including of course the subscribers but also the Communication Service Providers (CSP’s) or operators. No matter if you work with an operator, or a vendor, or a consultancy, or are just a technology fan, you should know from the top of your head what is the current market share for mobile OS, or what is the split between the Android OS versions installed in the handsets, among others stats or facts. I give you a few ones below for feeding your knowledge hunger.

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A few years back when Blackberry was booming the smartphones’ market with their -by then- innovative products, the operators learned many technical lessons from this in the hard way. The network engineers until then focused only on delivering enough bandwidth to supply the subscribers’ traffic demand, saw how the push messages and always-communicating nature of the Blackberries boosted the number of sessions established in the networks while having the same PDP context established. This in example increased the Transactions Per Second (TPS) in the signalling plane of their network elements and business to values never seen before, leading to service downtimes and traffic outages, creating a huge change in the scaling and sizing paradigms and methods for the networks. The introduction of Blackberry devices in masses leaded to multiply those TPS for the same traffic, and the technical effects were also seen in other areas. In example after having a maintenance in the networks, and all the devices re-connected to the operator at the same time leading to transactions bursts, among many other examples I am sure any operators’ network engineer for that time can provide. All of this was traduced on massive revenue losses, which are usually the main triggers for immediate changes in the operators’ methods. As the years passed and more and more devices appeared having this same always-connected or always-communicating behaviour (e.g. pretty much all of the smartphones today), the operators adjusted all of their systems and methods for ensuring no problems were seen for this matter. Whether improving the sizing and scaling techniques, or applying Policy Management and Enforcement tools (PCRF/PCEF), or signalling routers, or traffic control agents, or simply adjusting profiles and timers for a more efficient sessions’ handling, among other methods.

Similar challenges have been seen when OS updates are made available for the smartphones. Since a big part of the subscribers tends to accept the update once the notification is received, typically happening around the same time. So again creating an unexpected increasing traffic (this time in both bandwidth and TPS) in the networks. Situations like these are also seen during important events, like the football world cup finals, etc. and most of the operators today make the scaling and sizing of the systems considering these events.

In other words, in today’s world the communication between the marketing and engineering teams of an operator is more important than ever. Announcements like the ones from Apple next week and the ones from Google must be closely monitored, as these represents new challenges, and -do not get me wrong- also new opportunities for business. In example, the subscribers are having freedom to connect liberated devices into the networks for browsing, or selecting which OS to download and install in the handsets, and this modifies the traffic and usage patterns seen in the networks. We saw this also with the introduction of the electronic books and tablets, and we will keep seeing this in the future with the new devices like the smart watches, or the smart glasses, etc. This represents challenges to meet the changing demands, but also new opportunities for monetizing the new network usage profile, etc. The role of the Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytic’s platforms are becoming critical. The extension of these towards more intelligent models like Predictive Analytic’s for performance of the networks and the systems, plus the actual business indicators of the networks, are and will be a key in the operators’ efficiency and the telecom business profitability.

A. Rodriguez

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