ORLANDO – Now that network-policy methodology has been put under the federal microscope, one would think operators would have programs in place to monitor how subscribers are consuming bandwidth on the network. But they don’t.

Network “policy” has been defined in this three-pronged way: how subscribers access information, how specific applications are treated and how bandwidth is allocated. According to Graham Finnie of Light Reading, who moderated a panel during a half-day “Policy Management in the 4G Era” program presented as part of CTIA 2011 this week, 30 percent of 70 operators polled seven months ago said they had no policy-management plan in place, while 38 percent said they did. However, with the predictions of how much mobile data will be consumed in the next several years, not having a way to monitor and manage usage just seems shortsighted.

Deep-packet inspection (DPI) first came into being more than 10 years ago and appears to be the most popular policy-management choice, going all the way to Layer 7. It’s primarily associated with controlling peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic and other bandwidth hogs, Finnie says, but it’s also used to handle security threats and for analytics. There are two reasons why this program or one like it should be on carrier front burners:

  • Strong data growth (click here) means data has to be managed more intelligently.
  • The policy server market is small now but will be experiencing double-digit growth soon.

And there are five catalysts to get carriers moving on the DPI front:

  • It allows operators to apply “fair use” management techniques.
  • It will help push the move toward tiered pricing.
  • It will improve the quality and depth of network traffic.
  • It will allow carriers to meter usage and charge customers accordingly.
  • It provides better intelligence regarding subscriber behavior, thus allowing them to create subscriber profiles.

But wait, there’s more. Some of the new ideas coming out of DPI deployment include:

  • Allowing unlimited access to Facebook and other social-networking sites when the network is uncongested.
  • The ability for subscribers to block home Internet access during designated family “quiet periods.”
  • Better parental control.
  • An initial lowering of data charges to encourage using mobile video for such events as concerts.
  • Data service promotions in underutilized cells.

The bottom line is that DPI gives operators the tools to begin charging subscribers for the data they use, and isn’t that the whole idea?

–  Debra Baker

The Daily

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