Tom Carter, VP WW Sales, F5This is Part Two of Two for a Guest Blog by Tom Carter, VP Worldwide Sales at F5 Networks.

What enhancements are needed to address the network and signaling congestion?  The 3GPP standards provide a very useful architecture reference to enable mobile data connectivity and an essential suite of services.  There is a need to support numerous third party applications and infrastructure so the reference guide provided via 3GPP is very useful.  The additional network elements and features can integrate across Layers 1 thru 7 in both the control and data planes to enable a more holistic approach to network utilization when deployed where standards are employed. 

The move to next-gen networks is challenging for operators and sometimes overwhelming due to the incredible pace of innovation in applications both in terms of the sheer number of applications and their diverse requirements on the networks.  To address this application vs network visibility and control gap while also managing to the requisite onslaught of signaling that is created – there is a need for a mechanism to expose network information to app developers and applications to network resource requirements and DIAMETER is a defined Protocol within 3GPP to do just that.

Data is MONEY to the operators and Diameter as an underlying standards based protocol that will be used to “Move and Monetize” this data into Service Revenue. 

Diameter – what does it do?

•       Controls how content traverses network equipment and devices

•       Gives subscribers permission to access websites, applications and services

•       Delivers charging commands

•       Enables mobility management, giving subscribers the ability to roam onto partner networks

 

The massive scale of wireless subscribers and the huge growth in wireless data and 4G smartphones that are continually connecting and disconnecting are driving tremendous growth in signaling traffic and challenging the operators to stay current with demand.

The key however is that operators are evolving.  They are shifting from providing only connectivity to focusing on providing a compelling user experience.  The network value has shifted from layer 3 (IP) to layers 4‒7 which are the application layers.  As such, the networks of tomorrow need to be policy aware, service aware, subscriber aware and highly adaptable to the changing market landscape.  The network needs to move from static inflexible elements to software-based and programmable elements to help operators address the market changes today and in the future. 

Understanding customer behavior and utilizing policy control is becoming a very powerful mechanism to enhance the network.   Subscriber and service aware traffic insight includes the ability to identify subscribers, applications, services in both the traffic access AND the signaling control elements.  Using techniques such as content inspection to classify and steer traffic appropriately is imperative or what many call table stakes.  As specific traffic is identified it can be individually addressed and service specific policy based on the type of the traffic and the nature of the traffic flow can be utilized.  Based on the nature of the traffic flow certain types can be blocked or deferred or throttled.  Combining traffic awareness with full control and visibility of the signaling path enables operators to have granular control leading to adjusting their network to support numerous services.

There are many who believe (and I am one of them) that the operators who can dynamically create services based on an individual subscribers usage and patterns will ultimately win.   Policy based networks utilizing DIAMETER that give full traffic visibility can be deployed to not only protect against congestion and overload but to empower operators as they shift their business models to address the opportunity for data.  Mobile media and data services are the only drivers for growth in the near term as voice revenues decline globally. 

Operators will need to invest in infrastructure, developer ecosystems and be able to capitalize on the flow of new and improved handsets.  An intelligent, dynamic or “Stateful” Diameter infrastructure that is tightly coupled to the DATA path, the CONTROL path as well as the SIGNALING path will be the key for operators to unlock this growth opportunity bring upon by data while managing the “PINGING” signals. Operators who distinguish packets, applications and connections at wire-speed will be equipped to monetize.