New capabilities to influence mobile infrastructure

Tom Nolle, CIMI Corp.
14 Apr 2010

Some major questions remain in the development of a future driven by mobile applications, especially in terms of how mobile services and capabilities will affect mobile network infrastructure planning. One of the most important is whether operators will be able to sell premium mobile data handling in any form.

Mobile services in general -- and Long-Term Evolution/Evolved Packet Core in particular -- offer support for QoS-enabled managed tunnels for connections between the cell tower and the service point.

Those tunnels are created in large part by creating links between the serving gateway (SGW) and the packet data network (PDN) gateway, so putting the serving gateway close to the tower and the PDN gateway close to the service points would offer the largest span of QoS-managed traffic.

But regulators worldwide are concerned about mobile net neutrality, and if operators fear they would be required to offer premium QoS free of charge or at no profit, they may want to eliminate EPC's custom tunneling and QoS options. This would effectively make the PGW and SGW adjacent or even a single common device, undermining some of the EPC's value in terms of creating premium experiences and reducing opportunities for service differentiation.

Mobile services: Content or applications?

There's also the question of whether premium mobile services should be considered "content" or "applications." If a user interacts with a handset application that performs a number of mobile application program interface (API) calls to obtain information, the latency of the wireless connection may be critical to application performance.

For delivering video, this might mean optimizing mobile network infrastructure for low latency, even at the expense of QoS, since buffering can ride out QoS variations in a video stream. Applications that are expected to run when roaming across the networks of Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) members may be especially vulnerable to latency issues, depending on where the application resources are provided relative to the location of the devices. That suggests operators may need to create special low-latency application connections, even across operator boundaries.

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