The sophistication of smartphones and netbooks, the explosion of P2P, video and gaming applications, that ride on top of those devices - not to mention the comfort people now feel with social networks - have created a serious dilemma for service providers trying to accommodate the exponential increases in the traffic over fixed and mobile networks. Without a means to generate sustainable revenues that offset pressure to lower costs and improve customer experience - all while reining in operations costs - the huge demands on networks could prove disastrous.
As one executive vice president for a major service provider said off the record, "This is our single biggest problem and may ruin our whole business."
Stratecast recently quantified just how significant the traffic increase is, citing in a report that some operators have reported increases in data usage from an average of 5-6 Gbps at the end of 2008 to an average of 24 Gbps by October 2009 - a fourfold increase in less than a year.
To put that in perspective the report - "BSS Evolution: The Real-Time Triumvirate Emerges," authored by Karl Whitelock, senior consulting analyst, and Volubill - stated that a rate of 24 Gbps on a nonstop usage basis is about 62 petabytes per month.
Cisco is cited in the same report for its estimates of data traversing the core networks of all service providers globally. Its 2009 estimate of global IP traffic came to approximately 15,000 petabytes per month, estimated to increase to 55,600 petabytes per month in 2013 (which represents a 3.7-times increase in global IP traffic between 2009 and 2013).
Rather than make the same high-profile mistakes of the past in terms of traffic shaping or arbitrarily determining "fair usage," service providers are now seeking ways to enforce dynamic rules that take the actual user into account, and turn policy management into a potentially positive experience for customers.
"Customers know they want to be as fulfilled as possible - the very best broadband access possible, at the lowest prices possible," says Comptel marketing director Olivier Suard. "That puts them at odds with their service providers, which are at the same time trying to earn as much as they can off the customer while simultaneously keeping that customer happy, and without too much burden on network resources."