Today’s wireless networks now offer subscribers a true mobile broadband experience, and with that comes increased traffic loads in the wireless operator’s radio network.
However, a significant portion of the increase results from the fact that identical packets can consume widely varying network resources, simply based on how the host applications transmit the packets. As a result, network inefficiencies, unexpected congestion, and outages are becoming commonplace and more difficult to resolve.
With wireless networks evolving to become more like IP networks, the revenue generated from data transmitted over wireless networks has recently exceeded 20 percent of total revenue in some operator networks, and continues to grow quarterly and globally, according to a recent Alcatel-Lucent (News
On the positive side of this movement, wireless operators can leverage their industry knowledge and experience about building, operating and optimizing wired IP networks to efficiently build and operate wireless networks. The not-so-good news, according to Alcatel-Lucent officials, is wireless IP networks do not behave like IP networks without wires – at least not yet.
Common IP applications with a range of possible loads include mobile e-mail, virtual private networks, peer-to-peer, location-based services, worms and video. Many IP-network-, event-, policy- and traffic-management tools are readily available and can be used immediately in wireless IP networks.
Mobile e-mail generally contributes very little volume to the network but consistently consumes more than 30 percent of airtime and approximately 50 percent of the signaling load caused by wireless-data traffic.
VPNs are often used by mobile professionals who connect to their enterprises
remotely using a laptop and a cellular modem, such as a 3G/4G aircard or USB dongle. In wireless networks, P2P is predominantly used by only a fraction of wireless IP subscribers who have aircards or use their mobile phones as data modems, and connect them to laptops or devices with large hard drives.
Location-based services allow wireless operators to tailor content relevant to the mobile device’s proximity, or to use devices for tracking purposes such as inventory tracking.
As Alcatel-Lucent officials explained, worms target a large range of victims at once, magnifying instantaneous signaling and connection load in the RAN, causing both network-impacting spikes in signaling events at the RNC and local-connection denial of service. The impact of a mobile-to-mobile worm may have “disastrous” effects to the performance of a wireless network.
In addition, video transmissions over mobile networks are a new and growing phenomenon. Subscribers have started to deploy video cameras with 3G backhaul as a way of remote monitoring, including traffic, home-security and even baby monitoring. This video traffic relies heavily on the uplink data path into the network. Subscribers have also begun to download video content available from service providers and from the Internet.
As such, data applications can have an important impact on the usage of the wireless data network and in certain cases, can result in impairments and outages in the network, including radio network controller congestion, backhaul congestion and base station congestion, or high airtime usage.
When new IP applications or a new device loaded with a broad set of new applications introduces new stress and congestion to the wireless data network, operators must maintain, support and correlate across all of these tools to discern why an impairment has occurred.
Today, wireless service providers have access to many tools they can use to start troubleshooting and addressing problems including: radio-network fault management; network-element monitoring and management; IP traffic management; deep packet inspection; billing systems; security; and event management.
Alcatel-Lucent officials reported that root cause analysis of situations using the current tool set is sufficient when wireless broadband penetration is low and events are singular in nature. However, root cause analysis is slow, complex, expensive, and unscalable for operators who have experienced high penetration of wireless broadband services and who introduce new devices and applications with high frequency, company officials said.
As such, automatic and simple forensic and proactive analysis will become more important as the numbers of wireless broadband users and applications increase in the network.
The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian
was developed to provide wireless operators with a management solution that integrates and correlates traffic analysis, network performance monitoring and network behavioral anomaly detection in one system.
The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG provides real-time dashboard visibility into how traffic manifests as load on the network, provides on-demand and periodic reporting and trends, and is used as a forensic tool to investigate faults, billing errors, and to explore how to increase the efficient use of the network. The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG product has two components, the Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Detector and the Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Central 1. The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Detector deploys in the packet core, and the Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Central deploys in the Network Operations Center.
A significant benefit, company officials said, is that the Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG does not depend on or require layer-7 deep packet inspection, a common technique used to analyze traffic by matching content in the packet to known signature databases, principally because nothing inside a single packet will describe how that packet will impart load on the network.
The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian integrates wireless-intelligent behavior-based traffic classification and end-to-end network performance monitoring in one system, resulting in simplified network management, design and operation. Company officials said the 9900 WNG brings value to operators and service providers alike.
For more information on simplifying network management to enable next generation wireless services, visit Alcatel-Lucent’s Next Generation Communications community on TMCnet.Erin Harrison is a senior editor with TMCnet, primarily covering telecom expense management, politics and technology and Web 2.0. She serves as senior editor for TMC's (News - Alert) print publications, including "Internet Telephony", "Customer Interaction Solutions", "Unified Communications" and "NGN" magazines. Erin also oversees production of TMCnet's weekly iPhone (News - Alert) e-Newsletter. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Erin Harrison