MWC 2015: 5G, IoT and Cloud Hype; Net Neutrality Insight

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Friday, March 06, 2015 with No comments

The population of Barcelona, Spain (normally 1.6 million, by 2012 census numbers) swelled this week by more than 93,000 people attending Mobile World Congress (and they all seemed to be on the same bus as us!)

Hot topics that dominated the eventduring keynotes, sessions, and conversations on the show floorincluded Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and virtualization. The event came with its requisite product, service and merger announcementsincluding Google outlining their disruptive MVNO model, Samsung's new S6 Edge, Brocade announcing its intent to acquire Connectem, and Mitel announcing it will acquire Mavenir.

And, of course, Accedian Networks demoed the SkyLIGHT VCX Controller, our new NFV-powered virtualized instrumentation solution for network performance assurance. This greatly simplified approach to both virtualization and performance monitoring was met each time initially with some mystification, followed by understanding of its potential upon seeing traffic flow between devices.

Seeing a virtualized platform fully functional and equivalent to Accedian's popular performance elements takes a minute to grasp, but once our visitors realized that they operate the same way as our standalone devices, and offer the same interfaces and feature set, they were full of questions on how to get started using them for vCPE and mobile network monitoring applications.

Perhaps more on the mundane side, but important nonetheless, the subject of net neutrality also came up, timely in that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Feb. 26 in favor of regulations that would treat broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act. (Plus, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave keynoted at the event, defending the vote against naysayers.)

Despite the vote, it's still far from clear what 'net neutrality' will actually mean. For example, if operators have less traffic control, what happens when the network gets congested?

A likely conclusion is that, if providers actually must allow unadulterated traffic access (i.e. no traffic shaping), and everyone must have equal access to the 'pipe', that pipe will necessarily have to get bigger to accommodate those with the highest capacity needs, even if that means giving others way more capacity than they really need.

Essentially, net neutrality takes away the provider's ability to selectively optimize access links using traffic conditioning at the edge. Some areas of the network will then become over-utilized as a result. To keep QoS up, operators will have to use all aspects of their networks in a more balanced way.

How will they do that? By directing traffic strategically to make use of otherwise under-utilized capacity; sending it along traditionally less occupied routes, if you will. This is basically a software-defined networking (SDN) problem to solve: how to find and use the best path based on performance, dynamically.

With a real-time feed to SDN controllers, traffic will be directed based on performance rather than just distance or static routes, much as a driver in a congested city chooses the route to take based on how long it will actually take to get there, even if that means traveling a great total distance over less congested streets.

This will also lead to more inter-networking between providers as alternate routes develop to relieve congestion.

Likely, it will take several years for the effects of FCC's envisioned net neutrality regulation to take effect, if it even does happen. But even if it isn't realized, the same pressure to implement dynamic performance optimization (DPO) will be needed, as capacity will still be scarce with neutral networks or otherwise.

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