Friday, July 1, 2011

Third World Networkers Guide to End-2-End broadband Service

So lets take a typical user on the Safaricom network. He has a mid range phone, lets say a Nokia E72, or an IDEOS from Huawei.

He clicks on the you his 'buy this' Icon, selects a video somewhere on the internet, pays via MPESA, the processor screams and cycles around calls up a couple of routines, fires up the video player or browser, creates a moving object on his screen, he's happy. Now lets take a look at exactly what goes on in the background from the moment he 'clicks'.

For a network operator to offer really great service, they need to have full end to end control of the network, the enduser device and the content. The End 2 End view of the mobile service in this case the 'video' is best premised from the perspective of the user. His/Her ability to watch their movie in a frictionless manner after paying for it is the goal.

From an implementation perspective, severalservice providers are involved:
  • - The Mobile network operator - lets say Safaricom.
  • - The guy providing video,
  • - The guys pocessing the payment
Does the consumer in most cases know of the multiple 'service providers' involved? nope! most don't, in most cases they shouldn't.

For most of us users, the mobile view we hold is that the operator is responsible for the access and content. Unfortunately the Operators 'span-of-control' is often limited to internal content or external content endorsed by the operator eg content served by Mobile network operators like bernsoft for Safaricom. Other than that there are multiple considerations involved in optimizing E2E service delivery.

While  a network operator will undertake alot of effort to ensure a memorable experience to the end user; maybe by using agreements sometimes commercial and standards, or sometimes co-operation with content providers, it is not always the case. Guys like Google and Facebook make alot of effort to co-operate with network operators. Others like CNN; not so much.

Components to consider if you want to have E2E QOS:
  1. The UE - aka handset - Unless its a certified unmodified device, the operator can't claim control here.
  2. RAN - Radio Access Network: On the one hand, the mobile service provider has full control over the nodes that make up the RAN. We now have QOS and standards defined to take care of this area.  On the other hand, there is another aspect of the RAN over which the mobile service operator has only very limited control: the literal, over‐the‐air portion.
  3. Backhaul : If you own it, you control it.
  4. Core Network: mechanisms can be implemented here that participate in network
    management and optimize the QoS since the operator almost always has control.
  5. Operator Owned content like the safaricom portal content: Content includes both the applications as well as any digital media that are part of the customer’s service subscription. For this there is full control by the mobile operator and it is almost always optimized to as close to the user as possible.
  6. Internet and other external content: Only at the point of Ingress/Egress. So if Facebook suddelny goes offline, don't expect the mobile/network operator to know or even care. Poorly written applications can introduce QoS issues not only for the user of the application,but for other users as well. I've seen and had to mitigate this several times on our network.
  7. Branded content: It sometimes happens that external entities offer branded content. For this the operator has limited control.
Also consider mobility,viruses and general end user demand variations. All this add up to the complexities involved in running and optimizing a network.

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