Guest Post By Dave Caputo, CEO, Sandvine.
Internet consumers are spending more time using Internet applications for activities such as streaming mobile video that require a high quality network. Sandvine’s Fall 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report revealed the use of video and real-time entertainment applications are on the rise, now accounting for 60% of peak downstream traffic. This environment creates new challenges and opportunities for Internet service providers.
The good news is that service providers now have business intelligence tools to help manage the explosion of mobile trends and are in a unique position to mine an unparalleled amount of information about how and when the Internet is being used that can enable monetization their networks through creative marketing programs.
The core enabling technology for network business intelligence is Network Policy Control, which supports all access technologies and can identify subscriber, application and location information. For an ISP to truly reap the benefits of network insight, the data must also be analyzed quickly and efficiently to present the actionable, real-time intelligence that is critical to effective business decision-making.
To help ISPs with video specifically, Sandvine added a “Real-Time Entertainment Dashboard” to its library of Network Analytics dashboards. The new dashboard provides business intelligence that is particularly relevant to streaming audio and video traffic from providers such as Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, including measurements regarding the quality of the video experience, the viewing duration, and the associated revenue generated by the adoption of over-the-top services.
The move towards measuring quality, time, adoption and revenue metrics for real-time entertainment applications is revolutionary to the industry, and has numerous benefits for both ISPs and broadband subscribers. Other solutions in the marketplace merely measure video byte consumption, which is the product of factors like video resolution, codec and duration, combined with the number and duration of videos actually viewed by subscribers. Sandvine’s dashboard measures and reports on these fundamental metrics individually, providing insight for CSPs into the quality achieved per network location, per time of day, and per device type; leading to more informed network operations decisions.
Sandvine’s Real-Time Entertainment Dashboard also quantifies the subscriber’s Quality of Experience (QoE) using a patent pending QoE metric based on observable factors, like start latency, buffer stalls, resolution downshifts due to lack of bandwidth, as well as resolution compared to the capability of the device. This provides an unparalleled holistic view of transport quality in combination with presentation quality and enables the service provider to ensure customers a great QoE, thus reducing subscriber churn.
Sandvine’s ability to provide complete network business intelligence insight, including mobile device awareness is also being increasingly used by innovative providers as the basis to create and market new, more profitable service plans. Device awareness determines which devices are generating the Internet traffic, e.g. smartphone, tablet, PC, video game console. A network policy control system provides the full context awareness that is required by the ISP to gain visibility into what impact applications and devices are having on network resources, and to develop new revenue streams based on that information.
For example, marketing departments can deliver personalized campaigns tailored to subscribers using tablets to watch movies in real-time, who may choose a service tier that assures QoE, prioritizing video streaming over other applications and providing lower latencies. Such “Movie Buff” service level agreements could be based on device-type as well as on bandwidth and usage quotas that are optimized for video streaming.
Intelligent redirection to video optimization platforms based on device type, as well as type of media being consumed, is another way to leverage device awareness and ensures that the most suitable media optimization policy is applied. For example, there is no point in sending high definition video to client devices that are not equipped for it. Optimization techniques include client buffer management, application aware bandwidth allocation, network aware video rate adaptation, and intelligent caching.
Mobile video trends are only going to gain momentum as devices become more sophisticated and bandwidth-hungry. At the same time, Internet broadband penetration is reaching nearly half the population in mature markets, so service providers cannot depend primarily on new subscribers alone as a source of revenue growth. By applying the principles of network policy control and business intelligence, broadband providers are able to defer capital investment, reduce operating expenses and increase revenue by capitalizing on marketing opportunities.