Features and Analysis

Net neutrality and managing IP networks

In May 2011 I presented a paper at the TM Forum event in Dublin outlining what I believed service providers had to do to manage their business in an IP world.  A recent decision by a US court to “strike down “net neutrality” has now made this a reality.

So What was Proposed?

In a traditional Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) world carriers and service providers knew exactly how to manage their networks and get the best return on investments.  They did this through astute network management as they had a clear understanding of what customers expected and also what they would tolerate from a congestion perspective.  This after all was the key measure for customer satisfaction using a TDM network.

How all that changed when we transformed the business to an all IP environment.  There were no network management tools available and most of the transformations were undertaken in a siloed world as the business model was still as a Network Service Provider (NSP).  The only way to manage the customer experience in this new world was through bandwidth.  Now we all know the internet is a best effort service, but by default the end customer from the onset has received a far better service than what they pay for due the inability of the service provider to manage the customer experience in any other way.  This resulted in backhaul costs increasing constantly as the need for more bandwidth was demanded and the need to provide customers with a suitable experience continued to grow.

To make matters worse the Over The Top (OTT) players have milked this to their advantage as they can provide equivalent services like voice and video with no carriage costs, it is all born by the service provider.  These OTT services in turn add to the demand for more bandwidth.

With the rise of the application world there was an urgent need for the service provider to move from the siloed NSP model to a new Application Service Provider (ASP) model so that services could be delivered ubiquitously regardless of the access domain they were being consumed over.  This coupled with the development of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) enabled policy engines and the ability of the service providers to look at the signatures of the traffic on their network.  Alias we had network management capability for IP networks.  This new network management capability will enable the service provider to distinguish between low value and high value traffic and allow Quality of Service (QoS) to be truly enabled for the end user services.  We all know, not all traffic is equal and the service provider now has the tools to differentiate their services according to what the end customer is willing to pay.

Now in this new world of Network Management for IP network must is not to be mixed up with net neutrality and the regulator needs to respect that.  The 15 January decision by the US court enabling service providers to influence web traffic without it being dragged into the net neutrality debate is a landmark decision for the industry.  Additionally the creation and management of signature libraries will become an increasingly important aspect of managing this environment and having the processes and frameworks in place to do this is an area where industry organisations like the TM Forum can assist.


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    Executive Director

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