Doug Suriano, CTO of Tekelec

In the third of our series of guest blog posts, Doug Suriano, CTO of Tekelec explains the need for operators to quickly get a handle on the increase in signalling on their networks.

The third-generation iPad was one of the strongest iPad debuts yet. Pre-orders sold out before a single tablet had been shipped, and predictably lines were out the door when the device hit the shelves.

As the first LTE-enabled iPad, this product will have a huge impact on North American LTE operators, and likewise for operators in markets where LTE will soon be deployed, in a way few have considered. Mobile operators face a dual threat to network performance, customer loyalty and profitability models. The first is the well-documented growth in the volume of mobile data traffic. The second is equally critical: a ‘signalling storm’ caused by the cumulative impact of connected device and application growth, personalised service plans, and an increasingly mobile subscriber base.

The Diameter signalling traffic is the new challenge

With LTE on board, the iPad 3 is more enticing that ever for HD video, over-the-top services such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as a wide variety of data-heavy consumer and business applications. However, the rise in mobile data traffic will not be operators’ primary problem. They have been aggressively addressing data capacity for years with strategies such as migration to 3G and LTE, policy control and offloading traffic to Wi-Fi.

With LTE, operators will need to handle network signalling messages. Signalling is the underlying communications that enables charging, billing, user authentication and authorisation. These essential messages support data activity over 3G and LTE networks. The impact of network signaling, however, has gone largely unreported.

The new iPad is what I consider to be the first widely available ‘iconic’ LTE device. By virtue of its popularity, features and applications, it will escalate the volume of network signaling on LTE networks to new levels. Also, as sales increase, usage will occur outside of LTE coverage spots. Each time a subscriber moves to or from an LTE coverage area, the new iPad will register on the correct network technology, introducing a new type of signaling to the tablet market.

Mobile data usage has led to an explosion in signalling traffic generated by billions of connected devices and apps. Subscribers often use multiple applications simultaneously, requiring networks to track data usage more frequently for billing purposes. In fact, one large tier one customer told us that the number of concurrent sessions per subscriber, a measure of the number of separate mobile data activities, has increased 50 per cent in the last year.

We expect that number to increase by at least another 50 per cent in the next year, due to the LTE iPad and the expected arrival of the several new LTE smartphones. These devices increase the appeal and use of the mobile Internet and expand the number of subscribers using mobile applications.

Recent network outages serve as a reminder that a rapid growth in subscribers, devices and applications is causing a ‘signaling storm’ for operators. For most operators in developed markets, signaling traffic growth is exceeding data traffic growth.

The good news is that mobile operators can manage the signalling surge by implementing equipment based on a protocol called Diameter. This is the language that the major core and control elements in the LTE network use to communicate. By routing Diameter signalling messages more intelligently and efficiently, operators can bolster network performance; improve subscribers’ quality of experience and scale for the millions of new devices that will populate their LTE networks.

The LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your http://ws.lteconference.com/interest.

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