This is a guest post by Frank Yue, Technical Marketing Manager for the Service Provider vertical at F5 Networks.  Mr. Yue has over 15 years of experience building large-scale networks and working with high performance application technologies including deep packet inspection, network security and application delivery.  He is based in North Carolina and is a scuba diving instructor in his spare time. 

What happens when you build a new product or service and everyone wants to be a part of it? When demand surpasses supply, bottlenecks and delays are created, resulting in customer dissatisfaction. It is common to see lines of people waiting to get their hands on the latest hot product. Often, the infrastructure needs to be rebuilt or changes made to people’s habits to relieve the demand. Extra lanes and bypasses are added to the highway systems to meet expected rush hour requirements. Companies attempt to build and deliver sufficient quantities of product to satisfy predicted demand on the day the book or new phone is released to the consumers.

With the availability of today’s mobile Internet and the speeds that consumers can upload and download data with today’s technologies, there is an ongoing explosion in the amount of data being consumed by mobile subscribers. Mobile Internet access is becoming a standard feature as smartphone usage continues to grow. The number of mobile devices accessing the Internet is expected to pass the number of PCs in 2013. Video has become the top application being downloaded by consumers, accounting for 40 per cent of all Internet traffic.

In the meantime, infrastructure technologies continue to improve the availability and speeds at which mobile subscribers use these data services. 4G LTE networks provide the ability to download data at speeds at up to 100Mbps. Managing bandwidth through quota controls is becoming much more common. Unlimited data plans are disappearing. Even when these unlimited plans are available, there are thresholds where bandwidth management techniques are being applied.

Communications Service Providers (CSP) understand that by providing intelligence in the network that can inspect, classify and take actions based on the characteristics of the traffic and the subscriber profile, they can more effectively manage the network availability. This is possible, while providing enhanced services to premium customers at the same time. This requires an intelligent, flexible, scalable framework that will be able to provide the services required today as well as any future services which may be added later.

One aspect that is possibly being forgotten is the astronomical growth of traffic in the control plane of the LTE network. 4G LTE networks are designed to be IP-based packet switched networks for all traffic including voice communications. As a result, there are more control plane signaling messages using the Diameter protocol being sent back and forth to manage application access as well as the voice over IP (VoIP) communications. As more LTE capable devices become available and voice over LTE (VoLTE) continues to be deployed, the danger of the Diameter signaling storm is potentially greater than the growth seen on the customer data network. It is important to ensure that a scalable, highly available infrastructure is also built for the control plane.  A Diameter Routing Agent (DRA) can be implemented to help mitigate this problem.

To manage all of these services and develop a flexible dynamic environment that provides the framework for the evolving wireless network, CSPs need to implement an infrastructure that has the intelligence to identify applications, subscribers and behavioral trends; scalability to handle the subscriber and data growth; and flexibility to meet today’s requirements in addition to the requirements of the future. The demand for more applications and bandwidth is here and it is up to the wireless providers to manage the available supply through intelligent design and execution.

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