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New Device Can Monitor Traffic On Wireless Broadband Networks

Data traffic management, viewed as a vile practice on the wired networks, could actually prove to be useful when it comes to the smooth functioning of wireless broadband networks, thanks to a novel new approach and technology developed by Bell Labs and introduced today by its corporate parent, Alcatel-Lucent.

In recent months, there has been steady growth in the number of wireless data users, who are sharing a finite amount of air spectrum and wireless resources such as airtime, RF channels and bandwidth. With the emergence of unlimited data plans, we might see more stress on the wireless data networks as more devices come online. The situation will get worse when 4G technologies like LTE start to get deployed.

What network operators would need is a new kind of networking management tool that goes beyond the current generation of tools that are geared towards voice quality. The traffic-shaping tools used on the wired networks are also of limited utility. So, Alcatel-Lucent, the somewhat humbled telecom hardware maker that counts wireless operators like Verizon amongst its customers, is introducing a new product that does precisely that. Canada’s Bell Mobility is currently running trials of this awkwardly named product, Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian (WNG).

The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG is composed of two network elements: a wireless network detector, for deployment in the data center, and a wireless network central, for deployment in a network or security operations center. The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG monitors network traffic at a granular level, identifies anomalous wireless behaviors which could degrade network performance and impact subscriber’s experience.

Anyway, what WNG does is business allows carriers to better utilize their wireless data bandwidth. While on wired networks, the common belief that data is data hold true, but on wireless that is not the case. Alcatel-Lucent executives whom I met with last week insist that wireless e-mail data consumption is very different from, say, downloading files. Why? Because e-mail devices such as the BlackBerry are constantly polling the mail servers and keeping wireless data channels occupied. According to Alcatel-Lucent data, 1 MB of e-mail data consumes two hours of airtime and involves 1,500 signaling events while the same 1 MB on a P2P application takes 30 seconds and involves 0.3 signaling events.

The technology for the device has come from the bowels of the famed (if somewhat shrunken) Bell Labs. (It is part of a new plan to commercialize Bell Labs’ breakthroughs, according to Wim Sweldens, VP with Alcatel-Lucent Ventures.) It allows the carriers to find out the impact of a connection on the radios, towers and other wireless network elements.

8 Responses to “New Device Can Monitor Traffic On Wireless Broadband Networks”

  1. Anonymous....

    So basically Lucent is telling us that applications that Poll the server pretty frequently will use up Cellular Airtime — ok, thanks for the insight…

    I am also not sure how shaping helps btw…. So I think the solution here will be to “manage” the traffic…. Don’t know if this will generate good PR here…

    Application developers will probably start finding alternate wireless routes to the internet… Anyone seen the Facebook/iPhone ads on American idol… People using those devices, in front of their idiot boxes, communicate with their friends over 2.5G or WiFi?

  2. Rob

    Since I have not seen the wireless carriers do “vile” thinks as their wired counterparts, I don’t think I can say that just yes. ;-)

    That said, I do agree that there are some bandwidth challenges that are emerging and carriers will have to do traffic management. However, blocking a type of traffic is something that personally doesn’t sit well with me.

  3. Om –

    Question – do you think traffic “management” is any less vile in the wireless world then in the wired?

    After all, the core reason for managing in the wireless world is due to the finite amount of bandwidth, right? Don’t the wired providers have EXACTLY the same problems?

  4. Raj Khanna


    Since when did you start pitching for products on behalf of gear vendors? All service providers, wired or wireless already perform some sort of traffic management/shaping and this product isn’t exactly news.

    I’m an RF Engineer working for one of the ‘big four’ and see this happen every day. Is the need for traffic management on the data side of cellular networks growing? Yes. Is the spectrum of services that need managed on these networks growing? Sure. Is there need for better gear to aid engineers & technicians in managing traffic resources-availability/quality etc. to ensure a seamless customer experience? Aruably so (and hence the need for such products).

    But how exactly is this news? We know Alcatel Lucent is dependent on Verizon and Sprint for revenues. And we know that wireless data is growing. So needless to say, you’ll have need for network management gear. But why exactly are you touting Alcatel-Lucent gear, and moreover staking a claim that ‘network operators (do) need a tool beyond the current generation…that’s geared towards voice quality’?

    I smell literature from a product brochure. Stick to the news, Om – that’s what we keep coming here for.