Mobile network optimization is a hot technology right now – no, seriously

The mobile network optimization business is not a bad one to be if you’re a tech startup looking for a big exit. Telecom billing systems maker Amdocs(s dox) just announced its intention to buy Actix for $120 million in cash. But it’s certainly not the first nine-figure selling price for a software company analyzing and tweaking traffic in mobile networks.

Actix tracks the how individual cells perform as devices connect to them throughout the day, letting carriers know where they need to add coverage and capacity as well as which apps and devices are performing well and which are not. That may not sound sexy to you, but that technology is really turning on the big telecom infrastructure vendors, who have been scooping up optimization companies left and right in the last year.

Arieso sold to JDSUniphase(s jdsu) for $85 million in March. In the last few years, Ericsson(s eric) bought Optimi and Citrix Systems(s ctrx) bought ByteMobile for undisclosed amounts. But the biggest payday went to Intucell, which was scooped up by Cisco Systems(s csco) in January, earning its founders and Bessemer Venture Partners $475 million just two years after the company closed a $6 million Series A.

So are there any network optimization startups left still ripe for the picking? There are plenty of companies who optimize some aspect of the mobile network — from the core to the base station — but it’s at the cell where most of the mobile industry’s interest seems to lie. One of the reasons why Intucell went for a high price is because its technology could react to changing networking conditions – when service in a particular part of the network starts sucking, its self-optimizing networking software can expand and contract cells to rectify the problem.

There are few companies that can pull off a similar feat, but one of the more interesting ones I’ve talked to lately is Vasona Networks, another Bessemer-backed startup. While Intucell shapes the size of cells to meet data demands, Vasona shapes the traffic within the cell itself. If 20 people are all trying to stream video from the same tower, Vasona will start throttling back speeds and compressing video so it can cram all 20 streams into the same airwaves.