How application knowledge drives smart mobile data offload decisions

5G has many promises, including unlimited bandwidth and unmatched speeds. Today’s mobile users expect 5G to deliver rich, highly interactive content seamlessly across their devices – whether it’s HD video streaming, online gaming, or an app. virtual reality – as they move through their familiar surroundings and beyond.

Why HetNets?

In the context of a heterogeneous network (HetNet), where an operator manages a network of networks, 5G often works in parallel with other last mile access technologies. In HetNets, several access technologies are linked to create a deeper and wider network coverage. Access networks can take the form of macrocells (3G, 4G and 5G radios), small cells (pico-, femto- and microcells), distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wi- access points. Fi of the operators. Traffic from these different access networks converges to local aggregation points before being routed to the core and routed to the Internet.

In HetNets, the access networks essentially overlap. This enables traffic offloading, a process in which the operator routes user traffic from one access point to another on a different access network based on network and usage policies. Traffic offloading is an important feature for managing mobile traffic in densely populated areas and places with seasonal traffic peaks.

The development of HetNets is closely linked to the evolution of mobile and fixed networks. Operator Wi-Fi hotspots, for example, are provided in city centers, shopping districts and specific locations such as stadiums, convention centers, transport hubs and airports. In addition to boosting the use of an operator’s mobile Wi-Fi services, these hotspots help move mobile traffic to the operator’s fixed networks, relieving the load on mobile base stations to handle increased traffic. .

In other HetNet scenarios, carriers operate legacy 2G and 3G networks alongside LTE and 5G. Such coexistence can be attributed to factors such as sunk costs, existing plan contracts, capacity optimization, operator monetization strategies, and the extended delay before a new network is available to the company. nationwide. Offloading 5G to LTE or LTE to 3G is common in these scenarios as user traffic moves from congested networks to available networks.

In more densely developed areas, such as city centers with multi-story skyscrapers, multi-level highways, and underground transportation, concrete structures and space constraints limit the coverage of macrocells. In these areas, operators offload traffic to small cells or DASs, both of which can be deployed more flexibly on buildings and common urban structures such as bus stops and street lights. The unloading in this scenario takes place between the macrocells, small cells, and the DAS.

Make way for better offloading decisions

Decisions to offload traffic between these different access networks are based on real-time network visibility and application knowledge provided by tools such as R&S.®RHYTHM 2. R&S®PACE 2, a deep packet inspection (DPI) software, provides an in-depth view of traffic on a mobile network – whether at the access, transport or core layer level – through traffic classification and metadata extraction. This allows operators to decide how, what and when to unload.

Classification of traffic by R&S®PACE 2 allows candidates to be identified. Latency sensitive applications, such as autonomous driving, can be affected by inefficient failovers under general offload rules where traffic is moved between available networks. At the same time, bandwidth-hungry but non-latency sensitive applications, such as video streaming, video calling, or file downloads, can be offloaded at the first available opportunity, freeing up capacity on the network. mobile. Both scenarios call for intelligent offloading of mobile traffic, where offloading is based on the type and specific attributes of an application, for example, a video call on a chat application.

Smart offloading also extends to other access nodes such as small cells. In a demonstration by Intel Lab research engineers, the integration of R&S®PACE 2 in their “Smart Pipe” server deployed in small cells made it possible to identify specific applications and traffic types in real time. This allows traffic to be offloaded to other access points such as available macro cells and operator’s Wi-Fi access points or vice versa, allowing for prioritization of selected applications such as Skype and YouTube and better manage traffic in overcrowded commercial districts and clusters of high-rise residential buildings. buildings.

R&S®PACE 2 also provides metadata extraction, which allows mobile operators to determine the state of the network at each access node. This includes information on bandwidth consumption, speeds, latency, and jitter. Access nodes experiencing heavy congestion, sudden traffic spikes, or physical issues such as power outages or hardware failures can be identified before service degradation becomes evident. Routing traffic to alternate nodes using DPI information allows operators to equalize peaks and troughs in traffic and maximize network capacity, taking advantage of all existing infrastructure while ensuring reliability. constant quality of service for the user.

Separation of classes

Interestingly, R&S®PACE 2 goes one step further by making decisions about offloading mobile data easier by identifying the generic devices used. By leveraging this information and combining it with user and device information provided in protocols such as GTP, operators can design their traffic management policies to prioritize user connection over premium plans and provide a better quality of service (QoS) by directing them to the fastest routes and optimizing the content for the devices used. Likewise, users subscribed to mobile plans with free Wi-Fi access are correctly and quickly identified and routed to Wi-Fi access points as soon as they are available, saving subscription fees. on the use of data.

Not all traffic is good traffic

Combining traffic classification with support for anomaly detection, R&S®PACE 2 provides a timely input that can be used by network security functions such as firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems to manage and prevent cyber attacks on the network. R&S®PACE 2 gets to the bottom of these attacks by identifying the generic devices used, the intensity and the frequency of these attacks. For unloading decisions, this information is crucial. They allow mobile operators to correctly and quickly determine whether they are dealing with suspicious and abnormal traffic and whether that traffic should be offloaded to a less congested network, routed through additional firewalls, or completely blocked.

Thanks to its traffic analysis and anomaly detection support capabilities, R&S®PACE 2 plays another key role in offloading traffic. It provides real-time traffic information that operators can use to automate the authentication of users connecting to their Wi-Fi access points. Specifically, DPI information helps operators secure access points. Wi-Fi access against malicious traffic, denial of service (DoS) attacks, illegal tethering and other fraudulent uses. In the case of 5G offloading, DPI goes one step further by providing the information needed to instantiate the correct Wi-Fi QoS slice. A low latency Wi-Fi slice, for example, should offer instant authentication and processing. accelerated to ensure consistent end-to-end mobile performance.

In many ways, DPI is perfecting mobile data offloading. It provides the information needed for intelligent decision making, network efficiency and optimization. The long-term data provided by DPI can be tailored into enhanced offload policies, integrating the frequency, intensity and trends of application usage at each access node. It paves the way not only for improving the performance and coverage of the mobile network, but also for barely noticeable and highly transparent offload for every mobile user.

About Madeline Powers

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