It's almost impossible to open a tech publication or even a mainstream publication and not find a discussion about the continued fierce growth in mobile data and hyperbole on the consequences. Only this weekend the FT featured a discussion on the U.K.'s 'capacity crunch' and how networks will (or more to the point, won't) cope in 2030 when we're consuming 300 times more mobile data than today. I'm amazed that some people are already discussing the failure of networks that are eighteen years away.
Clearly, this is an easy topic to discuss, especially when the figures are so compelling. One can only imagine what Cisco's next VNI report will forecast. What's less glamorous is to discuss what people are actually doing now to ensure this 'crunch' doesn't happen. What technologies and strategies are being developed that will ensure we build a mobile network capable of meeting any bandwidth demand. Data where you are, when you need it.
Over the past few days I've been catching up on the various approaches out there and one that catches my imagination is optimizing content delivery in mobile backhaul networks. Ultimately, it's not only the air interface that needs to deliver more bandwidth – it’s also in the backhaul where the data crunch will be fought. It’s time people start to re-think their business models and reassess the way they offer and distribute mobile content. Even with today’s infrastructure we can still take enormous steps forward in how we deliver content to mobile users.
To optimize content delivery in mobile networks, we need to borrow from the content delivery network (CDN) playbook. The basic premise of a CDN is to push content as close to users as possible and deliver this content with the best performance available. No delays, no issues, just great performance. Now, what if we apply this model to mobile networks. What if cell sites are loaded with cache servers full of popular content. Wouldn't this help to take some of the strain from mobile networks?
Consider this a little more. If these cell sites are feeding all the most popular YouTube videos, all the latest songs on Spotify, all the most popular application downloads, etc, then there's no need for data requests to be sent to the main cache servers in the mobile core. The implications are enormous. Not only does this model provide users with a much better experience, it also enables mobile operators to start monetizing over the top (OTT) services, and even open up new revenue opportunities by offering local content.
The more I read about this technology, the more I'm fascinated to see what impact it will have. Ultimately it's developments like this that will help us to step over the hyperbole regarding mobile data doom and build a mobile network capable of meeting our expectations.
What do you see happening here? What network innovations will help us to relieve the strain on mobile networks? Let me know what you think.