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23 Jan

New Ammunition in the Battle for Bandwidth

Strands of Bandwidth Fibers

Bandwidth is at a premium, and among wireless and wireline carriers alike, the demand for data connectivity is pushing operators to reconsider network upgrade plans and ongoing strategies for traffic management.

Traditionally, operators have provisioned their networks with the assumption that a small fraction of users would need the full bandwidth capacity promised by their service agreements. If a cable operator, for example, promised speeds of six megabits per second, the assumption was that only one user in a hundred would actually need that much capacity at any given time. That assumption was reasonable when consumers primarily used the Internet to send email and browse web pages, but with sustained sessions of video streaming, increased video teleconferencing, and the need to transfer large amounts of data for backup and sharing purposes, the old model no longer holds true.

Unfortunately, operators can't just throw more bandwidth at the problem of growing consumer demand. Consider how Verizon's profit margins have suffered when the company has had to invest in network upgrades. In the middle of 2013, Verizon had to increase its forecast for capital spending by 400 million dollars just to address the bandwidth strain on its wireless networks. Analysts estimated that the company's profit margin dipped a full percentage point as a result.

Instead of just adding new capacity, it's time to get smarter about network management.

If you isolate the source of network overload, it's often possible to treat the individual issue causing a problem rather than working under the assumption that the entire system needs more capacity. For example, it may be that one application is using more than its fair share of bandwidth. If that's the case, an operator might want to work with the application provider to reign in bandwidth requirements, and/or suggest specific connectivity settings to consumers to limit bandwidth overuse.

Similarly, a network bottleneck may be at fault for low performance in a particular customer region. But if you can determine where the traffic stacks up, it may be possible to reroute some of the traffic or add capacity to a targeted area in order to improve performance across the wider service footprint.

The key takeaway here is that network visibility is a critical asset in the battle for bandwidth. The issue isn't always that demand exceeds supply. Sometimes the supply network just needs to operate more efficiently.

Scott Frymire is Director of Marketing for SevOne.

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