In Network Capacity Planning, Size Isn’t Everything

Network Capacity Planning

Capacity planning is a fact of life for network operators. Hit a traffic threshold target, and you’d better have an upgrade plan in place and ready to implement before demand outstrips supply. Sometimes that plan means splitting up a service group. Sometimes it means adding a 10Gig pipe to increase capacity over a particular link. The right upgrade strategy, however, depends not only on the volume of traffic crossing your network, but also the type. As a network operator, you need to be able to measure both variables on an ongoing basis.

There are two reasons to monitor the composition of your network traffic. First, you need to understand the return on any network investment. For example, if you're spending money as a wireless carrier to install LTE, it's important to know if that 4G network is getting used. If it is, you know that the investment is worthwhile, but also that as the percentage of LTE traffic goes up, you can begin to re-farm the spectrum from older-generation networks to support 4G growth.

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Second, understanding the type of traffic on your network can help you figure out how to adapt your monetization strategy. You can change your pricing structure, begin charging for a particular feature, or even negotiate new peering agreements – as in the case of pay-TV providers and Netflix.

There are a number of different ways to break down traffic type. A few use-case examples include:

  • Tracking usage among different wireless frequency bands
  • Monitoring the relative growth or decline of SMS traffic versus data traffic
  • Recording the amount of bandwidth consumed by streaming video applications

Knowing the amount of traffic on your network is important for capacity planning, but, as a tool, that particular metric is a blunt instrument. By also monitoring traffic type, you can create more sophisticated capacity planning models that help you save money and even discover new revenue opportunities.