New Device Can Monitor Traffic On Wireless Broadband Networks

Data traffic management, viewed as a vile practice on the wired networks, could actually prove to be useful when it comes to the smooth functioning of wireless broadband networks, thanks to a novel new approach and technology developed by Bell Labs and introduced today by its corporate parent, Alcatel-Lucent.

In recent months, there has been steady growth in the number of wireless data users, who are sharing a finite amount of air spectrum and wireless resources such as airtime, RF channels and bandwidth. With the emergence of unlimited data plans, we might see more stress on the wireless data networks as more devices come online. The situation will get worse when 4G technologies like LTE start to get deployed.

What network operators would need is a new kind of networking management tool that goes beyond the current generation of tools that are geared towards voice quality. The traffic-shaping tools used on the wired networks are also of limited utility. So, Alcatel-Lucent, the somewhat humbled telecom hardware maker that counts wireless operators like Verizon amongst its customers, is introducing a new product that does precisely that. Canada’s Bell Mobility is currently running trials of this awkwardly named product, Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian (WNG).

The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG is composed of two network elements: a wireless network detector, for deployment in the data center, and a wireless network central, for deployment in a network or security operations center. The Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG monitors network traffic at a granular level, identifies anomalous wireless behaviors which could degrade network performance and impact subscriber’s experience.

Anyway, what WNG does is business allows carriers to better utilize their wireless data bandwidth. While on wired networks, the common belief that data is data hold true, but on wireless that is not the case. Alcatel-Lucent executives whom I met with last week insist that wireless e-mail data consumption is very different from, say, downloading files. Why? Because e-mail devices such as the BlackBerry are constantly polling the mail servers and keeping wireless data channels occupied. According to Alcatel-Lucent data, 1 MB of e-mail data consumes two hours of airtime and involves 1,500 signaling events while the same 1 MB on a P2P application takes 30 seconds and involves 0.3 signaling events.

The technology for the device has come from the bowels of the famed (if somewhat shrunken) Bell Labs. (It is part of a new plan to commercialize Bell Labs’ breakthroughs, according to Wim Sweldens, VP with Alcatel-Lucent Ventures.) It allows the carriers to find out the impact of a connection on the radios, towers and other wireless network elements.