Networking startup Vasona shapes mobile traffic one cell at a time

It’s nice to see new mobile infrastructure startups still emerging considering the dearth of investments in the space. Vasona Networks, a mobile network optimization company founded by several Big Band Networks veterans, is coming out of stealth mode to offer carriers a way of fine tuning their network traffic on a cell-by-cell basis.
Today’s mobile networks are rife with various forms of traffic shaping and optimization platforms, from transcoding/transrating technologies that cull out extraneous video bits to policy enforcement engines that prioritize certain types of traffic — or certain subscribers — through the length and breadth of the network.
Those technologies all differ in the techniques used and the specific traffic they target, but they all share the goal of trying to ease the mounting deluge of mobile traffic piling up on carrier airwaves. Where Vasona distinguishes itself from the lot is in the level of precision it can target with its traffic shaping techniques, said Biren Sood, CEO of the Santa Clara, Calif.,-based company.
Most optimization technologies apply the work across entire classes of data in the network core, or they follow specific subscribers as they move to and fro, throttling back their speeds or compressing their videos regardless of the prevailing network conditions.
gridlockBut Sood said that the network should be treated as a collection of its parts, rather than as a unified whole. Congestion occurs at the individual cell, so carriers should optimize their networks accordingly, applying traffic management techniques only where congestion dictates, Sood said.
“We understand the nature of the cell, and we understand the capacity of the cell,” Sood said. “With that understanding we can get the right bits to the right applications in the most efficient way.”
Vasona’s kit sits in between the radio and core networks where it monitors the congestion level of its associated cells as well as all of the inbound and outbound traffic streams to those cells. If a cell starts getting crowded, Vasona will start tinkering with mix of traffic going to that cell, for instance prioritizing streaming bits over a file download or tossing out extraneous information in a video, Sood said. Once the congestion in a particular clears, Vasona’s tinker stops, Sood said.
While the company has been flying under the radar for the last few years, it has been busy raising funds and talking to potential customers. So far it has raised $9.8 million from Bessemer Venture Partners and New Venture Partners, and according to Sood its technology is already in a handful of global mobile networks, though he wouldn’t reveal specific customers.
Vasona is playing in a very crowded space. As smartphones proliferate, and consumers and app developers start increasing their mobile data usage, carriers are looking for ways to alleviate to alleviate that demand. In many cases they’re targeting their customers’ habits directly, introducing stricter data caps, throttling back speeds or banning specific applications. But behind the scenes tweaking their networks with bandwidth optimization technologies.
All of the major infrastructure vendors have either developed or bought their own traffic shaping platforms — most recently Cisco Systems(s csco) bought BroadHop and Citrix(ctrx) bought ByteMobile — joining an already large field of traffic management specialists like Aircom International, Allot Communications(s allt), Sandvine and Openet (which recently raised $21 million). A growing number of startups like Vantrix and Skyfire are specifically targeting the problem of mobile video.