Service Providers, Make Your Net Work
How Can Service Providers Compete with OTTs?
Some service providers are regarding the strongest users of their network as their worst enemies… the OTT’s. Those mystic folks who reside in data centers, earn billions and billions and don’t even have their own network.
The default reaction of some carriers was to launch their own OTT like services, but this requires huge investments and they need to go through an expensive learning curve. Can technology help? The key difference between OTT’s and carriers is glaringly obvious… only the latter own a physical network. How can they turn this key differentiator into an advantage, rather than being a cost factor they want to get rid of? One option is making it more intelligent, for example by using Network Function Virtualization.
The classic way of deploying NFV is to place all VNF’s in a central data center. OTT’s do so, and since most carriers own data centers as well, they can do so, too. At the other end of the network, the situation is similar. Most CPE’s are currently provided by carriers, and with the upcoming of uCPE (u for universal), they will be able to host all kinds of VNF’s as well. But nothing stops OTT’s from providing own CPE’s to their customers, to be placed right after the termination device of the carrier. Also here there’s a tie, which leaves us to the area between those endpoints… the actual network. This is the only domain where carriers have a real edge. In case they would make it more intelligent, the OTT’s had no chance to draw level, since it’s not their network. And on top of that, carriers have to maximize the value of their networks anyway.
It would be naïve to believe that defining services based on what a network is able to deliver is the right approach, there’s no alternative to listen to customers and build the network accordingly. But service providers could consider refining services based on network resources, to provide improved quality of service and more relevant content. Net neutrality rules don’t allow carriers to treat OTT traffic in a special way, but at least in Europe, there might be room for exceptions…”in parallel, Internet access providers will still be able to offer specialized services of higher quality, such as Internet TV and new innovative applications, so long as these services are not supplied at the expense of the quality of the open Internet”. So carriers have some freedom to deploy services over and above plain bandwidth delivery.
Hybrid NFV solutions enable service providers to put the VNF’s were they make the most sense… and bring the most money. VNF’s providing baseline value added features can be placed in aggregation PoP’s, so a few VNF’s deployed in micro-data centers can replace thousands of individual ones located in CPE’s. Good for both carrier and OTT, since customers are choosing their network provider based on the quality of all delivered services (if we ignore price for a moment).
Via Mobile Edge Computing, VNF’s can be placed close to the customer, to enable augmented reality or support real time IoT applications. Intelligent caching or deduplication solutions can be placed within the network, to primarily support the services the carrier makes money with. OTT traffic won’t be blocked, but carriers are able to offer certain services in a superior way.