Mobile World Congress 2014: What Operators Should Look For – Policy Control

David Snow
David Snow

While the term “policy” has a rather general feel about it, in a modern carrier network “policy control” has far more of a feet-on-the-ground role.  As a fitting parallel, meeting companies and clients at Mobile World Congress is a personal exercise in policy control.  From the meeting arranging frenzy we’re now in right through to the exhausting finale on-site in Barcelona, questions arise such as:  Who do I want to see?  Who wants to see me?  How are they to be prioritized?  How many can I manage in a day?  Which do I commit to (“guaranteed QoS”)?  What others do I try to do (“best efforts”)?  Crucially, what do I do on-site when a high-priority company suddenly changes its arrangements and demands more “bandwidth” unexpectedly?

You get the picture.  That’s what policy control is about.

So, what can we expect to see in policy control at this year’s show?  Here are some things to look out for:

  • More FMC: Policy control has come to the fore in managing mobile broadband and that’s not going to change anytime soon, especially with the rollout of LTE.  However, remember where policy control started?  It was cable networks. Strangely, PacketCable compliance is not universal among policy control players, and with more MSOs adding WiFi and partnering with mobile providers to offer quad services, we should be seeing evidence of policy controllers with more FMC use-cases.
  • More PoD: Why stop in the network?  Why not coordinate with “policy control on the device” too?  Yet, that’s one of those giant leaps for the industry: from the carefully controlled network environment into the Wild West of a complex and fragmented device ecosystem.  And there’s the tricky job of persuading users that this is a good idea; remember the Carrier IQ controversy?  Look for more policy controller-device client deals and, more importantly, carriers actually proving out the proposition.
  • More Machines: Then there’s M2M and the Internet of Things.  Machines cannot be left to themselves in the network; while they are rarely bandwidth-intensive, there’s more and more of them with demands to be interleaved with those of us humans.  And in case you think they can wait their turn, remember some of the machines may be pacemakers!  We should start to see policy control use-cases making sure machines and humans share the network effectively.
  • More Analytics: And finally, there’s analytics.  Policy has come a long way since “policing,” or just stopping bandwidth hogs, was the objective (Policy 1.0).  It’s now also a “proactive” network monetization game (Policy 2.0) and the next stop is likely around “predictive analytics,” or “skating to where the puck is going to be,” as one vendor aptly describes it.  We will examine whether it is predictive analytics or new use-cases, perhaps involving NFV and orchestration, around which Policy 3.0 will coalesce.


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