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Smartphones Need
Smart Networks
If their networks don’t wise up, wireless
carriers risk losing money on smartphones.
BY VI KRAM SAKSENA
D
oes anyone really believe
that a dumb network can
support a smartphone?
Customer enthusi-
asm for smartphones has
unleashed a torrent of innovation to take
advantage of the growing ubiquity of these
powerful computers we carry in our pock-
ets. Few people today would leave home
without a mobile phone any more than they
would leave behind their wallet and keys.
This is a boon to the telecom industry,
but each popular new use places added
burdens on wireless networks, often
without bringing additional revenue.
Various studies predict that worldwide
mobile data traffic will double every year
through 2013 and that by 2011, data will
outpace voice traffic.
Adding capacity in the traditional way,
especially expanding the “dumb pipes” in
a “stupid” network that some have advo-
cated, is a poor choice for carriers. The
expense of doing that will shrink carrier
profits, and eventually network opera-
tors will become marginalized as handset
makers and application innovators take
center stage with consumers.
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Not long ago, my daughter, a high-school
student, said she wanted an iPhone.
Why? She said it would offer her better
service than what she was getting from
AT&T. She didn’t realize that iPhones
use AT&T’s network, but instead viewed
the iPhone like her iPod: a device that is
totally Apple’s.
AT&T’s decision to make an exclusive
iPhone deal with Apple has paid many
dividends, but it carries a significant chal-
lenge to maintaining a central role with
customers. Utilizing a smart network is
the carrier’s key to meet that challenge.
Apple pioneered the online store where
customers can download applications,
bypassing the network operator. Other
smartphone vendors emulate that con-
cept. Now a growing number of wireless
carriers hope to insert themselves back
into the relationship by gathering several
smartphone application stores into their
own, carrier-branded online malls. Like
a brick-and-mortar mall operator, these
carriers would provide services to their
tenants, such as analytics of how custom-
ers use their applications.
Network operators can see trends and
provide opportunities based on what cus-
tomers do, where they do it and what
handsets they use. Carrier analysis can
help application vendors refine products
to make them more valuable. A smart car-
rier network can also enable applications
that could not be created otherwise.
Last autumn’s agreement between
Google and Verizon Wireless aims to
develop Android phones that utilize net-
work information, Lowell C. McAdam,
chief executive of Verizon Wireless said
in an interview with the New York Times.
“You will see features on these phones
that are not on other Android devices,”
McAdam said. “Our plan is to leapfrog
the competition.”
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Tellabs envisions helping carriers create
networks with decentralized intelligence.
A network with intelligence at its edges
is cheaper to build and operate, and it
provides subscribers with a superior
experience. It will deliver a truly new
mobile Internet experience by tailoring
the network to efficiently manage traffic.
Instead of receiving data, voice and
video in one stream at a cell tower and
sending everything to the network core
to sort out, it is more efficient to analyze
traffic near the network edge and send it
where it needs to go before it reaches the
core. Much of the new data traffic wants
to get to the Internet. Offloading it from
the network edge enhances the customer
experience and avoids the need to greatly
expand core capacity.
The mobile Internet demands that wire-
less networks become smarter. On today’s
wired Internet, content providers know
their material will be viewed on a PC or
Mac, but the variety of devices using the
wireless Internet is far more diverse.
A decentralized intelligent network
can analyze specifications from a cus-
tomer’s handset and adjust the bit rate
to create an optimized resolution for
that screen. The network will customize
content and can insert ads for customers
who agree to receive them.
Smart networks will learn much about
what customers do with their mobile
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devices and when they usually do it. That
information can be used to cache data
or video at the network edge, making it
available quickly when customers want
it, again saving capacity demands on the
network core.
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As the Internet becomes mobile, it also
grows more personalized. I look forward
to personalizing my phone so that it will
help me to coordinate my activities with
my family’s. When I get an invitation to
an event, it would be great if my phone
could automatically check my wife’s
schedule to see if we’re both free to
accept, for instance.
The proliferation of applications for
mobile devices means that even when
they have the same handset, individuals
can use them in vastly different ways. An
application that may strike me as trivial
can be vital to my neighbor.
I always regarded the ability to program
a DVR from a cell phone as superfluous
until I met someone who described how
important it is to him. He travels a lot and
often forgets to program his DVR when
he’s home, so this service that enables his
cell phone to interact with his TV is quite
useful, and he values it highly.
For carriers that offer triple-play ser-
vices, this one application may create
customer stickiness, as do “TV anywhere”
applications that direct content to which-
ever screen a customer wants. While a
football fan probably prefers to watch a
game on big screen high-definition set
at home, he might just want game high-
lights sent to his smartphone.
Intelligent networks that can package
content in different ways for individual
screens will provide carriers with an edge
over the competition and may open new
revenue streams.
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Mobile carriers should endow their
networks with decentralized intelligence
because it will save them money and
improve their service, but the one argu-
ment for smarter networks that may
trump all others is mobile security.
Security on the mobile Web demands
smarter networks to track down and iso-
late viruses and other malicious software
that target known vulnerabilities in smart
wireless devices. PCs can download anti-
virus software and other programs to
protect themselves. When they become
infected, they can be cleaned. Wireless
devices don’t have sufficient capacity for
that, so they depend on the network to
provide a “clean pipe” and protection
from malware.
Already, there are increasing number of
headlines about attacks and vulnerabilities
that expose newly arrived smartphones
on the market, such as the iPhone SMS
hack vulnerability exposed recently.
Smartphones, like PCs, have operating
systems and are vulnerable to hacking.
Hackers can potentially leverage vulner-
abilities in device platforms, hack millions
of such devices and utilize them to turn
against the network to bring it down.
To ensure that the mobile Web
achieves its potential, network operators
must intelligently detect such threats and
thwart them. It’s just one more smart
thing to do. ■
Dr. Vikram Saksena, is executive vice presi-
dent and CTO at Tellabs. His main respon-
sibilities are technology strategy and business
development, focusing on the areas of optical
networking, Carrier Ethernet and IP, and
mobile backhaul.
SMS: Short Messuge Service
Peseurchers worldwide ure enlist-
ing smurtphones to uugment reulity.
Some exumples.
1ourists use phones to tule pho- ·
tos oí the Puluce oí Venuriu neur
1urin, ¦tuly, or Winchester Custle in
Englund und get views oí how those
lundmurls looled in eurlier times.
1hey ulso get tips on neurby uttruc-
tions oí interest.
A Jupunese compuny is testing un ·
overluy oí dutu displuyed on phones
to provide udded iníormution ubout
pluces in the user's vicinity, such us
restuurunt menus.
¦n the U.S., u university engineer ·
in St. Louis hus murried un ultru-
sound probe with u smurtphone
so low-power-ultrusound imuging
cun be done unywhere, uny time.
1his should greutly expund the
reuch oí telemedicine, especiully in
countries where electricul power is
unreliuble.
lor putients in developed coun- ·
tries, wireless technology provides
putient iníormution to heulthcure
providers without un oííice visit.
A Mussuchusetts sturt-up hus u
service linling pill bottles to A1&1's
wireless networl so thut íorgetíul
putients will get reminder culls when
they miss u dose.
Dule University engineers huve ·
creuted un upplicution enubling u
consumer to wuve his phone in the
uir to write something lile "Level 4,
Pow H," to send himselí un e-muil
reculling where he purled his cur.
A Culiíorniu compuny hus luunched ·
un upplicution thut uses locution
uwureness to enhunce its memory
¦ogging, so u shopping list would pop
up on u customer's phone when he
upprouches u grocery store.
Coogle hus extended its mobile ·
truííic service to retrieve íeedbucl
írom cell phone users to portruy
chunging truííic conditions in reul
time, enhuncing the service's vulue
to motorists.
Cleurly, the hundy device thut wus
born us u wuy to mule phone culls on
the move hus grown into something
much more íur-reuching, und its evolu-
tion is ucceleruting.
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