Optimise at the edge for "40% backhaul savings"

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Operators can reduce backhaul costs by 40% by deploying edge-based caching and optimisation at the base station, according to Altobridge.

Altobridge said that it has proved a reduction of 40% in backhaul payload for Malaysian operator Maxis from sites where its technology has been deployed in a live commercial deployment. CEO Mike Fitzgerald related that to a 40% reduction in backhaul costs.

Maxis has deployed 3G small cells equipped with Altobridge’s cacheing and optimisation technology to provide 3G coverage in rural areas. In these areas, backhaul is via satellite and so must be as light as possible. Altobridge claims that Maxis is seeing a reduction in 40% of traffic delivered, compared to links where no optimisation is present at the base station.

The base stations, manufactured by Altobridge and based on a core radio from Argela, include additional data processing techniques that  Altobridge calls Data at the Edge (DatE).  Typically, the Altobridge software will identify content that is likely to be popular, and cache that locally on the base station, as well as compressing and optimising data to reduce packet flows to and from the base station from the RNC or core network.

The technique is similar to WAN data optimisation techniques, and includes technology from Replify, the company Altobridge bought earlier this year. It is also similar in concept to Sycamore’s IQ Stream backhaul optimisation proposal, which Sycamore, recently sold to private capital, failed to make fly with operators.

Mike Fitzgerald, Altobridge CEO, said Sycamore’s lack of success does not invalidate the concept of optimising data at the base station level.

“We’re seeing some operators in the USA pay $7,000 per month in backhaul for a busy urban base station. And in the context of that we’re saying you can make 40-60% savings on that actual capacity. We’ve also got operators coming to us and saying they have a problem with their enterprise small cells, where SMEs are saying their DSL is being eaten up by the operators’ small cell.

“The product in Malaysia, although it is being deployed in a rural use case, could be brought into an enterprise tomorrow, or no provide a metro underlay in a busy urban network,” he added.

“Another thing to note is that as well as backhaul savings, this has also lead to a great improvement in customer experience for Maxis. When data is cached so near to the user, latency is so low it transforms the user experience.”

But would adding edge intelligence  in a distributed manner across the network be expensive? Fitzgerald claims not.  “You don’t need a monstrous amount of memory at the site,” he said. He added that because Altobridge’s technology operates at the byte, rather than the object level it can act very smartly. For example, if a user has requested a YouTube video that the software recognises has an average play length of 30 seconds, it will only tee up the first 30 seconds of the video, rather than download the full length video across the backhaul links.

Cached objects are jettisoned after two days inactivity as well. The company is also preparing predictive “smart” optimisation that will get packets to base stations before they are even requested. 

Fitzgerald also argued that the technology can enable content “on-loading” for mobile operators, inceasing revenues by improving the user QoE over the “unmanaged” experience over WiFi.

Altobridge made its name providing small cells for the likes of ships and aircraft, using satellite for backhaul, so became used to reducing the backhaul payload to as little as possible. Fitzgerald said the company realised it could take those techniques and deploy them either as an underlay in busy urban networks, or to reduce payloads to and from rural areas, and also to free up capacity on enterprise links.

The company operates in a direct model at the moment, but is open to the technology being embedded in other designs in future, Fitzgerald said.

“It’s designed in such a way that it’s plug and play. We know what the interfaces are, we can put this box in an connect a link at both sides and all o a sudden you have your optimisation. Opeators need robust architecture that is well proven and designed in a telco way, so objects can be hot-swappable in real time I live networks.”

Altobridge builds its solutions on Intel hardware, incorporating its remote gateway into an enclosure with the Argela small cell, optimiseing data within the encrytped iUB interface to the RNC, which Fitzgerald said the Intel multicore platforms are ideally suited for.

(Advert from Maxis featuring Altobridge’s solution. Satellite dish rides into view after about a minute. There’s a glimpse of a pole going up at about 1:14)