Procera gets onto something new with device side RAN Perspectives

DPI specialist Procera Networks is bringing what some competitors are admitting is a new approach to the business

The company’s new RAN Perspectives product works by installing an applet on the SIM. Procera’s applet sees signalling information like signal strength, and delivers that along with cell ID location information over the air to Procera’s RAN Pro engine which allies that information with its Packet Logic DPI-based product. That means that information about user location and the signalling strength they experience can be correlated with actual application usage.

The proposed benefit of this is that instead of having merely network level information about a cell site – but not visibility into actual user experience – or conversely lots of knowledge about application usage but no idea of QoE, now you can have both. Another benefit is that you can gain some insight into network conditions without having to roll out a network of high performance probes sitting on network interfaces (Abis, IuB, X2).

So what is different about what Procera is doing? Well, it’s the device-side aspect combined with the IP/application intelligence.

Sure there are plenty of assurance + DPI players out there attempting to do something similar. What we’ve seen is probe-based companies also partner with DPI providers to add richness to the network-level data they get from the probes. So, for example CommProve, Empirix and Polystar all use Qosmos for DPI, while Radcom partners with Allot. Rhode & Shwarz comes at this from a more test-based background, but is another company looking to get into more a cross-network assurance play, and to that end recently acquired DPI specialist ipoque.

The upside of the probe approach is you get much more richness of data than is reported by Procera’s applet, and can “see” a lot more devices that just devices enabled with an app. The downside is it costs a lot more.

The upside of the probe approach is you get much more richness of data than is reported by Procera’s applet, and can “see” a lot more devices that just devices enabled with an app. The downside is it costs a lot more. It really depends on the level on information you want and the use cases you are trying to fulfil.

One probe based assurance provider said to TMN, “Our [approach] is better in terms of scalability because we pick up all the users and we are not limited by having to transfer information captured on the handsets to some central location over the air interface. We also have to transfer information but we can do it over the fixed line data network without having to consume precious radio resources.” But that same vendor also agreed that Procera was onto something different: “[We] do agree that their approach is unique and first of a kind, to some degree. It is so, because of the combination of DPI and handset side radio info based on the SIM app.”

Procera main

And there have been device-side apps and clients before. Most famously the behavioural visibility of something like a CarrierIQ. What else goes on the device? Well, there are device agents that act as “policy on the device” clients – with something like ANDSF being invoked. This is about having control of the device to do something like select the same network, and here there are companies such as GreenPacket and SmithMicro. As making a network selection requires an assessment of the network, companies here too have seen the potential for using these device-side agents for carrying out performance monitoring.

But Procera’s approach is slightly different. Its applet on the SIM is a lot more limited in what it can “see” than an app like CarrierIQ, which has behavioural and usage visibility. But when combined with what Packet Logic knows about the application usage, you get that single view of QoE information.

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