User experience assurance: now Skyfire makes its play

Skyfire says content optimisation platform can be deployed for RAN quality of experience assurance.

Skyfire, the company recently acquired by Opera Software, has said that its Rocket Optimiser platform can be used not just to optimise content for delivery over mobile networks, but as a Quality of Experience Assurance solution.

CEO Jeff Glueck claimed that the approach can “save operators tens of millions dollars, and hundreds of truck rolls, and be almost as accurate in estimating areas where user needs relief as RAN probes.”

Put simply, the Rocket Optimiser platform is used by operators to deliver optimised content streams to users. Often this content is video. DPI or application control elements in the network route sample objects – only those packets likely to be vulnerable to degradation in user experience due to network conditions – through to the Rocket platform. The platform analyses the user experience, whether a video is buffering, stopping, what the start time is, and uses that to estimate the bandwidth conditions the user is experiencing. It then delivers the video at the best bit rate for the phone, screen capability, and network connection of that user. To make that decision, the platform is therefore aware, in near real time, of key parameters that affect the end user experience. Skyfire’s contention is that that information can be used by operators not only to deliver better customer experience when looking at a photo or streaming a video or music, but to better understand their own networks.

A solution brief from the company asks, “Traditional legacy RAN probes or inline appliance solutions might detect congestion on the entire cell, but what about if you’re the only one unable to stream that YouTube video because of your location or unique situation?”

“Skyfire software measures bandwidth conditions in real time for all subscriber sessions on a network, and detects when a user on a poor connection is trying to stream high-quality video that will likely result in a frustrating experience. This measurement can now automatically invoke Skyfire’s cloudbased Rocket Optimizer cluster to adapt that video to fit existing capacity – taking into account RF, backhaul and spectrum bottlenecks. The end result is an insurance policy that ensures better QoE for users on crowded towers, inside buildings or at the edge of cells, as well as a solution that can “rescue” users from frustrating stalls, long video start times, and other annoyances.”

Having the ability to look across the network and see where cells are congested and respond and restitute the situation always been our goal

“Having the ability to look across the network and see where cells are congested and respond and restitute the situation always been our goal,” CEO Jeff Glueck told The Mobile Network. “Rather than rely on a third party RAN probe or an in-line box as traditionally required, the new experience assurance architecture uses a cloud approach and can essentially do cloud powered QoE management without a probe or a client. Operators could save tens of millions of dollars and hundreds truck rolls and be almost as accurate in estimating areas where users need relief.”

“Right now operators tend to be pretty blind right now to how the network is performing on media: they’re good at dropped calls and those measurements, bad at knowing what adaptive bit rate, and streaming rates are. We can help them very quickly with this, without adding an inline proxy in the network,” Glueck added.

The solution is not intended to replace RAN probes, but act along side them. Glueck said that where an operator is looking to do something like detailed cell sector capacity planning, then a tool like Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless Network Guardian will be more applicable.

To quote the solution brief:

The RAN probe approach is indeed more surgical, but it still has two downsides. First, most mobile networks do not currently have RAN probes deployed, and doing so requires a significant capital outlay. Second, the RAN probe approach is useful for reducing or eliminating RAN congestion – but many quality of experience issues have nothing to do with macrolevel congestion, and are instead caused by impairments at the individual user level. For example, the user may be indoors and suffering from signal blockage; at the edge of a cell, with poor signal; using an old phone with a CPU that just can’t handle the bitrate of the given video they’ve requested, and so on.

Glueck added: “Experience assurance looks at the individual user session level. A lot of carriers are still developing a business case for RAN probes, whereas the Experience Assurance approach is very lightweight: a couple blades at each packet core and then the compute platform in the cloud to rescue the sessions that are impacted.”