Could a common policy architecture drive wireless/wireline blended services?

Sean BuckleyWhile it is easy to say that wireless and wireline are two separate service worlds that should never touch one another, that is a mentality that overlooks the possibilities of how the two worlds can provide a blended service experience.

Of course, to deliver that, it will take some management of the experience that is consistent within each of these separate domains.

Enter the policy manager. Simply put, policy management, as defined on Linktionary, "provides a way to allocate network resources, primarily network bandwidth, QoS, and security (firewalls), according to defined business policies."

Policy management, once dominated by a host of smaller upstarts, is gaining momentum. A recent Infonetics Research revealed that the worldwide revenue for policy servers deployed in both wireless and wireline networks is forecast to reach $471 million this year and $1.6 billion by 2014. Not surprisingly, revenues in 2009 were split 60-40 between mobile and fixed line; this balance will shift toward mobile operators as they maximize their 4G investments.

Up till now, however, policy managers have been primarily set in silos for each access technology and even application--one for VoIP, one for IPTV, and one for wireless.

This blurring of the lines idea became even more clear to me during last Thursday's Policy Management Standards-Towards a Common Architecture Framework webinar.

Although ATIS' Policy Management Focus leverages the work of the wireless industry group 3GPP's Policy and Charging and Control (PCC) architecture, the proposed common policy management framework can actually be applied to both wireless and wireline networks .

Albeit still in development, a common policy management will enable the service provider to provide a consistent quality of experience (QoE) independent of any access technology (wireless or wireline) or service.

Fred Kemmerer, CTO, GENBAND, said that a wireline and integrated wireline/wireless service providers and alike with will benefit from a common policy management because it encourages the end-users to more services. A wireline-centric provider could, for example, enable their users to view their IPTV services on their cell phone.  

"What fixed and mobile end users want to do is use their services, their content, their Internet-based content, and they want to move across network domains--that's the biggest single advantage that all operator types can gain from a common policy framework," he said. "Even if you're a fixed operator and you don't have plans to do mobile, you want to be an attractive place for those users to get their services."

Naseem Khan, Principal Member of Technical Staff, Verizon (NYSE: VZ), added that for wireline centric service providers, a common policy framework could drive them to seek wireless partnerships to create blended service environments.  

"This converged policy management architecture also creates an opportunity for wireline operators to create relationships with wireless operators because the users could be in one or the other service provider's domain and could get the services seamlessly," he said.

Khan added that "the other advantage is that just having one common policy architecture would create a rich ecosystem of vendors and applications and pushed through reduced cost of development and greater opportunities for service providers."

ATIS' concept could be applied to some example of service blending we're already seeing in the industry.

Whether or not carriers are thinking about the benefits of common policy architecture to manage various service domains, they are clearly putting out some kind of blended service or packages.

Take a look at AT&T's (NYSE: T) latest integrated U-verse voice mail offering. Customers can simply use the Voicemail Viewer app: They will be able to check and manage their home phone messages with visual voicemail on their smartphone device.

Sounds simple enough, but the challenge here even for a carrier like AT&T is ensuring that they can maintain a consistent Quality of Experience (QoE) across both the wireless and wireline domains so the user can manage their voice mail service from one common point.

Outside of the integrated wireless/wireline players, wireline-centric service providers also have an opportunity to leverage a common policy control to manage their service domains.

But even wireline-centric service providers such as Qwest, which while having an existing relationship with Verizon, offers a home monitoring service that enables a user to get access not only into their home security system, but remotely turn off lights and see if doors are open from their wireless phones.

Regardless of the type of blended service being delivered over the wireless or wireline network, the ultimate beneficiary of a common policy management framework will be the user, who will be able to access multiple services that are unique to their own subscription profile.--Sean

P.S. Make sure to check out my wireless colleagues own take on the policy management space in their new free eBook on policy management.

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