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The Five Myths of LTE Optimization

White Paper

Executive Summary
Mobile data optimization is a de-facto standard of 3G networks today. Most leading tier-one operators have already implemented optimization to improve their network performance, increase brand competitiveness, and save network costs in the most effective way. At the same time, most leading operators have already started deploying or preparing for the next generation 4G LTE. 4G networks enable operators to offer their subscribers new products and services, higher download speeds, and lower latencies all of which contribute to an exciting new experience for subscribers. However, there are also many challenges in implementing this new technology. Flash Networks is a worldwide leader in 3G and 4G optimization with numerous successful web and video optimization installations. By leveraging its extensive experience with Tier-1 operators, Flash Networks can offer operators innovative architectures and solutions. This paper addresses the most common myths related to the implementation of 4G optimization, analyzes video and web optimization solutions for LTE networks, and demonstrates the need for an evolved optimization solution in an LTE environment. This paper will demonstrate that: Web and video optimization for LTE networks is essential and beneficial from day one Optimization is a cost effective and strategic investment for Tier-1 operators, with clear benefits such as increased competitiveness, faster download, controlled expenses, advanced policy enforcement, improved RAN efficiency, and many others. Optimizing 3G and 4G networks is not the same; networks in different lifecycle stages need different solutions The best approach to 4G optimization involves a flexible and cost-effective platform that enables dynamic application of optimization techniques to suit the changing needs of the network lifecycle, rather than a quick fix for network problems as they arise.

LTE is a Game Changer

LTE brings revolutionary improvements to mobile subscribers and operators.

Better spectral efficiency, network simplicity, and cost-per-bit

The spectral efficiency of LTE networks enables more bits to be transferred on the same spectrum the most expensive resource of a mobile network thus serving more users. A recent survey by Infonetics Research showed that this is the number one reason operators upgrade to LTE.

Figure 1, Source: Infonetics Research

Figure 2: Operators incentives for deploying LTE Source: Informa Telecom Survey, 2012

LTE networks are much simpler than 3G networks because they are based on an all-IP flat architecture system. This architecture reduces signaling traffic, which is a burden on 3G networks, simplifies management, and reduces the cost-per-bit of data transport. Unlike 3G networks in which circuit switched connections are used for voice traffic, LTE can use IP for voice transportation, which also dramatically simplifies the network.

LTE dramatically reduces the latency in the RAN (radio access network) from an average of 50-80 milliseconds in HSDPA to around 10 milliseconds. While this can dramatically improve large file download times (such as video progressive downloads), it has an even more significant effect for web and app users who request multiple consecutive objects, and for VoIP users who may suffer from intermittent or jittery service.

Increased ARPU through dynamic tiered pricing

With LTE networks in place, operators will likely stop offering all-you-can-eat tariff plans, which are the standard in 3G networks. Although cost-per-bit in LTE is lower, the anticipated traffic growth from new LTE capabilities is expected to continue skyrocketing, making such unlimited plans impractical. With LTE, operators are expected to implement tiered pricing as already seen in the US, a pioneer of LTE. As shown in Figure 1, the potential increase in ARPU derived by tiered pricing plans is one of the major drivers for LTE adoption among operators.

Download speed
Another major improvement is the theoretical and practical download speeds enabled on devices. While in HSDPA, the fastest 3G technology, theoretical speeds can reach up to 42 Mbps for downlink (84 Mbps with multi-carrier technology) and 11.5 Mbps for uplink, LTE can theoretically be much faster, especially using advanced technologies such as TD-LTE and LTE-Advanced. One major reason for LTEs ability to produce higher bandwidth is multi-carrier multi-frequency transmission (which is only partly available in the latest HSPA dual-carrier/MIMO modes).

Figure 3: Evolution of data speed and penetration for mobile and fixed networks Source: Chetan Sharma Consulting, 2012

Devices: larger, smarter, connected

In the past, the limited release of LTE devices was a barrier to the adoption of LTE. Today, numerous LTE devices have already been released, enabling HD and 3D video viewing on larger screens, where higher resolution can be better perceived. In addition, small screen devices can now be connected to larger screens, such as HD TV, for better video viewing quality. Device and content resolution is also increasing, with some LTE devices offering 720p resolution, compared to 3G video which is normally available from 240p to 480p.

Figure 4, Source: Verizon Wireless Website

New revenue streams: Machine-to-machine

LTE capabilities have created the opportunity for operators to connect any mobile device, not only handsets, laptops, or tablets. This creates the potential for new revenue streams for operators who can now offer consistent wireless connectivity as a service for cars, remote metering, emergency services, healthcare, asset management, and smart homes.

Figure 5: Operators incentives for deploying LTE Source: Informa Telecom Survey, 2012

The Five Myths of LTE Optimization

The benefits of web and video optimization for 3G networks are clear. 3G optimization reduces traffic during the busy hour by reducing the amount of data using lossless, unnoticeable, or lossy compression. It also improves subscribers video experience by eliminating stalls, shortening video start time, cutting response time for smartphone applications, and accelerating web page downloads. 3G optimization saves large amounts of operational and capital expenditures. It enables 30% savings in data traffic, which means the same size network can handle 30% more traffic, delaying the need for additional network investments. The need for optimization in LTE networks is obviously, being revisited. There are five common myths surrounding LTE optimization, which we will review in the following paragraphs.

1. There is no need to optimize LTE

Since LTE networks provide many improvements such as cost-per-bit, latency reduction, and available bandwidth per user, many operators are questioning the need to optimize LTE networks. Although LTE designers used sophisticated technologies (e.g. SON) to improve network planning, web and video optimization can still provide additional benefits:

Controlling LTE network growth

While LTE provides a significant reduction of 50-70% cost-per-bit over the network, Flash Networks worldwide statistics show that total traffic, for most operators, doubles every year. With todays growth rates, the cost reduction will be eliminated in a little over one year, but traffic growth with LTE networks is expected to grow at an even faster rate. Optimization solutions enable operators to control the additional expenses associated with this increasing traffic growth. With messaging and voice already stagnating, data will clearly be the primary source for the increasing expenses. While offloading and small cell solutions may gain popularity, their benefits are limited and usually require a change in network architecture for data and signaling. After optimizing two major generations of mobile data, Flash Networks experience proves that, even if the network is well provisioned and planned, optimization must be part of the strategy in order to relieve bottlenecks.

Speed, speed, speed

Although LTE networks are faster, and maybe even because they are faster, operators will be more competetive on providing the fastest service, especially when dealing with downloads, subscriber apps, and web browsing. Advanced optimization solutions can provide up to 50% reduction in web page download time, and a dramatic reduction of video load time. This has a strong influence on subscriber satisfaction and abandonment rates. A recent Flash Networks study revealed that subscribers who experienced eight or more seconds of video stalls (buffering) were 73% more likely to abandon video viewing. In addition, as 4G is far superior to all previous mobile internet technologies, when users get a poor 4G experience will notice the difference much faster than in 3G.

Figure 6: Page load time and user satisfaction Source: Akamai, 2012

Coping with congestion

Like 3G, LTE is also radio-based, so regardless of how well planned LTE networks are, network congestion will continue to be a problem. Users will still compete for the same limited resources, and overloaded cells and poor reception will be a problem during peak hours. Optimization can help relieve these situations, while improving user quality of experience.

2. Optimizing video is enough

Following Ciscos latest research predicting that by 2015 70% of network traffic will be video, some optimization vendors believe that implementing only video transcoding will provide network relief. While video is anticipated to take up the majority of bandwidth, optimizing only video traffic is a partial solution.

Figure 7: Typical traffic distribution, Source: Flash Networks Analytics, 2012

Web browsing and apps still provide ~30-40% of network traffic. Users spend more time browsing and using apps than watching video. Almost all videos are accessed via a web page or app, either by searching content or selecting popular videos. Software downloads, such as operating system or app upgrades, have become a significant part of mobile traffic sometimes up to 30-40% in major upgrades time.

By ignoring these significant segments of traffic, optimization benefits are not fully realized.

3. Optimizing congested traffic is enough

Optimizing traffic on congested cells can provide significant benefits, using techniques such as compression and transcoding, especially during busy hours. But there is little sense in optimizing congested user sessions only; an optimization system must process all traffic, at least at wirespeed levels.

Besides compression, there are other optimization techniques, such as transport optimization and caching techniques, that provide significant acceleration. Transport optimization provides up to 30% improvement in speed. Advanced caching techniques add value as latency in the radio is reduced on LTE, making latency on the IP transit relatively more significant. In addition, optimization systems that handle only congested sessions cannot provide accurate analytics on all network traffic since they handle only up to 5% of total traffic.

4. LTE manages its own QoS

LTE networks are designed to provide better end-to-end quality of service (QoS), assuming there is enough bandwidth for users. However, even if there is enough bandwidth, there is still doubt if self-managed QoS implementation is feasible. QoS bandwidth allocation is not cost-effective for data services. QoS managed networks are more relevant to voice and IMS. A recent study by Informa Telecom shows that many operators do not plan on using built-in standards for voice in the near future, and prefer to fallback on other bearers (CSFB), dual radio or simultaneous carrier (SVLTE), and OTT voice.

Figure 8: Operators plans for Voice in LTE networks, Source: Informa Telecom, 2012

5. Theres no difference between 3G and LTE optimization

Although many techniques (such as transcoding, compression, caching, pacing, transport optimization, and rendering optimization) are used in both 3G and LTE, they differ in their architecture, settings, and network sensitivity. LTE optimization puts more emphasis on handling congestion, improving user experience without degrading video and image quality, implementing policy awareness and user control, saving battery life, and more. In addition, LTE optimization must be more scalable since it needs to support dozens of gigabits.

Additional Challenges of LTE

Battery Life
One of the biggest issues with LTE adoption is higher power consumption for LTE-enabled devices, due to its multi-carrier architecture and high bandwidth technology. Until a better solution is found, users will have to make do with larger batteries that require frequent charging. Optimization systems can extend battery life of devices by deliverying data more effectively.

Migrating to LTE 3G is still here to stay

Studies show that LTE deployment will not be prominent worldwide until 2020 as operators strive to get a full return on their 3G investments. Since LTE requires huge investments in spectrum, operators would like to postpone its adoption and try to make the most out of their existing 3G network. Moreover, 4G devices are more expensive. In addition, even as LTE is deployed, it will take time until it will have the same level of coverage, and many users will continue to rely on 3G. 3G will also be necessary for voice calls, at least until LTE is able to provide the same level of service as circuit-switch, with technologies such as VoLTE.

Figure 9: Forecast for 3G/LTE worldwide dominance, Source: CDG, 2012

Requirements for a Successful LTE Optimization Platform

The main building blocks for a cost-effective and beneficial LTE optimization platform are:

The right architecture

Managing mega-scale traffic with low TCO and footprint
The optimization platform must be scalable so that it can successfully manage dozens of gigabits of traffic with minimal footprint, thereby lowering the total cost of ownership.

Latency improvement
As LTE RAN has relatively low latency, an optimization platform, which by definition accelerates traffic, must not only avoid adding latency when applying data reduction features, but must also reduce it. When this cannot be achieved, traffic must run on the wire-speed fast path.

Optimal dual network 3G/4G planning

An efficient LTE optimization platform should support 3G optimization, and provide a smooth migration between the two systems. This is possible is if the same hardware and software components are used.

PCRF-enabled smart policies and tariff plans

It is important for an LTE optimization platform to adapt dynamically to network policies by following relevant standards, such as PCEF, TDF, and PEP in order to support new diversified tiered pricing plans.

Open platform designed for advanced monetization services

In order to generate new revenue streams for the operator, an LTE optimization platform should have the ability to provide operators with additional advanced monetization services, such as user engagement layer insertion, parental control, analytics, and advanced charging.

The right capabilities

Congestion and RAN awareness
An effective LTE optimization platform must be aware of network congestion in real-time, preferably without complex integrations, to enable activation of the appropriate optimization rules in a timely manner. In order to effectively recognize network congestion from within the core network, the optimization platform must accurately sense congestion on the radio in real-time.

Fast download everywhere

A successful LTE optimization platform should be designed to provide the fastest experience, regardless of data type (video, app, browsing, download) or if the user is in a congested cell.

Advanced 4G content and device support

An LTE optimization system should be able to support all device and content types. With LTE, users expect the same high quality regardless of screen size or content format (e.g. video).

QoE at the center

Quality of experience is top priority for operators; smoothness of video, fast browsing, battery savings, etc. cannot be compromised. Operators can no longer afford to jeopardize quality in order to reduce data and save costs.

Support all traffic

An LTE platform should be able to support download of all types of traffic that affect user experience: video, images, text, HTMLs, software downloads, apps data, etc.

With all you can eat data plans becoming a thing of the past, LTE network users should have the option to control their own data usage through the introduction of additional bandwidth packages, temporary speed boosts, or data saver services.

Summary and Conclusions

The introduction and deployment of LTE networks offers real promise for both subscribers and operators worldwide. It brings the potential for revolutionary change in quality of experience for mobile broadband. However, it also introduces significant new challenges for mobile operators. Flash Networks Harmony Web & Media Optimization solutions have proven their value and benefits for numerous Tier-1 operators. In this paper, we presented our philosophy on optimizing video and web on LTE networks, based on our extensive experience and discussions with leading operators worldwide. Flash Networks believes that only an evolved optimization solution with the right combination of capabilities focusing on subscriber quality of experience, controlling data growth and capacity, handling congestions, and addressing all types of traffic can enable operators to provide the best possible service for LTE networks.

About Harmony
Harmony Mobile Internet Services Gateway integrates web and video optimization, analytics, traffic management, web monetization, content control, cellbased congestion awareness, centralized caching, service orchestration, and an intelligent policy engine in a single gateway. By leveraging its unique insight into data traffic, Harmony provides mobile operators with the most comprehensive and cost-effective optimization and monetization solutions.


Flash Networks, the leading provider of mobile Internet optimization and monetization solutions, enables operators to provide exceptional quality of experience, reduce network operational expenses, and monetize the mobile Internet. With in-depth traffic analytics and user insight, Flash Networks Harmony Mobile Internet Services Gateway helps operators manage the explosion of mobile data traffic while generating revenues by offering personalized and targeted content. With offices in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia, Flash Networks services over 500 million subscribers daily and is proud to count among its customers top-tier mobile carriers including MTS, Orange, SMART, SingTel Group, T-Mobile, Telefnica Group, and Telekom Austria Group. For more information, visit

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