Sunday, September 9, 2012

Visit - Sprint at the Wireless Institute

One of the nice perks of being at Notre Dame is the wicked, cool set of speakers that we get to have the privilege of listening to.  For this past week, we were the host of Bob Azzi, Sprint's senior vice president of network operations.  Unfortunately due to obligations related my Associate Chair hat, I had to duck out early from the question and answer session and missed the second half of the session.

A few interesting bits from the talk and Q&A that stood out for me:
  • A certain other cell network when they had employed data caps expecting to see revenue generation.  In reality, users heavily capped their behavior when they hit the limit and it ended up not generating any substantial new revenue.  It definitely raises some interesting questions related to our WiFi offloading study as a comment was raised whether or not users will modify their behaviors as they get closer to the cap.  With our Cell Phone Study getting our data services from Sprint, this was not an issue due to the unlimited data plans.  It certainly would have some interesting effects for non-Sprint customers if we could monitor several in our study.  From a larger perspective, I have to think data like that would give execs at Verizon pause as the whole shared data plan sort of thing could get ugly in a heartbeat. 
  • DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) and video translation for the win.  18-20% reduction by whacking certain low hanging video streams from 1080p when the type of mobile device is known (non-tethered too I assume) to be more appropriate for the screen size.  I'll have to do a bit more digging to see what devices are involved but very smart plays to re-encode said video to alleviate the last mile. 
  • As academics in networking, we sometimes can forget that the real network is messy and that any sort of pico / metro cell magic is going to be awful due to the sheer scope / complexity of rolling it out for real.  Techniques like SON (Self-Optimizing Networks) are going to be essential for realizing HetNets.  Right of way / property are powerful things indeed (i.e. how do power / cable / get permission to install a pico or metro cell).
  • Similarly, cell networks are not nearly as monolithic as one would imagine, often involving many agreements across a variety of networks to be able to provide full nation-wide coverage.  It definitely adds a unique complexity wrinkle to deployment that the community needs to be more mindful of.
  • Finally, like all things technology, technology is only one part of it and policy, particularly public policy is a very, very important part.  We really need more engineers who can correctly inform technology decisions.
Hopefully we will be able to post up a video on the Wirelss Institute webpage in the next week or so with a recording of the core part of Azzi's talk.  

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