Always-on Internet and the importance of traffic management to 5G and OTT

mobile-phone-socialEnabling free and open exchange of information was one of the founding principles of the Internet. Upholding this principle calls for constant innovation, with the ICT community always in search of smarter ways to increase the carrying capacity and routing efficiency of the world’s networks. This search is endless. The volume of traffic running over the Internet is always growing, as is the variety of available services, applications and content.

Operators’ decisions in network management are informed by the needs of their subscribers, whose appetite for over-the-top (OTT) services seems boundless.

The ICT industry has come up with innovation after innovation to satisfy the world’s hunger for bandwidth. Greater connectivity and broader bandwidth were achieved with Next-Generation Networks (NGNs), optical broadband and IMT-Advanced (4G) mobile-wireless systems. Following NGNs and 4G, Future Networks and IMT-2020 (5G) systems will do the same. With each step forward, the industry finds new ways of supporting an increasing number and diversity of bandwidth-hungry services and applications.

ITU-T standards offer blueprints for highly configurable smart networks with the flexibility necessary to account for large and unpredictable changes in bandwidth use. Efficient traffic management is essential, especially in catering to the different requirements of different forms of traffic.

ITU-T standards for traffic management – coupled with effective measures to increase the transparency of such techniques to consumers – can improve the extent to which commercial incentives align with regulator’s objectives to ensure that the Internet remains true to the principle of free and open exchange of information.

Traffic management tools help operators to draw maximum value from available network capacity by managing network resources as efficiently as possible. Combined with traffic classifications, these tools enable operators to manage traffic in accordance with the specifics of each service. This optimizes network operations to meet each service’s requirements, giving users the freedom to access any service, anytime, anywhere.

The Y.3000 series of ITU-T standards for Future Networks makes distinctions between various classes of traffic to improve traffic management and efficiency, accounting for the impact of OTT traffic on network capacity and quality of service.

Recommendation ITU-T Y. 3042 “Smart Ubiquitous networks – smart traffic control and resource management functions”, for example, maps services in terms of ‘bandwidth’ and ‘service duration’ to identify four ‘classes’ of traffic, each assigned a different level of priority. The standard’s application is beneficial to operators, given their need to support a huge number of users and a very wide variety of services. Prioritizing safety-critical traffic such as emergency communications is another important motivation for traffic management.

ITU-T Study Group 13 (SG13) is ITU’s standardization expert group responsible for future networks, cloud computing and network aspects of mobile communications. The three Working Parties of SG13 are meeting in Geneva today to consolidate the output of SG13’s specialized working groups (Rapporteur Groups) which met from 13 to 23 July.

A large portion of SG13’s work is targeted at the development of networking tools and architectures to assist operators in managing traffic as dynamically as possible. This work is gaining in importance, driven in part by the explosive growth of cloud-based applications for mobile devices. Achieving ultra-high-speed 5G connectivity with advanced fixed-mobile hybrid networks will require better mechanisms to manage user mobility and traffic, both over wireless and wireline networks. SG13 will standardize these mechanisms with a focus on wireline networks, assisted by the launching point provided by a new ITU-T Focus Group on IMT-2020 set up to gather input from as many stakeholders as possible.

Protecting the free and open exchange of information demands that all players in the ICT ecosystem collaborate to ensure that the Internet and its governing frameworks are optimized for their purpose. ITU provides a neutral venue to build consensus on the technical and policy questions most relevant to this task. Working together, we can optimize networking so that our favourite services are always available, always performing as expected, and always managed as coexisting with a rich diversity of other services.


Chaesub Lee

imageChaesub Lee is the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, following his election at the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea. He took office on 1st January 2015. He acted as Vice-Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 13 ‘Future Networks and Cloud’ from 2001 until 2008, becoming Chairman of that group in 2009.

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