Mobile tops CDN Summit

The needs of mobile operators have leapt up the CDN (Content Delivery Network) agenda, reflecting the fast growing consumption of high bandwidth content on the move, chiefly video. As a result MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) had top billing at the recent CDN World Summit in London and not just as customers of the major CDN providers. MNOs are also actively engaging with CDN providers to streamline end to end content delivery so that consumers receive a better Quality of Service for mobile commerce and HD video.

Telia Sonera, the dominant fixed line Telco and MNO in Sweden and Finland, stressed the need for cellular operators to establish close partnerships with CDN providers to improve QoS across the board for all services. Its head of CDN John Hakansson highlighted both the global data tsunami that was hitting MNOs and the mounting expectation from consumers that mobile services should match their fixed line equivalents for QoS. The operator has built its own CDN to cover its core European market, primarily in the Nordics, but was looking for partners to expand coverage for data and video services to the rest of the world. “We are quite small so we partnered with Verizon Edgecast to establish a Federated CDN,” said Hakansson.

A federated CDN comprises two or more constituent CDNs interconnected to provide coverage over a larger region and sometimes to provide greater resiliency and security. The component CDNs are typically owned by local or regional Telcos clubbing together to compete against the established dedicated global CDN players like AkamaiLimelight Networks and Level 3.

“Our partnership with Verizon increases our speed and performance, extends coverage and also protects against DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks,” said Hakansson. Smaller regional CDNs, as well as ISPs, are more susceptible to the complex DDOS attacks being launched today, flooding networks with data at rates up to 200 Gbps. This is more than a local network service provider can cope with, but a large global or Federated CDN can absorb such attacks and launch appropriate responses.

For many MNOs the role of CDNs is at least partly defensive, to ensure that customers do not churn away through frustration with poor QoS, but KDDI Corp of Japan believes there is an opportunity to boost revenue by actually charging CDN providers for preferential access to the mobile network. The idea is to locate dedicated cache memory inside the MNO’s core networks and offer this to CDN providers for accelerated data delivery to the radio towers and then on over the air to consumer devices.

KDDI believes CDN providers will be enticed by the prospect of ensuring delivery right to the consumer device so that they can offer a “to the end” service to their customers such as OTT video content providers. At the same time a few larger OTT providers, notably Netflix, are building their own CDNs and reaching agreements directly with fixed line broadband providers, like Comcast in the US, to enable consistent delivery of HD video. KDDI believes such providers will be interested in similar deals with MNOs for mobile TV.

Another motivating factor here is that global IP transport is increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few major CDN providers, so that it makes sense for MNOs to establish partnerships with them, according to KDDI’s manager of IP Transport Network Development for CDN Technology Kazuhide Koide, speaking at the London CDN Summit.

Whether these few CDN providers will agree to pay for cache in the networks of MNOs such as KDDI remains to be seen. It clearly makes sense though for CDN providers and MNOs to work together to enable high quality mobile video services, for which there is fast growing demand. It is also becoming imperative for both sides competitively, given that the big Internet players, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon as well as Netflix, are building out their own CDNs towards the customer, in their case providing the infrastructure as well as the content or service that runs on top.

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