Executive Summary

This paper highlights in details the merits of using JSpectrum NetProbe™ for LBS by comparing the passive probe approach with internal access solutions offer by network equipment vendors
Completely independent from the underlying network, NetProbe™ forms an overlay system with the power and versatility necessary to support LBS and a good variety of other value added services (VAS) applications. Whilst enabling the extra revenue, network operators can rest assured that services using NetProbe™ monitoring will not affect the core network functions and traffic. Advantages of NetProbe™ in terms of data filtering and real time extraction, cost and network stability are discussed.

Comparison: Active & Passive

There are two ways of monitoring a network to extract live data from it, either actively or passively.

In an active method, port mirroring is used to make the network equipment to send a copy of live data to a monitoring connection. Live data in the network is obtained by using the internal access functions of the network node (e.g. RNC, Media Gateway or MSC Server). Raw data flowing through the equipment is “mirrored” to a monitoring port and forward to an application server typically provides by the network infrastructure vendor.

NetProbe™ on the other hand, passively taps the physical connections between the network nodes using an optical or electrical splitter to tap data flowing between the nodes and passing to a data capture function. With a fail-safe passive tap (such as optical splitter) data are feed into a NetProbe™ without affecting the main data link. Further NetProbe™ filters, captures, grooms and passes on the data to an integrated, real-time LBS application.

Benefits of NetProbe™

NetProbe™ is an overlay system, working independently from the network infrastructure and allowing a completely independent monitoring network to be built on top of the underlying network.

Active monitoring, the method favours by most network equipment vendors, will increase the CPU and backplane load of the network equipment. Under extreme conditions where the CPU is already heavily loaded, filtering and mirroring data to a secondary port can cause data packets to be delayed or lost, causing quality of service issues.

An overlay system isolates software upgrades etc to the overlay system from core subscriber operations (and visa versa) ensuring that supplementary VAS services that must be regularly updated do not affect essential network services that must operate with high reliability.
With NetProbe™, data acquisition function independently allows extensive computational, filtering and manipulation of the data, either locally or centrally, without affecting the quality and resilience of the underlying network. Indeed it is this scalable processing power together with flexibility of probe placement that ensures a network independent probe is often the preferred choice. In addition, some equipment vendors, particularly in 3G networks, simply don’t include monitoring functionality on their equipment, or use vendor specific interface standards and make the licensing costs of it unpalatable to third parties in order to try to lock out competition and preserve market share. Techniques used by NetProbe™ overcome such limitations.

The main benefits of NetProbe™ are summarised as:

  • Overlay system: independent from operator equipment.
  • Powerful – allows complex filtering, mass monitoring, tracking of numerous targets etc
    without degrading or overloading operator equipment.
  • Scalable – NetProbe™ can monitor a single E1, ATM or IP link or extendable to provide
    countrywide coverage. For example, LBS service can be offered to certain cities initially
    and even to certain areas within a city.
  • Access – does not require expensive port licensing of internal access functions or vendor
    specific interfaces.
  • Flexible, can be quickly updated for application needs without involving the network vendor.
  • Allowing fast optimisation and maximum return on investment.

NetProbe™, due to its passive nature, can simultaneously probe many points in a network (or indeed several networks) and have considerable power to filter the data and pass on meaningful information in real time.

By monitoring multiple data points a passive NetProbe™ can correlate a range of signalling or user events to filter specific data for the supported application. This enables JSpectrum NetWhere™ to correctly trigger the target subset of subscribers based on any mixture of the trigger conditions.

Conclusions

This paper outlines the benefits of using passive NetProbe™ technology as a network overlay rather than relying on the internal access functions of network node equipment directly. Using network nodes’ internal access functions requires that all equipment is able to monitor and filter the required data. Often equipment do not have enough processing overhead to perform such tasks, or the equipment is simply not designed with monitoring and real time extraction of data in mind, or the costs of licensing these interfaces is prohibitive due to artificial commercial barriers by network equipment vendors.

NetProbe™ provide independent monitoring as a completely separate overlay to the network ensuring no degradation in quality of service of the network and isolating the monitoring application from core network operations.

NetProbe™ are scalable, capable of monitoring from a single E1/ATM/IP link to an entire countrywide UMTS or CDMA2000 mobile network. They can handle converged 2G and 3G networks with ease, merging inputs from different mobile networks into one cohesive filtered result, for instance. Whilst internal access functions often store data and forward it to monitoring applications offline due to limited processing capability, NetProbe™ can filter and forward data in real time.

JSpectrum NetProbe™ is optimised to for LBS applications and is deployed commercially on country wide basis with resounding success.

NetProbe™ applications other than LBS include: anti SMS spamming, roamer welcome, data usage profiling and many more. Most importantly it is design to support service targeting – from individual users to geographic and demographic, NetProbe™ will support high-value intelligent services in the future.

In next generation networks, deep packet inspection (DPI) of flowing data may become a mandatory requirement. DPI can only be done passively by probes due to the complexity of the task. Therefore, NetProbe™ is future proof and your investment will be protected for network evolution.

As networks continue to evolve it is inevitable that partial or complete overlay networks using JSpectrum NetProbe™ will be deployed to support ever innovative value added services.

A checklist of technical and commercial issues when choosing a LBS solution
Consideration Checklist Issues
Technical Solution: how does it works? Are raw data flowing through network equipment (e.g. MSC Server, MGW) being captured by one of the following methods:

  • Internal port mirroring?
  • “Protocol Analyzer” type equipment captures the data which are written to a file for exporting via a TCP socket on a regular basis?
  • Internal query commands?
Internal port mirroring method will increase the CPU and backplane load of the network equipment.
Under extreme conditions where the CPU is already heavily loaded, filtering and mirroring data to a secondary port can cause data packets to be delayed or lost, causing quality of service issues.
For regular data file exporting method (favoured by most SS7 tester and protocol analyzer based vendors), the latency between data being captured and detected can degrade the mobile ad service.
Query command method including MAP command such as MAP_ATI is suitable only for location pull service (such as emergency or workforce application) since the projected traffic volume for this kind of service is not significant. But query based method cannot support massive location detection.
Capability Most LBS solutions are query based, that is, they can only locate subscribers with known MSISDN by querying the location registers (HLR or VLR).

  • Does the solution in question support location trigger? For example, can it support “who are now inside the Central Department Store at Queen’s Square?” without prior knowledge of the target mobile ID?
  • Is the solution cover 100% TMSI-IMSI pairing operation which is crucial for trigger- based LBS service?
  • Does solution come with a polling capability that can track moving targets without impacting network resources?
  • Can location target campaign setup is immediate?
Mass Location Trigger is one of the most important LBS capabilities without which proximity ad campaigns cannot be supported.
The solution must come with TMSI-IMSI translation and even live IMSI-MSISDN translation without involving the HLR.
Contact Policy Control? Does the solution offer built-in Global Contact Policy Control to restrict the number of ads receives by each individual subscriber? Since multiple Campaign Managers hook-up (e.g. Web based corporate DIY Campaign Manager) is envisioned, there should be a programmable global control on the maximum number of ad sent to each targeted individual subscriber within certain time frame (e.g. each day, week or month).
User Experience – Service & latency What is the latency between subscribers’ time of first physical entrance to target zones and the time he or she is being detected and as a result receives an ad or an alert message? The processing time of business logic should be of course imperceptible. But more importantly, the presence of a target subscriber inside a target location should be detected immediately upon entry.
Loading on the network Can the solution support location detection and trigger for every subscriber on you network at the same time even during peak hours without impacting on the network performance? This is a very challenging requirement for LBS solutions that are based on network equipment processing capability.
Under extreme heavy traffic conditions where the CPU is already heavily loaded, filtering and mirroring data to a secondary port can cause data packets to be delayed or lost, causing quality of service issues.
Capacity What is the maximum throughput in terms of Transaction Per Second (TSP)?
Is the capacity linearly scalable?
As the mobile advertising business is poised to grow substantially in the next few years, the right solution must be able to provide enough capacity to support business growth for mass location.
Typically, you need an initial LBS gateway that can support TPS for both trigger and query based service in the order of 100+
High Availability Is the solution support 100% High Availability (HA) with auto failover?
Are the raw data source duplicated for HA?
In a live network there is rarely redundancy for each of the network equipment (e.g. MSC Server). AS such, it is unlikely network vendor can offer a 100% HA solution.
MLP 3.2 Enhancement? Is the solution fully or only partially compliant to MLP 3.2? Does it support TLRR?
What are the enhancement of the MLP does it offer?
Does it offer MLP to Parlay X Web Service conversion?
MLP Server without TLRR capability cannot support mass location trigger mobile advertising.
Service Upgrade – Impact on network When LBS service features are to be enhanced, does it need to patch network equipment software?
For example, how many kinds of conditional triggers can it support?
If every time a new LBS service upgrade or enhancement necessitates a new patch on the network equipment such as BSC, this could be unacceptable to your core network or BSS engineering teams.
Integrated end-to-end solution? Is the solution well-integrated end-to- end and come with the following:

  • Web based & map-based Campaign Provisioning Interface?
  • Web based O&M Interface
  • Web based real-time HW resource utilisation viewer?
  • Web based reporting modules.
A vendor without focus on LBS is unlikely to offer the full suite of software that are essential for running location based mobile advertising business from day one.
Roadmap – Service feature enhancement Will the solution able to offer enhancement options:

  • Multi-channel delivery (SMS, WAP Push, MMS etc)?
  • Positioning with better than cell ID positioning accuracy?
  • On-line subscriber location profiling?
  • Can it support MSC Server pool and other core network evolution?
As mobile advertising is business in its own right, network operators who are seriously consider tapping into this revenue stream would also consider investing on multi-channel delivery platform, analytic systems, user profiling engine etc. Your solution vendor should be able to offer these systems.
Support responsiveness Is the vendor focus mainly on LBS? Will it be able to response quickly on feature modifications? Network equipment and tester vendors can only spare limited resources on LBS applications.
Pricing Is the pricing of the solution ties to software licensing of your network equipment and/or additional TPS (due to LBS ) on the core network nodes such as HLR? The pricing structure of the solution should allow partial or gradual roll-out. And even small enough to cover pockets of commercial districts without heavy capex commitment.
Business model Is the vendor flexible enough to consider offering “believer” business models such as revenue sharing model? Based on the historical development of Internet advertising, the revenue potential of mobile ad can be very significant indeed. Yet, the markets for mobile advertising and marketing are nascent. Network operators may find it useful to have a solution vendor who can offer flexible business models.
Partnership for revenue assurance Has the vendor already partnered with a leading mobile advertising agency/media partners who will be crucially instrumental in generating revenue stream from Day One when the system is in place? Mobile advertising is new and most operators do not already possess the required skill sets are best to partner with media companies with focus and brand customers.