Carriers with both wired and wireless networks want to let their subscribers roam from one to the other while watching streaming mobile video. A Silicon Valley software company has a new set of tools to make sure it all works.
With wireless LANs in many homes and businesses delivering many times the speed of even broadband cellular networks, service providers want to use them both to improve phone coverage in weak indoor spots and to boost the quality of new, bandwidth-hungry mobile applications. Phones equipped with both cellular and Wi-Fi capability are starting to hit the market, but there is still work to be done on the infrastructure to make the experience a good one.
MediaRoam, which LongBoard announced Tuesday and will start selling to service providers later this year, has two main components. One is a service assurance system that makes sure a device is using the best possible network at the moment, and the other is a centralized system that makes data and multimedia applications on portable devices run smoothly and as fast as possible.
The service assurance piece will let carriers offer service-level agreements to consumers and enterprises and differentiate among low, medium and high grades of service, according to Bill Leslie, chief technology officer of LongBoard. It runs on a server at the edge of a carrier network and can monitor the capacity available on thousands of home Wi-Fi routers, corporate wireless LANs and hotspots by using standard network management probes over the wired network. If a wireless LAN is too congested, the software can keep the user's device on the cellular network.
MediaRoam won't be able to monitor a wireless LAN unless it is connected to the carrier's own wired broadband network or there is some other contract or partnership with the carrier, Leslie said. As a result, the quality assurance can be a differentiator for the carrier and help attract subscribers, he added.
The centralized element, which will run on the currently shipping LongBoard Multimedia Application Platform server, can change the way an application works with the network. For example, it will prevent a data application from hanging on to an IP (Internet Protocol) address until the network connection is lost, as it normally would, Leslie said. Instead, when MediaRoam finds a better network it orchestrates a smooth transition with no gap in coverage, he said. Client software that carriers will put on their handsets will monitor what applications are running at the moment in order to balance resources and keep them running optimally.
LongBoard already sells OnePhone, which handles voice call roaming from cellular to Wi-Fi networks. MediaRoam extends that capability to data and multimedia services, which carriers are looking to as the lucrative lifeblood of their future businesses.
MediaRoam is based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) but also compliant with IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), the emerging standard for providing services over multiple wired and wireless networks, Leslie said. Large service providers are embracing IMS, even though their equipment suppliers vary in the way they implement it, while smaller carriers are being more cautious, he said.