Bell Labs Device to help Analyze Cell Data Traffic

The way wireless carriers handle data traffic in the future may change with a device Alcatel-Lucent announced yesterday. (Bell labs is owned by the French company). The 9900 Wireless Network Guardian measures how different kinds of traffic tax a wireless network. This may lead to new price structures for the various types of data that travel over networks in the future, or how that traffic is directed.

Currently, carriers focus on the amount of data their subscribers download and price plans accordingly. Most providers charge by the kilobyte or allow subscribers to download a certain number of gigabytes a month. Certain data-intensive applications may be banned altogether.

“These pricing plans are a reflection of the fact that they don’t have an insight into what’s happening on the network,” said Michael Schabel, general manager at Alcatel-Lucent Ventures in Murray Hill, N.J.

That’s because the strains data subscribers place on the wireless network don’t match the amount of data they download, Schabel said.

This new technology will tell carriers that some types of traffic, like e-mail or instant messaging, take up to 1,000 times more air time as file downloads do.

“If I look at mobile e-mail, one megabyte takes two hours of air time,” he said, because the mobile network needs to repeatedly set up and tear down the connection.

In comparison, Schabel estimates a 1-megabyte file from peer-to-peer file-sharing takes about 30 seconds to download.

Employees who connect to their company intranets via virtual private networking (VPN) consume large amounts of air time, even if they aren’t sending or receiving any data. This is because VPN software maintains a “heartbeat” that keeps the connection open.

Alcatel-Lucent’s new device isn’t set up to connect to billing systems. It will primarily be used as a tool to help carriers figure out how to deal with data usage, and to build on existing systems that prioritize data traffic to avoid congestion.