If you’ve ever thrown your smartphone down in frustration at how slow it is, hang in there. Nokia Siemens Networks understands where you’re coming from, and is working on ways to fix slow networks once and for all. The solutions it is implementing for its new effort — its Liquid Network architecture — are all going to be Israeli-developed.
With broadband use growing every day thanks to gigabyte-hungry cellphone apps and video streams, cell networks are getting squeezed more than ever. That squeeze is showing up more and more on the end-user side, as apps take longer to connect to databases and web servers and video streams freeze up. In extreme cases, the squeeze even squeezes out voice transmissions, making for a frustrating call experience.
The problem has become acute in 3G networks, with the formerly fast system now reduced to tortoise speeds as more and more data and video apps compete for bandwidth. Companies are working on rolling out 4G networks but the process of upgrading will take time. And, in time, those networks will get crowded too, as apps get more ambitious and users begin demanding higher quality video on their devices.
There have been numerous approaches to solving this problem, but many of them involve software workarounds that don’t tackle one of the main issues — the limitations of mobile base stations, the front-line soldiers in the battle for bandwidth. There is only so much network traffic a base station can handle, and when users of bandwidth heavy apps in a particular area all try to connect to services at the same time, the result can be a slow-as-molasses experience for everyone.
Enter Liquid Network, the architecture to turn base stations into a part of an intelligent network, instead of just acting as an indiscriminate distributor of bandwidth, and the Liquid Applications that will bring that architecture to life. That “intelligence” includes being able to assign content to base stations based on the number of users of a particular app or service, using apps to regulate video quality to ensure smooth delivery (without slowdowns and hiccups) to everyone connecting to a specific cell tower, or placing a gaming app in a particular tower when a number of people are using it in order to speed things up.
It’s sort of like a QoS (Quality of Service) system for base stations, with the core network assigning apps to the edge (base stations) based on the number of users, demand, and other factors. Nokia Siemens Networks, partnering with IBM, introduced the system at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and has begun shopping around for solutions and technologies that will enable deployment of the architecture in areas such as mobile gaming, augmented reality, video and audio apps smarter traffic and public safety offerings, and much more.
NSN is only looking in one place for those solution: Israel. To find the best ones, the company is sponsoring the Israel Innovation Competition. “Liquid Applications is a new platform, allowing the deployment of a variety of applications by software vendors and by players with new innovative business models,” says NSN, and “in order to exploit the full potential of Liquid Applications, we are looking for innovative ideas from the wider ecosystem in Israel.”
Just Israel, says Hossein Moiin, NSN senior vice president for Technology and Innovation and a member of the company’s Executive Board. “Israel is one of the world’s hottest and liveliest centers for technology and innovation,” he said, describing the competition. The proposed solutions will be examined by NSN executives, as well as representatives from Intel Capital, Cellcom Israel, the Israel Export Institute, and VC investor Amos Talmor, who is well-acquainted with the mobile landscape. Any company with a good idea can apply, and six will be chosen for the finals, which will take place in Tel Aviv on June 27.
“Nokia Siemens Networks will consider all options for cooperation with companies that meet our criteria,” said Moiin. “With an open and collaborative approach to finding innovation that originates outside the organization, we hope to make use of the ideas of the best minds in Israeli high-tech and turn them into solutions for our Liquid Applications system.”