Mobile data experience must be consistent, says Acision

Phone showing video
Image caption Goggle box: Giving customers a consistent and reliable streaming video experience over mobile networks is vital, says Acision's Marco Wanders

Each week we ask high-profile technology decision-makers three questions.

Image caption Marco Wanders has drawers of PDAs, but uses paper

This week it is Marco Wanders, executive vice-president of Acision's Mobile Data Control and Mobile Data Charging business units. Part of his role includes the duties of chief technology officer (CTO).

Acision is a mobile communications network infrastructure company. The global company's real-time mobile data solutions are aimed at helping their customers control, optimise and create revenue from data traffic.

This translates to services like mobile internet browsing, mobile broadband, streaming multimedia services and messaging.

Acision has 230 customers in 100 countries across six continents, including eight out of the top 10 global mobile operators.

They deliver more than one trillion SMS messages every year.

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

The biggest technology problem that we need to solve is ensuring we can help our customers - at this moment in time telecom operators, and the mobile telecom operators particularly - to deliver quality of experience to their end users.

Quality of experience is a broad term - what I mean is that you need to deliver content that is currently going over a network in the best possible way.

There are three certainties at this moment in time.

Firstly that the critical mass of smart devices is getting bigger - this could be a laptop, a PC, basically anything that has a screen. It could even be a television set that operates over a network and has a certain amount of intelligence, is connected and will run over a fixed or mobile network.

The second certainty is that what I call the 'real estate' will continue to get bigger - the real estate meaning especially the screen. If you look at smartphones today they already have resolutions and screen sizes that we didn't see even two years ago.

This means they need a huge amount of data to fill the screen.

The third certainty is that whatever becomes available - people will use it.

So you have an enormous amount of devices, larger screens and more people using them.

It's very simple to see that all networks will be getting a lot of pressure, especially mobile networks.

There is one huge limitation and that is the radio spectrum, the available capacity in a radio network is not endless. On the other hand you have consumers that expect that the content - which could be streaming radio, any type of video, whatever - be carried over the network and be delivered in a certain quality.

In a fixed network that is relatively easy to sustain - in a mobile network it's a lot harder.

I always take the example of video, everyone wants high definition. But if you view that on a mobile device no matter how good your picture looks, if the video stops playing at a certain moment in time it's worthless.

It's not only the quality of the picture it's the flow and continuity of the picture.

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

This really leads on from the previous answer.

How can you monetise the technology mobile operators are using to deliver quality content?

Being able to deliver reliable, dependable content is of interest to both sides.

To the the end user who may be prepared to pay for that level of quality - but also as a content provider, there's value in knowing that the content you're producing is going to be delivered to the end user in a reliable and predictable way.

If you talk about the next big tech thing, this is what it's all about. How can you predict and make that delivery reliable.

You need to understand what the state of the radio network is like.

If you are on your smartphone for instance, you are linked to a certain cell. And that cell has more or less capacity depending on the number of users that are connected at a certain time, and depending on what they are doing. It's all highly unpredictable.

Another thing you need to know is the location of users, based on where a cell is. Once you know where people are you can send them messages about network performance.

The third thing you might want to know is the content that is on the network. Once you know that you can define certain actions to certain users. When you know all of this you can apply different rules according to different conditions in the network, and different profiles of users.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

I thought of two examples, one in my work life, one in my own life.

At a previous company I worked at we developed a product and it was basically the ideal product.

If you talk about networking everyone today is talking about IP (internet protocol) networking, this is the most common type in Europe today.

But for a while it wasn't clear whether it would end up being a different type of technology.

We developed a product that supported all types of technologies, and even at the lowest level of the network it was a perfect product, it couldn't have been more beautiful.

The only thing we overlooked was that our customers were not organised to take it. They were organised in such a way that they had different departments with different responsibilities, fighting internally about what the right technology was.

We had our product, and said, you don't need to fight, this does everything. But then it's not about technology anymore it's about who wins. So every department says, this is not a product we can use, it has to be either one technology or another.

So that completely failed. Later on we adjusted the product and it became a great success in the industry - but it was really a big mistake in the beginning.

In my own life - I thought about it and started opening a few drawers and looking at what kind of stuff I had in there.

There was one common denominator.

From all ages I found PDAs. I found them all over the place. From the earliest ones till the latest ones, I had them all, I spent an awful lot of money on them.

And yet even now, talking to you, I have all my notes on paper.

We talk about technology not always getting to perfection as fast as we think it can - this would be a prime example. I'm taking my notes on normal paper when I'm have just about every device available today.

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