Wireless network providers may not be the sexiest firms in the mobile industry, but without the pipes, it is impossible to connect mobile to real human progress.
Enter Irish firm AltoBridge, technically bridging the gap between mobile hearts and minds in the developing world, and bringing mobile broadband to the remotest of markets.
Using its patented Data-At-The-Edge technology, AltoBridge has found a way to lower capital and operating costs for both voice and mobile broadband services, allowing operators to connect the unconnected extremely cheaply.
“In the last ten years, Altobridge has developed optimization techniques in 2G in the voice market, which cut the cost of communications to, from and between wireless devices, delivering lower transmission costs, lower (and greener) power consumption and optimum returns for delivering mobile services to remote communities,” the firm’s CEO and Founder Mike Fitzgerald told RCR Wireless News.
Since March when mobile data optimizing system Data-at-the-Edge (DATE) was launched by the firm, AltoBridge says it has been working hard to unwrap the complexity of cellular at the base station level, introducing innovations like local switching and smart management to make the megabytes flow faster.
Fitzgerald says the result is managing to provide carriers with backhaul savings of over 50% and sometimes even more. “With our DATE pilot, in Malaysia later this year, we will show greater than 50% savings for mobile broadband backhaul,” he told RCR Wireless News.
For those wondering how the wireless magic works, Fitzgerald explains that it’s all about identifying data and marking it appropriately.
“When we take this technology and port it into high capacity, urban macro network, base stations, what we do is identify the data streams, and if they appear again, we hold them and stamp them,” he explains.
What that means is that instead of a big bunch of bytes going back across the network again, only a small portion has to.
“There’s no reason to send every piece of data. It would be reckless and inefficient to do so and what’s more, there is no need to do so,” he said.
The algorithms being used by AltoBridge may be new to the mobile space where everything is typically encrypted, but in fact, they’ve been around for a while in the IP world. By unencrypting the data at the base station level, AltoBridge believes it can bring PC level intelligence to the wireless space and make data flow much more efficient.
“We are saying if a YouTube clip or picture comes past, we are going to ID that data, and keep a record of it. It means that for anyone else who wants to access that information, it will not have to go across to the core again. It will be stored at the base station,” he explained.
Since the technology for doing that is already there, AltoBridge doesn’t actually have to do much in ways of reinventing the wireless wheel, just reinterpret its uses in a cellular scenario.
Fitzgerald insists that AltoBridge is not simply dumping data at the base station, or offloading as it’s typically called. What the firm is doing is going inside the cellular intelligence structure within the base station.
“The best way of looking at it is that voice and data are completely wrapped up and encrypted. It is twice the size it should be. At the base station level, we are able to unwrap it and actually introduce efficiencies there.”
AltoBridge purports to send the data back at half its size. “By unencrypting, optimizing and encrypting again just doing that alone takes out a third of the overhead in one move. That’s before you predict anything. We are saying, the savings you introduce are real before we even get to the point where we start to store the stuff coming past,” he explained.
To the naysayers and those claiming it can’t be done, Fitzgerald has an answer ready.
“Way back in our 2G days where we invented the concept of local switching of voice calls, people said ‘you can’t do it, because all the calls are encrypted, you don’t see the signals’. We said, ‘well, what if we push the intelligence out to the base station and we unencrypt it all and we keep a store of all the calls coming in and going out?’ We see that this guy is local to the other person, and we connect these two calls. What we did that was different was we sent the signals back across the network and this is the key because we did not interfere or interrupt billing, rating or Lawful Intercept for instance. By doing so and by not impacting on billing, rating etc, we took the transmission load – the call traffic itself – off the backhaul. It’s the same way with DATE.”
Though the principal is similar, it’s actually very different when dealing with data, however, says Fitzgerald. “The big challenge for us is, can we port that whole concept that we are doing for remote regions transmission into mainstream urban networks, and from what we are seeing, we believe we can and are doing it.”
The firm is not using all of its own IP, but Fitzgerald is confident that AltoBridge is using enough of its own innovation to add secret sauce no one else has.
“In the case of DATE, one in every ten features of the entire solution will be our own. For the other nine, we will utilize existing best-of-breed techniques that are out there and bring them into our base station – that has never been done before,” he told RCR.
Indeed, all operators need to do to implement AltoBridge’s technology is buy a low cost box from the firm, which Fitzgerald promises will deliver “huge transmission savings.”
AltoBridge is certainly doing its best to impress the carriers with its talk of reducing backhaul costs and adding value to the RAN. “It’s designed to address service margins and add new revenue options,” he told us.
“We have heritage in network compression. Doing things deep in the network where we compress in a way that is neutral to the wider network, neutral to pricing and neutral to content. We have a long history of cellular backhaul under constraints, that’s the abiding theme in Altobridge. Now we are leveraging that knowledge and IP developed in that way to enhance mobile broadband and address remote and urban usage scenarios,” he explained.
Whether operators buy into the idea or not, AltoBridge is already impressing investors. Both Intel Corp. and the World Bank have already invested $12 million into the Irish firm, in Series C funding, already being used to implement the technology in Malaysia.
For an affordable, energy-efficient, solar-powered technology like AltoBridge’s, that’s good news, but it’s even better news for those in the remote communities being linked to mobile broadband thanks to the company.