Here at CTIA, Sandvine announced it is using Citrix NetScaler as part of a larger solution to help mobile operators optimize their mobile packet core infrastructure. The mobile packet core is, to a large extent, the heart of a mobile operator’s network. And this part of the network is under tremendous stress these days, given the explosion of “apps” and the amount of data traffic apps generate. Mobile data traffic has grown in excess of 100% each year for the last three years, and is expected to double again in both 2011 and 2012.

Citrix is actually part of this problem. How? By making it possible for us mobile users to access traditional business apps from our mobile devices.

Generally, these apps haven’t been accessible via mobile devices, and definitely not across mobile networks. However, Citrix Receiver, Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop are changing this. This morning when I checked, Citrix Receiver was the 3rd most popular business app download for the Apple iPad (right behind GoToMyPC). It is also featured here at CTIA in the booths of Samsung, Motorola and HTC. XenDesktop enables the user to access a full Windows desktop from a variety of mobile devices. While HDX, the underlying protocol used to deliver these apps is exceedingly efficient, it’s still traffic that must traverse the operator’s mobile packet core.

Generally, our mobile operator partners don’t begrudge us though. In the end, we help power the services that are driving growth in their business. However, if we’re going to part of the problem, we figured we could be part of the solution as well. And that’s where Sandvine’s solutions come in, helping operators address the mobile data deluge in two ways:

First, by granularly directing different traffic based upon device and content type, Sandvine Policy Traffic Switch and NetScaler give the mobile operator fine-grained control over which traffic flows where. With this level of control, the mobile operator can better optimize its mobile packet core. The net effect of this is twofold. First, it helps the operator control its costs, which should ultimately lead to better pricing for all of us. Second, it makes their networks more efficient, which means that we should see a better quality of experience (aka, our mobile apps work better) on our mobile devices.

The second has to do with how mobile operators handle roaming across their own networks. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, today when we roam from our “home” part of our mobile operator’s network to another part of the our mobile operator’s network (the “visited network”), the carrier has to “backhaul” our data traffic back to our home network. This does two things:
1. It drives up the mobile operator’s costs (backhaul links are expensive), which ultimately is ultimately reflected in our bills, and
2. It adds latency, which makes things run slower.

It turns out that the same traffic control features used to offload mobile packet cores can also be used to keep traffic on the visited network. The net effect of this is the same: more efficient networks for our operators and better quality of experience for us.

This “roaming avoidance” use case get’s really interesting when you think of it in terms of truly global events like the Olympics and the World Cup. This solution enables mobile operators to put together special plans and services specifically around these kinds of events where large groups of people are all roaming.

Now that’s what I call being part of the solution.