mCDNs on moving trains

Netskrt: ‘5G by itself won’t solve the problem’

As streaming video increasingly becomes one of the primary functions of an average user’s device, the transportation sector, in particular, is struggling to provide the bandwidth necessary to keep up. The communications industry continues to be enamored with 5G, treating it as a cure-all for communications woes. But according to Sigfried Luft, president and CEO of software company Netskrt, 5G may play a role in the solution, but it’s not going to be the whole shebang. Instead, he and his company are putting mobile content delivery networks (mCDNs) front and center.

For Netskrt, the focus has been on passenger trains, which carrying anywhere from 200 to 800 people, all with smartphones, all wanting to be connected. And often, that connection is disappointing, to say the least.

“5G itself won’t solve the problem,” Luft claimed. “Right now, you can’t even get 3G coverage, which has bigger cells, across 2,000 miles of track. So if you can’t do a cell every 50 kilometers, what makes you think you do it every half kilometer? That’s where the problem lies.”

On the Wi-Fi side of things, train operators do what airlines do: They offer onboard wi-fi.

But the number of people trying to share a single internet connection will result in a very similar kind of disaster.

The solution, according to Luft, was establishing caching technology far beyond what already existed.

While mCDNs, which optimize the delivery of content, often through caching, have existed for a long time, mCDNs located in a city are not really going to be useful to those on a moving train.

So, the question becomes: How can you put mCDNs on trains? And how exactly do you get all the data on the train and how do you manage it?

“That’s our special secret sauce,” Luft said.

By secrete sauce, Luft means that Netskrt’s cloud identifies the content that passengers want to watch, and then determines the best way to distribute that data. The company’s mCDN software augments existing onboard Wi-fi systems to deliver the over-the-top internet video experience passengers want.

For example, if a user is on a train and opens her Amazon Prime account, she will initially be connected back to Amazon’s main server and can browse her feed, because that amount of data is manageable for existing networks. But if she then chooses to resume an episode of a show she was watching before boarding the train, all that data will then be delivered from the local cache on the train. And with such a short distance for the data to travel, she will be resuming her show in no time.

“It will just seem like ‘holy crap, this is a super-fast network,’” said Luft.

If you thought you’d get through this whole thing without hearing about how revolutionary 5G is going to be, sorry to disappoint, but according to Luft, 5G will still play a significant role in solving the transportation sector’s connectivity problem.

“5G is a good thing. If a train hits a station for two minutes and is within 150 meters of a 5G cell site, you can perform cache management at 10 gigabits per second. In that way, 5G is very helpful, and you’re actually doing something really interesting,” he said.

In other words, the strategic placement of 5G small cells could bolster caching technology by speeding up cache management. Ultimately, what you’re looking at is a hybrid network comprised of multiple “flavors” of connectivity technology.

In conclusion, Luft offered his perspective on the future of the relationship between cellular and Wi-Fi.

“I see an interesting shift coming down the pipeline,” he said. He then explained the three critical characteristics that are often considered when choosing how to connect: Ease of use, cost and speed.

Historically, cellular is said to provide an easier connection—no sign in or authentication needed—but also more expensive and not as fast as Wi-Fi.

“But now,” Luft continued, “if you look at the world today with mmWave technology, for example, cellular remains easier, but now is the same speed as Wi-Fi, and with the elimination of bandwidth caps, cellular networks may become cheaper than they were before.”

“When looked at this way, I honestly can see a play in which cellular will win over Wi-Fi 6,” he concluded.

 

 

 

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