DPI – Creating Deeply Personal Interactions

Imagine an Alice in Wonderland world where you pay for music based on the number of notes. If you run out of credit, no more notes or maybe the sharps and flats get throttled.  Or paying for my trusty Economist by the word but having the vowels disappear if I have insufficient funds for the full edition. Or a video, where the colour green gets removed after the first hour.

That’s nuts, unless of course we’re talking about mobile data sold by the megabyte. What’s a megabyte? What’s a bit? Who cares, I just want to read my Economist with all the letters.  Engineers just can’t help it. I’m a recovering one and we’re always inventing terms to confuse people and make ourselves look smart and valuable.

But “wait’,” you say, “mobile data is different; most people are not paying for specific content – they’re just surfing random stuff so paying by the megabyte is fine.” Not so, Alice. In Sandvine’s 2015 Global Internet Phenomena report, only around 20% of aggregate peak period traffic is general ‘browsing’. The rest is associated with specific content types, for example YouTube (20%), Facebook (16%), Skype (2%).

Enter, stage right, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and the ability to pay specifically for content type, not the meaningless bits of information used to encode it. DPI has been hovering in the wings for a number of years, but with CSPs increasingly experimenting with content offers to more finely segment markets, it’s shuffling centre stage.

DPI’s ‘coming of age’ reflects technological and market factors. Technologically, DPI is simply hard to do. If content is being identified for the purposes of charging, then accuracy is critical. This is no simple task for content that is increasingly encrypted, delivered via CDNs with multiple and rapidly changing endpoint addresses, and content like Bit Torrent that is simply naughty and tries to hide. Importantly, DPI’s objective must be the classification of content type rather than the inspection of the actual content, a violation of privacy, and anyway impossible due to encryption.

A number of DPI vendors are now demonstrating excellent recognition accuracy. Invariably they direct considerable investment in keeping up with rapidly evolving protocol and application profiles, frequently collaborating with content providers to anticipate changes before they reach the market.

Market demand comes from the emergence of the Digital Service Provider (DSP) with a healthy obsession for excellent customer experience and continuous innovation. Such commendable objectives are supported in significant measure by providing customers with choice and transparency. So if I want to just use Facebook then sell me a Facebook package. If I’m out of credit, in a new city and want to access Google maps, sell me the map-pack for a couple of hours for a dollar.

It’s dim-sum pricing. Portions of well-designed appetizing content often valid for much shorter timescales than the archaic bill cycle. It’s a great fit with the Pay-Now model discussed in previous blogs and offers DSPs a totally new palette from which to create more innovative, personalized and profitable pricing propositions.

Interesting times for ‘Deep Packet Inspection’, or maybe better, ‘Deeply Personal Interactions.’ Just a thought.

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