Industry Blog

Why is Google’s QUIC Leaving Network Operators in the Dark?

Google knows everything, right? It probably knows that we are an impatient bunch. We need search results pronto. Last year, it began utilizing a low-latency internet transportation protocol called Quick User Internet Connection (QUIC). Google originally began working on the project back in 2013. However it only disclosed last April that about half of all requests from Chrome to its servers were being delivered via QUIC.

So, what’s the difference between the incumbent Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and QUIC’s User Datagram Protocol (UDP)? UDP has been previously used for gaming, VoIP and streaming media. It’s worked well for these services because it has the ability to immediately start talking to a server that it has been in contact with before. However it doesn’t constantly communicate with the receiving server to check if the packages arrived - and if they arrived in the right order. It simply moves on. When it comes to requesting a website, this is not ideal because you wouldn’t be able to ensure that all the data was received.

Best of both worlds

On the flip side, TCP is a bit slower. It usually takes about two or three round trips before the browsers begin to receive data. TCP’s advantage over UDP is that it provides error correction services to guarantee that all the data makes it through. So, Google’s master plan was to take the best parts of UDP and TCP and combine it with high-quality security protection – voila QUIC!

So far, QUIC has managed to impress. According to Google, QUIC has helped realize a 3 percent improvement in mean page load times on Google Search. It has also been reported that there has been 30 percent fewer rebuffers for video watchers who connect to YouTube over QUIC. This improved speed and optimization comes at the perfect time. Mobile apps, videos and games have continued to dominate mobile usage. Mobile video specifically has skyrocketed over the past year with Gartner Research reporting an estimated 59 percent increase in mobile video traffic in 2015.

Left in the dark

So, QUIC’s advantages will surely improve everyone’s Quality of Experience (QoE), right? Wrong!
QUIC poses a problem for mobile network operators (MNOs) and their subscribers. The modern security measures that are integrated with QUIC are encryption based. And because it is encrypted, MNOs can’t see the traffic that is flowing on their networks. In a nutshell, mobile networks are “going dark”.

What’s more, traditional optimization tools will not work on QUIC and without proper optimization, the QoE for subscribers suffers. Why is that a problem? Research shows that when subscribers suffer poor QoE, say when a mobile video buffers, 1 in 2 blame the carrier. That’s bad news for operators.  At best, network operators do not have the ability to optimize and monetize their network traffic. At worst, they suffer subscriber churn.

Quality is sacred

Subscribers are at the heart of any mobile network and the quality they receive is key. That is why service providers need to manage network utilization based on their customer’s QoE with an enhanced real-time video MOS (Mean Opinion Score) system. There are solutions available that have been rigorously human-tested where thousands of hours of videos are evaluated against different variables and factors. Operators can then set bespoke policies to meet different subscriber needs – and never have to compromise on quality.

Solutions must also enable operators to manage and optimize future traffic patterns. Service providers must have access to an easy to implement framework that allows them to manage new types of content and protocols. This empowers operators to deliver a consistently outstanding QoE to their subscribers – now and well into the future.

How fast does Google deliver search results? The search for “encrypted mobile data” took 0.47 seconds. Pretty fast. But this need for speed is giving mobile operators a headache! Encrypted traffic will only continue to increase, as it has been predicted that by the end of 2016, 80% of traffic will be encrypted. Operators must future-proof their networks and effectively manage QUIC and other encrypted protocols to deliver top notch quality to their subscribers. Or else, the lights could soon be going out.