Mobile wireless spectrum and its utilization and consumption are top discussion topics in telecommunications today. How to use existing spectrum, where to re-farm it, when to move to 4G, and a variety of other ideas are regularly debated in both public and private sectors. The Federal Communications Commission is evaluating how to free up additional spectrum for mobile operators looking to deliver new services demanding more bandwidth (and, therefore, spectrum).

And this is not purely a domestic issue. The lack of usable spectrum has stunted growth in some countries, and auctions have come to represent the balancing point between success and failure as an organization. “If we don’t get new frequency [in 2012], it will topple our company,” said Asahi Shimbun, CTO of Softbank Mobile.

The demand for new spectrum is already the primary drive for 4G launches and will likely be so when we eventually move to the yet to be defined 5G. However, the one piece that seems to regularly be overlooked is how we can efficiently and wisely use the spectrum we already have. As valuable as this resource is, why wouldn’t we consider solutions for using it to its greatest possible extent?

While allocating new spectrum for 4G and leveraging the greater spectral efficiency associated with the technology is clearly the right idea, if we don’t become proficient in the way we use resources (wireless and wired alike), we will find ourselves in an equally precarious position in the future with 5G.

Eliminating Unwanted Traffic

The ability to monitor malicious and anomalous traffic and block it from the network is vital to making spectrum use more efficient. While the primary role of DNS servers is to route the traffic in your network, they can also do much more. Leveraging the data generated from your core DNS infrastructure is a cost-effective and efficient way to prevent this unwanted traffic in real time.

For example, Nominum has developed a unique service associated with a complete network security solution that can be leveraged to block activity to bot command and control domains. This begins with the DNS servers seeing machines infected with malicious software trying to communicate with command and control servers. This is a fundamental component of how malicious software operates.

As long as the domains associated with this security service are regularly updated, preventing bot-infected machines from accessing command and control servers by blocking their DNS queries has proven to be an incredibly effective tool in combating unwanted traffic. With Nominum, this service regularly updates lists of these domains throughout the day.

As an example of this security service in action, a single Nominum customer was able to block more than 90% of spam-generating queries on its network within a span of only one week. Other customers implementing this solution have removed hundreds of megabits per second of upstream traffic specifically generated by bots.

Aside from purely malicious traffic, policies associated with abusive users clearly exceeding acceptable user policies (AUPs) can be set via the DNS in a simple and non-intrusive manner. Policies can be used to manage these users by preventing them from accessing specific high-bandwidth domains (e.g., those associated with video streaming) or potentially preventing all Web access during certain peak hours.

In all cases, Nominum’s DNS-based solutions can be used to set policy specific to the abusive user or users. While these policies can be carried out via other technologies such as DPI and ACL-based offerings, the DNS is often the most logical place due to its function and place in the network. Beyond the fact that it’s already in place, it can manage these functions without adding latency or brittleness.

Additionally, Nominum’s own N2 Platform and applications offer real-time analytics so the operator can determine how aggressive it wants to be in preventing this traffic. There are several ways to configure the solution to optimize network usage, and we have worked with a number of operators in developing the right mix.

Ultimately, this does not alleviate the need for the move to 4G, or at some point 5G. But it will give us all a little breathing room so emergency spectrum-saving activities don’t become necessary while providing meaningful and undeniable savings.