Recent years have recorded a surge of research activities on IP traffic monitoring, enabled by the availability of monitoring hardware and large-scale storage at accessible costs. More recently, passive monitoring has been applied to operational 3G networks. The passive observation of network traffic, coupled with advanced traffic-analysis methods, can be a powerful and cost-effective means to infer the network status and localize points of performance degradation without requiring complete access to all network elements. Furthermore, the availability of high-quality traces can be exploited to predict the load of the network under hypothetical conditions, variations of the actual network configuration at the capturing time. Both approaches can be useful for some engineering and reoptimization tasks that are commonly encountered in the lifetime of an operational 3G network. In abstract terms, the availability of high-quality traces can greatly empower the measurement-based optimization cycle, with human experts in the loop, thus driving an already operational 3G network toward improved performances. In this article we discuss the contribution that traffic monitoring and analysis (TMA) can provide to the optimization of an operational 3G network
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