Is Ice Cream Sandwich a Network Meltdown for Operators?

Google’s upcoming Android 4.0 operating system (codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich) promises great new features for managing data.

New features, that is, for everyone but wireless carriers who are drowning in data.

In late Oct., Google released Ice Cream Sandwich to developers to start the app development and handset integration effort.  Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is expected to be the first device to feature the OS, with more coming in Q1 of 2012.

The new release should sport some very cool new features such as a “face unlock” feature that uses facial recognition to unlock your phone.  According to Google’s developer blog, here’s what the goals are for the release:

“Android 4.0 builds on the things people love most about Android. Easy multitasking, rich notifications, customizable home screens, resizable widgets, and deep interactivity — and adds powerful new ways of communicating and sharing.”

To our ears, the terms “rich notifications” and “powerful new ways of communicating and sharing” mean that Android 4.0 has the potential to add more data to the network exacerbating the smartphone data tsunami.The new OS’s data management features are focused on keeping users from going over their plan limits. Users will be able to visualize data usage on either WiFi or mobile in a colorful chart and set warning levels or hard limits on data usage in accordance with their data plans.

At the same time, developers get new APIs to build hooks into this new Settings options to get access to the usage data and to be able to gracefully shift from one network connection to another.   While this sounds like it might take some of the load off of carriers, in reality there are not many instances where a user has access to a WiFi network, but is instead running off of the cellular network.

In fact, any benefit for the wireless network from this new feature will probably be overwhelmed as app developers think of great new ways to use Android to signal the network for advertising or data updates.

Since most smartphone users’ consumption doesn’t come anywhere near their bandwidth limitations (average consumption is 435 MB per month), having the additional Settings options for data will be a safety valve for them rather than an active way to reduce data flow on the network.

Android 4.0 is going to be very cool.  And, personally, we can’t wait to get our hands on it.  But how ironic will it be if Ice Cream Sandwich creates a network meltdown.  From our first look, we think that the new features will not be great for networks and will fuel the need for traffic optimization on the network as a way to control the added bandwidth.

About SEVEN Networks

SEVEN Networks software solutions deliver device-centric mobile traffic management and analytics for wireless carriers. Extending control from the network to the mobile client gives operators the power to manage and optimize data traffic before it impacts the network. Device-based analytics offer deeper and timelier insight than solutions that are solely network based. SEVEN’s Open Channel products reduce operator costs, increase efficiency in the use of wireless infrastructure, and enhance end-user experience. They bring immediate capacity relief to overloaded networks, simplify the creation of innovative new service plans, and provide actionable intelligence for mobile carriers.
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