The past 24 months have been dubbed the ‘data capacity crisis,’ ‘mobile data tsunami,’ or the ‘spectrum crunch’. You name it, if it pertains to the impact of smartphones on wireless networks, it’s been at the forefront of anything mobile. In 2011 alone, smartphone usage tripled and mobile data grew more than 2-fold (doubling for the eighth year in a row!). The massive surge in always-on smartphones and chatty apps has introduced new challenges to the mobile ecosystem: from users, to content providers, device manufacturers and mobile operators.
The challenges associated with the mass adoption of smartphones and their network-hungry always-on apps have shifted from serving the demand for bandwidth to understanding some of the hidden traffic issues. As we become more familiar with the complexities associated with chatty apps and super-powered smartphones, we learn that solutions need to go beyond simply optimizing and compressing data, or adding bandwidth. There is a new culprit that brings a new set of obstacles: network signaling. To be clear, bandwidth is still critical component in the optimization of mobile data and video traffic, but to ignore chatty apps and the resulting signaling would be to only address half the problem. In fact, analyst Chetan Sharma predicts mobile data will double again in 2012 with signaling traffic expected to grow in even faster.
Just over 487 million smartphones shipped in 2011 to data hungry owners worldwide. Just one smartphone has an average of 35 apps that are constantly signaling the network for updates (some up to 2,500 times per hour!) The frequent requests consume valuable network resources, drain the device battery, and ultimately result in a degraded user experience. Each time an app opens a channel to request updates from the network, it occupies a port on the remote radio controller. Think of it like an Occupy movement of epic proportions, billions of application protestors occupying the network. The result? Interference with performance, the inability to make calls, upload/download, or connect.
As smartphone adoption continues to rise, along with the always-on chatty apps that go with them, operators will continue to see an increase in network signaling. On top of smartphones, new devices such as the latest iPad are expected to create even more of a signaling storm for carriers. Open Channel is a traffic optimization solution designed to reduce this unnecessary signaling by only connecting to the network if content updates are available. The solution has been shown to reduce the amount of smartphone-generated signaling by as much as 40%, and bandwidth by up to 70%.