We just had a chance to review a great whitepaper (pdf download) from analyst Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading on how the signaling challenges of today’s smartphone-driven services will change as wireless networks evolve to LTE.
The bottom line: apps get richer, but are still the biggest driver of signaling challenges in LTE networks.
Brown starts his paper, which was sponsored by Cisco, by looking at the smartphone revolution and how it has created the signaling problem in today’s wireless network. His conclusion is that “One consequence of this surge in usage is the growth in signaling traffic, to the point where it consumes a disproportionate amount of network resources, compromising efficiency and usability.”
He also notes that several things have been done to rectify this, including the emergence of network-controlled fast dormancy, Apple’s push notification service (although Android still “remains a particular challenge”) and best practices for mobile app design that have had some impact. On this last point, though, we haven’t seen a dramatic improvement because the app ecosystem is so fluid and the pressure to focus on functionality is so strong that network signaling is a hard to do after thought for most developers.
LTE offers some hope of signaling reduction with radio optimization and changes in mobility management that should reduce signaling.
On the other hand, LTE has several differences that will drive more signaling “potentially at a rapid pace.” Key among these are changes that enable richer services including IP multimedia subsystem support that will drive new types of business apps and services. These new services are only possible on LTE thanks to the combination of faster network speeds and smartphone computing power. But they also will lead to more signaling.
LTE networks are not a panacea for signaling issues. In fact, one of Brown’s conclusions is that in LTE networks signaling will need to become “a fundamental network design consideration.” Part of that consideration should be traffic optimization, which can tame all of the wasted signaling that comes from applications and from the network.