Carriers have the will and the resources to fix the wireless network overload problem. But where do they start?
Move to 4G networks? Buy more spectrum? Add WiFi overlays? Use pricing as a way to control usage? Or, add more small cells?
So far, the solution has been elusive because the growth in bandwidth consumption has been so rapid that it overruns any and all fixes that carriers have put in place. The network clog seems to be moving as the adoption and use of smartphones puts more pressure on the network.
This was made clear in a recently published survey of carriers by network planning vendor Amdocs as carriers are looking at a wide variety of network changes to fix the problem:
- 59 percent of service providers expect to deploy at least 10 times more small cells by 2017 than in 2011.
- 94 percent of service providers are planning for 20-fold growth or more by 2017. Of these, 24 percent foresee 50-fold growth.
- All service providers said that the latest 4G and LTE technologies would deliver only part of the efficiencies required.
- 50 percent of service providers expect to increase their capital expenditure by 10-20 percent between 2012 and 2017 and 23 percent plan to increase it by even more.
- 88 percent of service providers expect to offer Wi-Fi as part of their mobile services by 2016, with 22 percent anticipating they will have Wi-Fi integrated into at least half of their cell sites by the end of 2017.
The survey is structured to highlight plans for expanding network bandwidth, but it doesn’t address the impact of smartphone growth on the signaling infrastructure. Thus, adding bandwidth is an essential, but only partial fix.
Modifying handset behavior to eliminate the wasted signaling and bandwidth due to app chattiness is another crucial step toward ensuring a high-performing wireless network. Only by making apps more efficient do carriers ensure that the investments in expanding bandwidth and WiFi overlays achieve their full value.
Traffic optimization solutions (like our Open Channel software) can dramatically reduce signaling and bandwidth usage, but as importantly, these solutions ensure that only high-value user data traffic gets on to the network so that users truly appreciate these expensive network improvements.